Watchtower's United Nations Association
Watchtower was an Associate NGO with the United Nations between 1992 and 2001, despite condemning the United Nations as the scarlet coloured wild beast of Revelation. They only withdrew membership after it became public knowledge through an article in The Guardian. This resulted in many Jehovah's Witnesses severing ties with Watchtower, considering such behaviour hypocritical and dishonest.
In 1991, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York lodged an application to become a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Associate Member of the United Nations Department of Public Information (UN DPI). They were accepted in 1992, which is a matter of public record. This is the closest relationship an NGO can form with the United Nations. A renewal application was submitted annually for the next decade.
Knowledge of Watchtower's involvement with the United Nations became public through the release of breaking news in The Guardian on 8th October 2001. Quite damningly, Watchtower withdrew their Membership a few days after this article was released.
Jehovah's Witnesses link to UN queried
Sect accused of hypocrisy over association with organisation it has demonised.
Stephen Bates, religious affairs correspondent
Oct 8, 2001 The Guardian
"The United Nations is being asked to investigate why it has granted associate status to the Jehovah's Witnesses, the fundamentalist US-based Christian sect, which regards it as the scarlet beast predicted in the Book of Revelation. Disaffected members of the 6m-strong group, which has 130,000 followers in the UK, have accused the Witnesses' elderly governing body of hypocrisy in secretly accepting links with an organisation that they continue to denounce in apocalyptic terms. The UN itself admitted yesterday that it was surprised that the sect, whose formal name is the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, had been accepted on its list of non-governmental organisations for the last 10 years."
Click Here for the chain of email correspondence between the Watchtower and Bates following the Guardian article.
This involvement has stumbled many Jehovah's Witnesses due to:
- Watchtower having spent decades publicly condemning Christendom for holding UN NGO status
- being considered a double standard, since followers are forbidden membership with disapproved organizations
- the dishonest information Watchtower released attempting to explain away the situation
The 2001 Guardian article prompted a large number of enquiries to the United Nations. Paul Hoeffel, United Nations Chief NGO Section, released the following as an official reply verifying Watchtower's association.
A more detailed reply was posted to the United Nations website on the 4th March 2004. A PDF copy of the letter can be downloaded from jwfacts.com at United Nations Letter re Watchtower relations 2004.
As of 25th May 2022, this letter can be viewed on the United Nation's website at Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society association with DPI.
To reach the letter from the UN home page takes a bit of searching - here is the click path. Go to www.un.org/en. Scroll all the way to the brown footer at the bottom of the page and click the link "A-Z site index." Click "N", then "Non-Governmental Organizations associated with the Department of Global Communications," which will take you to the UN Civil Society section. In the top menu bar click "About Us" and then immediately below it "useful links." The very bottom of the "useful links" page has a link to the Watchtower letter.
As the letter outlines, Watchtower was an associated NGO, and to become associated required Watchtower accept the following:
- that the NGO share the ideals of the UN Charter;
- have a demonstrated interest in United Nations issues and a proven ability to reach target or specialized audiences, such as educators, media representatives, policy makers and the business community;
- have the commitment and means to conduct effective information programs about UN activities by publishing newsletters, bulletins and pamphlets, organizing conferences, seminars and round tables; and enlisting cooperation of the media.
Since the United Nations 1945 formation, associated NGO's have been required to "support the work of the United Nations". This was reiterated at the 1968 Economic and Social Council.
In 1968, the Economic and Social Council, by Resolution 1297 (XLIV) of 27 May, called on DPI to associate NGOs, bearing in mind the letter and spirit of its Resolution 1296 (XLIV) of 23 May 1968, which stated that an NGO "...shall undertake to support the work of the United Nations and to promote knowledge of its principles and activities, in accordance with its own aims and purposes and the nature and scope of its competence and activities". un.org/en/civilsociety/1297.shtml (1 Jun 2010)
The opening paragraph of the 1991 application form, which the Watchtower was required to submit, contains an instruction to provide information yearly to the United Nations. It states;
" provide us with proof of your organizations non-profit status and with an annual report on its activities related to United Nations."
A number of Watchtower articles from the 1990s praise the efforts of the United Nations, an apparent attempt to comply with the above requirements.
Application to the United Nations is a double standard when compared with the Watchtower principles enforced upon the members. The Watchtower makes clear that a role of employment with a disapproved organisation aligns that person with the organisation, even if the role is not directly connected to any questionable practices.
