When The Guardian first published it's article about the NGO situation, the London Bethel wrote a letter to the Editor correcting the article and clarifying the situation.
Critics, however, claim that Bethel's letters of explanation are a “cover-up”, and that Bethel have shown themselves to be “outright liars”. Are these accusations valid? Does the evidence corroborate what Bethel stated, or does the evidence show them to be “liars” as some would have us believe? —See the three letters from Bethel here, here, and here.
Let's examine what Bethel is claiming in the letters. First, concerning the reason for becoming a DPI NGO, in two of the letters from Bethel claims it was:
“...for the sole purpose of getting access to the extensive library of the United Nations. This enabled a writer who received an identification card, to enter their library for research purposes and to obtain information that has been used in writing articles in our journals about the United Nations.”
“Our purpose ... was to have access to research material available on health, ecological, and social problems at the United Nations library facilities.”
Some claim the above statements are lies. They claim that absolutely anyone could have accessed the libraries and that there was absolutely no need to gain NGO status. Bethel acknowledged that their explanation is not believed by the critics. They said:
“Although critics may claim that access to the libraries could have been obtained without the need to register as an NGO, that is not what our research personnel were told at the time. They found it necessary to present an authorized pass to gain access to those specific areas, which were off limits to the public.”
The critics often quote statements from the United Nations that the main library, the Dag Hammarskjold Library and it's depository libraries, were accessible to absolutely anyone prior to September 2001. You can read e-mails from the UN itself saying this exact thing.
However, if that is completely true we wonder why the 1994 NGO brochure stated that:
“For NGOs associated with DPI, the United Nations provides: ... use of the Dag Hammarskjold Library.”
If absolutely anyone could use the entire facilities, we wonder why the brochure advertises use of that library as a perk of being a DPI NGO. Of course, if we look carefully we can see that the Watchtower Society did not say they merely wanted access to the “main library”. Bethel said that it was “necessary to present an authorized pass to gain access to those specific areas”. Yes, Bethel never claimed it needed a pass to access the Library itself, but to “specific areas” of that library and specific “library facilities”. A quick investigation reveals that there is far, far, more to the United Nations libraries than simply a main library full of books — and far, far, more than simply the Dag Hammarskjold building.
The library facilities of the United Nations, under the Department of Public Information, includes the following:
To access the full range of these facilities you need a DPI NGO pass. Prior to September 2001 you may have been able to simply walk into the Dag Hammarskjold Library as the opposers correctly say — but it is entirely misleading to say all the “library facilities” were available to anyone, because they were clearly not. An NGO pass was required to access everything — otherwise why would the 1994 brochure advertise full access to that library as an NGO privilege? There is only one logical reason: because around 1991 the DPI was making further facilities available at the library, but only to those with an NGO pass.
Knowing about the full range of facilities offered by the DPI helps explain Bethel's other claim in it's letters:
“We had been using the library for many-years prior to 1991, but in that year it became necessary to register as an NGO to have continued access.”
“In any case, we had been using the library facilities at the UN for many years prior to 1991. In that year, our researcher was advised by UN personnel that it would be necessary to register as and NGO to have continued access to the various libraries we were using.”
The Watchtower Society's researcher was apparently told he could no longer access certain areas or facilities without an NGO pass. Why? Perhaps the facilities were new, and reserved only for DPI NGOs. Perhaps existing facilities were now being reserved only for the use of DPI NGO representatives. Perhaps the brother wished to access certain documents which were off-limit to the general public. Or perhaps certain exhibitions or events were taking place that were DPI NGO-invitation only. These possibilities are hinted at in one of Bethel's letters, where it states that a DPI NGO pass was necessary to access “specific areas”, presumably areas which were previously accessible. Whatever happened, the Watchtower Society researcher was told they needed an NGO pass to continue with the same level of access they previously enjoyed.
There is, of course, one other possibility: that the employee who advised of the need for an NGO pass was simply mistaken. How many of us can say we have not experienced some kind of incompetence or received some wrong advice from a government employee? If we are honest, we know that government agencies are often notorious for giving contradictory advice. In the UK's large welfare state, it is a running joke that you can call a government helpline and receive a different answer to the same question if you call twice.
