Know Your NGOs!

When you hear that the Watchtower Society was a United Nations NGO, you may not be aware that there is actually more than one kind of NGO. This fact is important, and is often deliberately obscured by those who try to condemn and criticize the Society.

In the United Nations system, there are NGOs who are associated with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), and there are also NGOs associated with the Department of Public Information (DPI). The Watchtower Society was of the latter kind — associated with the DPI.

However, many websites and at least one book deliberately misleads their readers by quoting rules and stipulations to ECOSOC NGOs, and then pretending that those resolutions and rules apply to DPI NGOs, of which the Watchtower Society was one. This tactic is grossly dishonest and many of those who make this claim know full well they are misleading their readers. Let us now examine the true differences between the NGO types, which apostates and other opposers often try to keep hidden.

What’s the difference?

The difference between the two types is quite stark. The online political magazine Insight has this to say on the matter:

“For an NGO to be recognized by the United Nations, however, there are requirements, and even two statuses for which an NGO might apply. The DPI status is under the authority of the U.N. Department of Public Information (UNDPI), which controls U.N. archives and research facilities...

“The other status for which the NGOs may apply is ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council) status. The U.N. Website says that to obtain ECOSOC standing an NGO must prove that its work is directly relevant to U.N. goals. With ECOSOC standing an NGO may enter into a formal consultative relationship with access to officials of U.N. member states and must provide useful or special information to the U.N. Economic and Social Council...”

Notice how DPI NGOs are under a department which controls “archives and research facilities”, yet on the other hand ECOSOC NGOs have a “formal consultative relationship” with the United Nations, and it's work must be “directly relevant” to the UN's goals. In other words, the ECOSOC NGO consults with the UN on it's policies and helps it achieve it's political aims and direct it's policy-making.

This is exactly what apostates are accusing the Watchtower Society of doing. Yet, this is not a description of the type of NGO the Watchtower Society was, but it is a description of the other type of NGO — that associated with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

The Watchtower Society was a totally different type of NGO associated with a different UN department — the Department of Public Information (DPI). Accusers deny this, and claim the differences are “irrelevant facts”, when we can clearly see that is not how the UN feels about the matter. Let us now examine the original Resolutions of the United Nations to show the difference between ECOSOC and DPI NGOs.

Resolution 1296 of ECOSOC

The idea of creating NGOs associated with ECOSOC was actually first written into the United Nations charter, where it says:

“The Economic and Social Council [ECOSOC] may make suitable arrangements for consultation with non-governmental organizations which are concerned with matters within its competence. Such arrangements may be made with international organizations and, where appropriate, with national organizations after consultation with the Member of the United Nations concerned.” —Article 71 of the United Nations Charter

Later, ECOSOC adopted a resolution concerning NGOs, which says, in part:

“The Economic and Social Council [ECOSOC],
Having regard to Article 71 of the Charter of the United Nations, Recognizing that arrangements for consultation with non-governmental organizations provide an important means of furthering the purposes and principles of the United Nations. Considering that consultations between the Council and its subsidiary organs and the non-governmental organizations should be developed to the fullest practicable extent, Approves the following arrangements, which supersede those set out in its resolution 288 B (X) of 27 February 1950:” —ECOSOC Resolution 1296 (XLIV) Arrangements for Consultation with Non-Governmental Organizations; 23 May 1968

This same resolution goes on to state that an ECOSOC NGO “...shall undertake to support the work of the UN.”

Yet, those infamous words often quoted by apostates as “proof” that the Watchtower Society agreed to support the United Nations were actually words penned by ECOSOC in one of their resolutions — talking about their NGOs — not those of the DPI which is a separate UN department.

These words of resolution 1296 never applied to the Watchtower Society as they were never an ECOSOC NGO. However, the ECOSOC also made another resolution, 1297. What does that say?

Resolution 1297: “...bear in mind the letter and spirit...”

In their next resolution, 1297, the ECOSOC gave the Department of Public Information, the DPI, it’s power to associate it's own NGOs. The resolution says, in part:

“[ECOSOC] [r]ecommends that the Secretary-General bear in mind the letter and spirit of Council resolution 1296 (XLIV) governing consultative status, in associating international and national non-governmental organizations with the Office of Public Information [DPI];”

This is often quoted as proof that, although the Watchtower Society was not under the previous resolution (1296) which says the NGO must “support the work of the UN”, this next resolution did apply to the Watchtower Society — and this resolution says it must “bear in mind the letter and spirit of Council resolution 1296”.

Yet, is that really what it says? No. The resolution is giving an instruction to the “Secretary-General” — not to the NGOs themselves. It does not say that “the NGO must bear in mind the letter and spirit of Council resolution 1296”. No — it is an instruction to the Secretary-General, and to no-one else.

This fact is reflected in the original forms which the Watchtower Society completed in 1991 to become a DPI NGO. If you carefully examine the forms, you will notice that it nowhere says that the Watchtower Society should “bear in mind the letter and spirit of Council resolution 1296”. Why? Because as said, the instruction was to “the Secretary-General” — just as it says in the resolution — and not to the NGOs at all. —See the original 1991 application forms

If, in fact, it had been a requirement, you would imagine that it would have been on the forms somewhere. Perhaps the forms would have said something like, “You agree to bear in mind ECOSOC resolution 1296” or perhaps even say, “We hereby agree to support the UN and it's charter”, followed by a dotted-line for a signature, legally confirming that the NGO agreed to those terms. Yet, that is not what we find anywhere. Nowhere does it say anything about supporting “the work of the UN” on any of the forms, nor does it mention the ECOSOC resolution. In fact, there doesn't seem to be a single part of those forms which says anything which may compromise our Christian beliefs.

So we can see that the Watchtower Society never agreed to be subject to Resolution 1296 of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) where it says NGOs must support the UN. That resolution only applied to ECOSOC NGOs — of which the Watchtower Society has never been. The next resolution was an instruction to the Secretary-General, and to no-one else, and neither was it reflected in the forms that the Watchtower Society completed.

This brings us on to another important subject — the forms themselves. What did those forms say? Do their contents corroborate with what the Watchtower Society claimed happened?