"The Bible condemns things such as stealing, idolatry and the misuse of blood, so a Christian could hardly engage in work where he directly promoted such things. Would doing the work so closely link a person with a condemned practice that he would be a clear accomplice? Even a janitor or a receptionist at a blood bank or a plant making only weapons of war is directly linked with work contrary to Gods Word." Watchtower 1982 Jul 15 Box on p.26 Employment Factors to Consider
Simple membership with a disapproved organisation, such as the YMCA, is considered apostasy and results in judicial action.
Is it true that for religious reasons Jehovah's Witnesses may not become members of the YMCA (Young Mens Christian Association)?
Yes, that is so. We have long recognized that the YMCA, though not being a church as such, is definitely aligned with the religious organizations of Christendom in efforts to promote interfaith.
In joining the YMCA as a member a person accepts or endorses the general objectives and principles of the organization. … Membership means that one has become an integral part of this organization founded with definite religious objectives, including the promotion of interfaith. Hence, for one of Jehovah's Witnesses to become a member of such a so-called Christian association would amount to apostasy." Watchtower 1979 Jan 1 pp.30-31 Questions from Readers
Involvement in political affairs is considered being non-neutral. The Elder's manual listed such course of action by which a Witness as indicating they have disassociated themselves from the congregation.
"Jehovah's Witnesses maintain neutrality with regard to the political and military affairs of the nations. (John 17:16; rs pp. 269-76) ... Since true dedicated Christians are "no part of the world," if a member of the congregation unrepentantly pursues a course in violation of his Christian neutrality, he thereby disassociates himself from the neutral Christian congregation. (John 15:19; 17:14-16; w82 1/15 p. 31)" "Pay Attention to Yourselves and to All the Flock" p.140
"Pay Attention to Yourselves and to All the Flock" p.96
With these statements in mind there can be no question that the Watchtower Society violated its own rules when applying for affiliation with the United Nations.
Condemnation of Christendom
Throughout the decades, the United Nations has been vilified by the Watchtower, described as part of Satan's system deserving of destruction.
"No, the UN is not a blessing, even though the religious clergy of Christendom and the rabbis of Jewry pray heaven’s blessing upon that organization. It is really “the image of the wild beast,” the visible political, commercial organization of “the god of this system of things,” Satan the Devil. So the UN will soon be destroyed along with that beastly organization." Watchtower 1984 Sep 15 p.15
Christendom has regularly been condemned for its involvement with the United Nations, being pictured as the Harlot that rides on the back of this prophetic scarlet beast.
"Such dwellers on earth wondered admiringly at the revived scarlet wild beast. Much reliance was placed in its ability to be a power for world peace and security. Great expectations were held out for it, and it was given designations that were really blasphemous from the standpoint of the Holy Bible. How so? In that to this wild beast powers were ascribed and tasks were assigned that really belong to Gods kingdom and its Messiah or its Christ. Back in 1919 the scarlet League of Nations had been seriously called the political expression of the Kingdom of God on earth. And now the United Nations, the successor of that League, has been called the best means for peace, yes, even more than that, the last hope for peace. So today we can see in actuality what the apostle John saw in symbol, that that scarlet-colored wild beast is full of blasphemous names. Those expressions of admiration for it turn false religionists, not to the worship of Jehovah God the Creator, but to idolatry of a man-made creation, the worship of a political image, the worship of an international organization for world peace and security. Rev. 17:3." Watchtower 1963 Nov 15 p.697
Babylon The Great Has Fallen! Gods Kingdom Rules (1963) p.577
"The United Nations is actually a worldly confederacy against Jehovah God and his dedicated Witnesses on earth." Watchtower 1987 Sep 1 p.20
As late as 1991, the Watchtower condemned Christendom for its involvement with the United Nations:
"If Christendom had sought peace with Jehovah's King, Jesus Christ, then she would have avoided the coming flash flood. - Compare Luke 19:42-44.
However, she has not done so. Instead, in her quest for peace and security, she insinuates herself into the favor of the political leaders of the nations this despite the Bible's warning that friendship with the world is enmity with God. (James 4:4) Moreover, in 1919 she strongly advocated the League of Nations as man's best hope for peace. Since 1945 she has put her hope in the United Nations. (Compare Revelation 17:3, 11.) How extensive is her involvement with this organization?
A recent book gives an idea when it states: "No less than twenty-four Catholic organizations are represented at the UN. Several of the world's religious leaders have visited the international organization. Most memorable were the visits of His Holiness Pope Paul VI during the General Assembly in 1965 and of Pope John Paul II in 1979. Many religions have special invocations, prayers, hymns and services for the United Nations. The most important examples are those of the Catholic, the Unitarian-Universalist, the Baptist and the Bahai faiths."" Watchtower 1991 Jun 1 p.17
The partial quote above is from a New Genesis Shaping a Global Spirituality by Robert Muller (1982) chapter 6. The preceding sentence stated:
"All major world religions are accredited to the United Nations as non-governmental organizations. For example, no less than twenty-four Catholic organizations are represented at the UN."