The Global Policy Forum's report, which we quoted earlier, had this to say about the competence of both the DPI and ECOSOC NGO staff:
“The DPI office gets good marks for timely processing of pass requests and for overall courtesy and helpfulness. But its management of documents in the NGO Resource Center tends to be chaotic. Serious problems exist in both offices.”
“Many NGOs complain that some of the notoriously bureaucratic and unresponsive behavior of the ECOSOC office in the past still persists. The office employs cumbersome and time-consuming procedures for issuing passes, it too often it loses accreditation letters, and its staff can be discourteous.”
“NGOs also find the application procedures for new accreditation in both offices tend to be bureaucratic and paper-bound. Staff have lost or mislaid accreditation folders and have been inflexible in applying rules for evaluation.”
We do not quote the above to try and “lay the blame” on the UN for the situation, but just to show that it is quite reasonable to consider whether a UN employee could have given incorrect advice to a visitor. Also, think how the above report is from 1999. Can you imagine how much more confusing the NGO situation must have been in the early 1990's — when the NGO world was still finding its feet? If they can lose papers and forms, then it is neither surprising nor unreasonable to wonder whether the brother was simply given wrong advice from the UN employee.
For whatever reason, the Watchtower Society researcher was informed that to continue his currently level of access, he needed to be a representative of a DPI NGO. Perhaps he tried to access “specific areas” which were now off-limits, or perhaps he was misinformed. We do not know. However, this part of Bethel's story is both plausible and believable. We can see that many facilities were only available to NGOs and therefore Bethel's explanation is entirely reasonable. Thus we have no basis to claim Bethel is lying whatsoever.
The implications of the critic's claims is that the Watchtower Society was — in some way — heavily involved with the UN. Some even claim that there were secret back-room deals and negotiations, that the UN and the Society were working together in a conspiracy-like manner. However, all of this is just fantasy. In Bethel's letter they try to emphasize how such ideas are nonsense, and that the so-called “secret links with the Untied Nations” really amounted to an application form that didn't even require a signature. In the letter they correctly state:
“At the time of the initial application no signature was required on the form.”
We know this statement to be true, because we have copies of 1991 DPI NGO sign-up forms, and we notice a distinct lack of a place to put a signature (see the 1991 initial application form here). Bethel was not lying whatsoever, but showing how the “secret back-room deals” conspiracy theorists obviously do not know what they are talking about. These so called “secret back-room deals” amounted to completing a form to gain DPI passes which didn't even require a signature on this first application. It's incredible to think this, but we know it's true because we have the evidence.
On the other hand, consider the application that ECOSOC NGOs must complete (for consultative status). Their application, which the Watchtower Society never applied for, includes an agreement to outright support the United Nations – with a signature required. If all NGOs, even those with the DPI, signed such an application and agreement, it should be easily found ? and yet no such thing exists for DPI NGOs.
The first page says:
Application for Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council
The last page says:
I/we declare that I/we have answered the questions contained in this form to the best of my/our knowledge.
I/we declare, that if granted consultative status, my/our organization will act in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and ECOSOC resolution 1996/31.
The undersigned signature/es is/are duly authorized to sign this declaration.
This is the form for organizations wishing to become ECOSOC NGOs, but no form with similar requirements existed for DPI NGOs when the Watchtower Society was involved. This application can be found on the UN website at http://www.un.org/esa/coordination/ngo/ (then click on “Forms and documents” and then “Application in English”).
Some have uncovered records of Watchtower representatives attending a conference on the holocaust for NGOs. They quote this as “proof” that Bethel was “lying” and that there was really more to their NGO membership that merely a “library card”. On the contrary, such a conference is exactly the kind of facility requiring DPI NGO status. Conferences on subjects such as the holocaust are part of the “extensive library facilities” on offer by the DPI to representatives of it's NGOs. The idea that the Society signed up just for a “library card” is actually a phrase invented by apostates on the Internet, the Society did not coin the expression as it is misleading and inaccurate — which was probably the reason apostates invented it in the first place.
The last comment by Bethel concerning the forms is:
“Registration papers filed with the United Nations that we have on file contain no statements that conflict with our Christian beliefs.”
Again, after examining the initial application form (found here), and the subsequent forms to confirm the annual representatives (found here), we can see this is a factual statement. As we have already covered previously, there are “no statements that conflict with our Christian beliefs” anywhere. There is nothing about supporting the UN, the UN charter, nor any mention of any ECOSOC resolution.
