Rev. Moon and the United Nations: A challenge for the NGO community
01.11.2001: Background Paper by Harold Paine and Birgit Gratzer
The organization of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon is seeking a major role in the NGO community at the United Nations. Three Moon groups have been granted formal NGO status and others have applied. The Moon organization has used the UN for conferences and for publicity events. Moon has held a mass-wedding in a UN conference room. A new Moon-sponsored "umbrella group", known as the World Association of NGOs (WANGO), proposes itself as an authentic voice of the NGO community.
The Moon organization commands considerable financial resources. It has held lavish conferences, with participants from many countries. A number of government missions have lent their support. Dozens of well-known scholars, NGO representatives, politicians and diplomats have unwittingly taken part. Former President George Bush is the world's best-known Moon-booster, for reasons that appear to mix ideology and cash. Bush has been reported to receive very large fees for his speeches at Moon events in many countries. The Moon organization was also involved in the election campaign of George W. Bush the younger in 2000.
At a time when many are asking questions about who NGOs represent and what role they should have in global governance, we must carefully examine this newcomer, especially since it lays claim to broad international legitimacy.
The concerns raised in this background paper can be summarized in five main points:
1) Illegality. Moon activities have been judged illegal by a court of law in the United States, leading to the Rev. Moon's imprisonment for tax evasion, making false statements and conspiracy to obstruct justice. The Congressional report suggested that the Moon organization had committed other criminal acts such as tax evasion, money laundering, and evasion of currency controls. Many subsequent media articles suggest that these illegal activities continue.
2) Highly Objectionable Activities and Positions. The Moon organization manufactures and trades weapons, promotes a view of women as inferior, and maintains close contacts with far-right movements. It has had close relations with intelligence agencies, notably the KCIA, and it has served as an important funder of right-wing causes. It has abused its non-profit and religious status through extensive business activities in wholly-owned companies.
3) Deception and Serious Lack of Transparency. The Moon organization's many front organizations blur relationships with the Rev. Moon and offers a range of faces to the public. Many of those who become involved with these organizations never know the real nature of the Moon operation. Moon organizations keep their finances secret, and they lure NGO partners and participants by offers of fancy banquets, travel costs to conferences, speakers' fees and other enticements. Moon organizations claim partnerships with the UN that do not exist. The mass wedding held in the UN conference room in January would never have been permitted if the Moon sponsors had honestly announced their intentions. It seems fair to conclude that the Moon organization is deliberately deceptive and that it attempts to hoodwink the unsuspecting public. It misrepresents its activities and operates under false pretenses. It very seriously lacks transparency.
4) Not a Non-Governmental Organization. The Moon organization appears to be more a business empire and a political movement than a religion. Least of all is it a non-governmental organization. Though NGOs worldwide are necessarily very diverse and do not conform to a simple model, the Moon organization stretches credibility as an NGO. Its vast business and media holdings suggest that it is primarily a for-profit corporation, as the US Internal Revenue Service ruled for a number of years. Furthermore, any single Moon group does not operate independently but rather acts as part of a network of dozens, even hundreds, of associations and groups, run covertly in a unified manner. Accepting such a strange animal as a genuine non-governmental organization undermines the NGO movement and its fundamental role and legitimacy. Further, organizations that claim associative or consultative NGO status at the UN, must act in accord with the Charter of the United Nations and the basic principles of the organization. The Moon organization clearly does not meet this criterion.
5) Hostility Towards the UN. The Moon organization speaks with many voices, but the organization's key media organs, in particular the heavily-subsidized Washington Times, offer the public extremely negative and hostile interpretations of the United Nations and its work. The Rev. Moon's right-wing views lead many Moon affiliates to campaign against UN principles and practice in fields such as population, human development, human rights, and disarmament.
The full background paper is available as Pdf-Download (572 kb).