This shows the Watchtower condemning Churches for non-governmental organization (NGO) accreditation less than 12 months before lodging their application to the UN and starting weekly visits to its library and public meetings.
When the League of Nations was initially established, the Watch Tower praised and espoused its virtues.
"We cannot but admire the high principles embodied in the League of Nations... Truly this is idealistic, and approximates in a small way that which God has foretold that he will bring about after this great time of trouble." Watch Tower 1919 Feb 15 p.51
Later, the Watchtower became vocal in regular condemnation of the League of Nations and United Nations, referring to it as a blasphemous and idolatrous organization and labelling them the scarlet wild beast of Revelation.
"True, the 138 members of the United Nations organization know that Jehovahs Christian witnesses are no part of Christendom, no, no part of harlotrous Babylon the Great as a whole. They know that Jehovahs witnesses have not messed themselves up with the dirty politics of this world and have not tried to ride the symbolic scarlet-colored wild beast having seven heads and ten horns." Mans Salvation out of World Distress at Hand! (1975) pp.339-340
"Human governments have schemed to form the most brazen and defiant conspiracy against divine rule that has ever existed. (Compare Isaiah 8:11-13.) They have done so, not once, but twice, creating first the League of Nations and then the United Nations." Awake! 1990 Dec 8 p.24
It was somewhat surprising when in the 1990s a number of complimentary articles were written praising the work of the United Nations.
"THE preamble to the United Nations Charter expresses these noble aims: We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, . . . and [desiring] to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, . . . have resolved to combine our efforts to accomplish these aims.
Did the UN accomplish these aims? Did it get the nations to unite their strength and maintain peace and security? No, not so far, although the UN has sincerely tried to be a significantly better way than the League of Nations.
Jehovahs Witnesses firmly believe that the United Nations is going to play a major role in world events in the very near future. No doubt these developments will be very exciting. And the results will have a far-reaching impact on your life. We urge you to ask Jehovahs Witnesses in your neighborhood for more details on this matter. The Bible clearly paints a picture showing that the United Nations will very shortly be given power and authority. The UN will then do some very astonishing things that may well amaze you. And you will be thrilled to learn that there is yet a better way near at hand that will surely bring eternal peace and security!"
Awake! 1991 Sep 8 p.10
"WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS DETERMINED to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, . . .Preamble to the charter of the United Nations.
OCTOBER 24, 1995, marks the 50th anniversary of the United Nations. All 185 current member States are committed to the organizations original principles and goals as expressed in that charter: to maintain international peace and security; to suppress acts of aggression that threaten world peace; to encourage friendly relations among nations; to protect the fundamental freedoms of all peoples without discrimination based on race, sex, language, or religion; and to achieve international cooperation in solving economic, social, and cultural problems.
For 50 years the United Nations organization has made notable efforts to bring about world peace and security. Arguably, it may have prevented a third world war, and the wholesale destruction of human life through the use of nuclear bombs has not been repeated. The United Nations has provided millions of children with food and medicine. It has contributed to improved health standards in many countries, providing, among other things, safer drinking water and immunization against dangerous diseases. Millions of refugees have received humanitarian assistance.
In recognition of its accomplishments, the United Nations organization has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize five times. Yet, the lamentable fact of life is that we still do not live in a world without war.
In Bible prophecy, human governments are often symbolized by wild beasts. (Daniel 7:6, 12, 23; 8:20-22) Hence, for many decades the Watchtower magazine has identified the wild beasts of Revelation chapters 13 and 17 with todays worldly governments. This includes the United Nations, which is depicted in Revelation chapter 17 as a scarlet-colored beast with seven heads and ten horns.
However, this Scriptural position does not condone any form of disrespect toward governments or their officials. The Bible clearly states: Let every soul be in subjection to the superior authorities, for there is no authority except by God; the existing authorities stand placed in their relative positions by God. Therefore he who opposes the authority has taken a stand against the arrangement of God; those who have taken a stand against it will receive judgment to themselves. Romans 13:1, 2.
Accordingly, Jehovahs Witnesses, who are maintaining strict political neutrality, do not interfere with human governments. They never foment revolution or participate in acts of civil disobedience. Rather, they recognize that some form of government is necessary to maintain law and order in human society.Romans 13:1-7; Titus 3:1.