“Moreover, NGOs are informed by the United Nations that "association of NGOs with the DPI does not constitute their incorporation into the United Nations system, nor does it entitle associated organizations or their staff to any kind of privileges, immunities or special status."
This is indeed a truthful quote. Perhaps this statement has been said many times by the UN, the DPI, and its representatives when discussing the NGO relationship. The DPI NGO status was, after all, there to give interested organizations easy access to information, library resources, documents, and events on the UN. The idea that organizations with this association would be given “privileges, immunities, or special status” or be “incorporated into the United Nations”, or were in a “political partnership” is ridiculous. How really comical it is when critics on the Internet argue that the Watchtower Society's DPI NGO status granted exactly those things! How bizarre are the accusations that DPI NGO status meant the Society became “part of the United Nations” or even “a United Nations member”! We know that DPI NGO status was nothing like that whatsoever, and any person who claims otherwise couldn't be more wrong.
Let's continue on to the next claim of Bethel's letters:
“Years later, unbe-known to the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the United Nations published “Criteria for Association,” stipulating that affiliated NGO’s are required to support the goals of the United Nations.”
We now know this statement is true. In an earlier chapter, we saw how the 1994 NGO brochure was changed. Also we saw how many have acknowledged the changing relationship between the UN and it's NGOs. Clearly the 'Criteria for Association' for NGOs took on a different meaning, thus the NGO brochure was revised, the Accreditation Form changed to become a renewal form, and the review process was initiated for the first time in 2001/2002. The requirements and expectations of DPI NGOs did change, just as Bethel said. We can see this for ourselves.
Therefore we can continue to appreciate how Bethel was telling the truth when it said it has no UN documents on file which “conflict with our Christian beliefs”. The paper trail shows that the Society could not have had any such conflicting documents, because they did not exist during those years.
“Still, the Criteria for Association of NGOs-at least in their latest version-contain language that we cannot subscribe to.”
This “latest version” that Bethel is talking about here was the current version in 2001, which it does not seem Bethel ever signed. This version, and subsequent versions (particularly 2005), are the ones constantly quoted by critics, falsely claiming that the Society somehow magically signed it 10 years before it was written.
“After learning of the situation, our membership as NGO was withdrawn and the ID card of the writer was returned. We are grateful that this matter was brought to our attention.”
This statement is certainly true. We know that in the years after the Society first applied for DPI NGO status and received DPI access passes, that the situation and requirements changed. When the Society learned of the changes in 2001, the passes were returned. The evidence we have considered seems to show that the Society did everything properly, despite what opposers say regarding the matter. They even thanked The Guardian for bringing the recent change to their attention — despite it being obvious that the article was riddled with errors and was nothing more than an effort to misrepresent and ridicule Jehovah's Witnesses.
It seems clear from what we have thus far considered, that the letters from Bethel were perfectly in accord with the facts. They are hardly “lies” or “cover-ups”, as some grossly misinformed persons and the odd conspiracy theorist may believe. To claim that DPI NGO status to access DPI libraries and related research facilities can be part of some “back-room agreement” and “conspiracy” is just comical.
There are no lies in the letters. There is no secret “cover-up”. The truth is that certain men are deliberately misrepresenting the facts, and some Jehovah's Witnesses have been caught up in the lies and the deceitful presentations by opposers and apostates.
Here is what we believe probably happened back in 1991. It is in agreement with all the evidence we have thus far presented:
Brother Aulicino from Bethel in New York went to the UN Headquarters on many occasions, and was permitted to use the library facilities. However, on this occasion in 1991 he was told by a UN employee that he could not use a certain facility without a DPI NGO pass. Perhaps the employee was mistaken, or maybe the brother was trying to access an area containing something now only for DPI NGO representatives. He therefore requested an application for a DPI NGO pass.
The application was completed and submitted with no signature. A few months later in 1992, the DPI NGO status was granted. The Society proceeded to use that status for the next 10 years to assist in research for Awake! articles, using the high quality — and highly authoritative — UN facilities. Later, in 2001, when apostates contacted The Guardian and it came forth with the story that the DPI NGO status was now inappropriate, the Society realized that they could not remain a NGO member if that was the criteria. They withdrew immediately. Inquiries were made, and letters were written answering the inquiries. The letters are not “lies”. They speak the truth and are in accord with all the evidence we can find.