Jehovahs Witnesses view the United Nations organization as they do other governmental bodies of the world. They acknowledge that the United Nations continues to exist by Gods permission. In harmony with the Bible, Jehovahs Witnesses render due respect to all governments and obey them as long as such obedience does not require that they sin against God. Acts 5:29"
Watchtower 1995 Oct 1 pp.3,7
In 1998, the Awake! discussed the topic of Human Rights, dedicating a number of pages to the United Nations.
“FIFTY years ago, a grandmotherly-looking woman spoke up, and the world listened. It happened in Paris on December 10, 1948. The United Nations General Assembly was gathered in the recently built Palais Chaillot when the chairwoman of the UN Commission on Human Rights rose to give a speech. In a firm voice, Eleanor Roosevelt, the tall widow of former U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, told those assembled: “We stand today at the threshold of a great event both in the life of the United Nations and in the life of mankind, that is the approval by the General Assembly of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” … Since its adoption, the Universal Declaration has been translated into over 200 languages and has become part of the constitutions of many countries. Today, however, some leaders feel that the Declaration needs to be rewritten. But UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan disagrees. One UN official quotes him as saying: “Just as there is no need to rewrite the Bible or the Koran, there is no need to adjust the Declaration. What needs to be adjusted is, not the text of the Universal Declaration, but the behavior of its disciples.”” Awake! 1998 Nov 22 pp.3,5
The United Nations website referenced this Awake! at www.unhchr.ch/udhr/materials/articles.htm, giving good reason to believe it was one of the articles the Watchtower sent to the United Nations as part of its annual reporting requirement. Though this UNHCHR page no longer exists, an archived copy can be been seen at web.archive.org as of 1 Aug 2013.
The Awake! 2000 December 8 devoted a number of pages to discussing the fine efforts of the United Nations and the Awake 2001 July 22 discussed the benefits of volunteering for the United Nations, along with their need for more volunteers.
The turnaround in Watchtower discussion on the United Nations during the 1990s conveniently coincides with the UN application requirement for affiliated NGOs to publicly support their Charter.
Watchtower Use of United Nations
Although being condemnatory of the United Nations as a "confederacy against Jehovah," Watchtower has not held back from using the United Nations when convenient. Use of their library is just one example.
In the 1997 booklet Mission to Africa (Click for PDF download), Watchtower discusses how they took advantage of United Nations airplanes to distribute aid to Jehovah's Witnesses in the region. Page nine notes:
"The best form of travel, if not the only one, is the airplane. Often we used the H.C.R.'s (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) planes." Mission to Africa p.9
In 2001, the UK Guardian ran the introductory article that brought to light the Watchtower involvement with the United Nations, resulting in shock amongst many Jehovah's Witness. Two days later, the Watchtower Society indicated its guilt by withdrawing its UN membership. The Watchtower went on to release information justifying its actions with reasoning ranging between irrelevant to out right dishonesty.
In a letter to the Branches, membership was explained away as the Watchtower's research department requiring access to United Nations library, claiming that in 1991 it became necessary to register as an NGO to have continued access. It also claimed it left on learning the "criteria for association as an NGO's" had changed. A similar letter was sent to the Guardian.
The letter to the Guardian and to the Branches is quite untruthful, as explained by UN representative Paul Gillies to The Guardian.
There was no change requiring NGO's to become associated in order to gain a library card. There are over 400 UN libraries worldwide that can be accessed by anyone. Since 1946, these libraries have had the same access rules, with no change in access requirements in 1991.
"Since 1946, the Dag Hammarskjold Library of the United Nations Secretariat in New York has arranged for the distribution of United Nations documents and publications to users around the world through its depository library system. At present, there are more than 400 depository libraries in over 140 countries maintaining United Nations material from the date of designation as depository to the present. The general public can consult the material free of charge at any depository library." www.un.org/Depts/dhl/deplib/deplibsystem.htm (as of 6th Sep 2009).
Witnesses writing to the United Nations for clarification regarding library access have received replies such as the following letter. This letter explains that NGO status is not required in order to access the library.
More importantly, there have been no changes to the requirement for NGO's being required to agree to "support" the ideals of the United Nations. This is stated in the following letter to an enquirer in 2002 and also a press release from 1992.
Even if it were true that access to the UN library required becoming an affiliated NGO, the Society has made quite clear to its followers that membership with a political organization is never justifiable and certainly access to a library is the poorest of excuses.
The Watchtower justification fails at many levels.
- Library access is not an acceptable reason for breaking its own rules
- There was no requirement to join the UN in order to access the library
- There was no change to the application process specifically in 1991
- The Watchtower was required to lodge annual applications between 1992 and 2001
- The UN affiliation was only revoked due to media publicity. If a Witness confesses only after their sin is public knowledge there is high probability elders will not see their confession as a sign of repentance
- If a Witness can be disassociated for membership with political organizations, the same standard should apply to the Watchtower Society
What was the real reason that the Watchtower Society affiliated itself with the United Nations? Without an honest statement from the Watchtower this can only be speculated, though most likely it was in order to gain political favour to enhance Watchtower rights in countries under ban. This was explained in an interview immediately following the Guardian article. The Watchtower spokesman in Portugal stated that United Nations registration was to assist gaining recognition in developing countries. In a newspaper interview on Saturday 20th October 2001, the Watchtowers Portuguese representative stated:
"Registration as a Non Governmental Organisation was only done because you can give humanitarian aid and protect human rights in various countries around the world," says the PUBLIC Pedro Candeias, spokesman for the Association of Jehovah's Witnesses in Portugal. In Portugal, however, a relaxation of registration is not yet known officially by the AJW, which represents nearly 50,000 believers.
The official says the religious group to which he belongs has had an "important role" in helping the populations of countries like Angola, Bosnia, Georgia, Rwanda and other African or Latin American. "Reaching out to these countries was complicated and therefore it was necessary to register" the WTBTS in the United Nations. But this registry, he says, did not compromise the Jehovah's Witnesses to "any political involvement" with the UN." (web.archive.org as of 24 June 2010 - translated with the assistance of Google Translate)
It was 2 days after this interview that the Watchtower changed its official position by releasing the October 22nd letter, contradicting the above statements and claiming it only applied for library access.
Stance Since 1990
Between 1990 and 2010, there has been a significant reduction in references to the United Nations in the Watchtower magazine.
Even more noticeable is the reduction in the number of times the United Nations is referred along with the term "wild beast" in the Watchtower.
The number of references to the United Nations in the Awake remained relatively constant over those four decades, but Awake references are almost exclusively in regards to world conditions and human rights, not regarding Bible prophecy and the Beast.
The changing tendency to paint the United Nations in a positive light is understandable as an attempt by Watchtower to gain political acceptance. As shown at Political Involvement, Watchtower is actively involved in areas of politics that will advance its political freedoms.
Barbara Anderson was part of the writing department in 1992, when Ciro Aulicino2 told her he would go to the United Nations on Wednesday afternoon to pick up material for the Writing Department and attend meetings that required a special pass. It was also Ciro that wrote the September 8th 1991 Awake! magazine cover series. Members of the Governing Body were aware of the association because the Writing Committee members at the time - Barry, Barr and Klein - authorised the the United Nations articles. Jaracz would also have been aware as Robert Johnson, whose signature appears on the accreditation forms, reported to Jaracz in the Service Department. Page 244 of the 1993 NGO directory listed Barry as the Watchtower representative, Ciro as the Main Representative and Johnson as the Alternative Representative. (see Ciro Courts the United Nations)
In the 1960s, the Governing Body decreed that Malawian Witnesses were not to hold a political card in a one party state. This resulted in many thousands of deaths, rapes and displacements of innocent Witnesses between 1963 and 1992. (Yearbook 1999 pp.149-223) Whilst these atrocities were occurring to followers of Watchtower regulation, their headquarters were ignoring the same regulation by being politically affiliated with the United Nations. Watchtower leaders freely wield their power to disfellowship its constituents for associating with or working for organisations that are acting contrary to Watchtower principles, and praise followers who die upholding Organization regulation. Yet they violated their own principles; for library access. Never has there been an apology or admission of wrongdoing, rather there has been no more than a brief and dishonest attempt to make this indiscretion appear justifiable. Is it any wonder that Witnesses have left the Organization in disgust at such hypocrisy?
 The letter originally appeared on the United Nations website at un.org/dpi/ngosection/pdfs/watchtower.pdf and then at ask.un.org/faq/14501. As of 25th May 2022, an archive of the ask.un.org pages can be viewed at web.archive.org/web/20170304073619/http://ask.un.org/faq/14501 and http://web.archive.org/web/20090126152929/http://un.org/dpi/ngosection/pdfs/watchtower.pdf.
 Click here for a 10 minute video recording of a 2007 district convention talk by Ciro Aulicino, giving insight into Ciro's view of things. He graphically describes how Witnesses are to look forward to the slaughter of non-witnesses at Armageddon, whose dead bodies will line the streets, to be consumed by birds of prey.
Ukrainian translation of this article.
Written 2006, latest update May 2022.
Paul Grundy 2005 - 2023