Rev. Moon and the United Nations
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 (1) 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.
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. (2)
The Moon organization, as we shall show, is a strange admixture of religion, politics and business. It has confounded tax and oversight authorities by doing much of its financial transactions in cash and by using the mantle of religious freedom to shield itself from scrutiny. (3)
Before turning to details about Moon activities at the UN, we will review general information from public sources about the Moon organization and its operating methods. We draw on many major media, books and journal articles, a report of the US Congress and extensive web-based information, as well as Moon publications and web sites. In the subsequent report about the Moon organization at the UN, we also draw on a number of interviews as well as primary documents.
The Moon organization has always claimed to be a religious movement, in spite of its intense political activity, its extensive businesses interests and its large web of social and cultural groups. Moon entitles himself “Reverend” and claims a messianic calling and a world mission. (5)
The Holy Spirit Association (or Unification Church, as it would later be called) won many converts in Korea, Japan, and, later, the United States, but it never grew into a major movement. Despite its relatively small size today (estimates suggest about 180,000 members worldwide and less than 5,000 in the United States) (6) it has attracted considerable attention because of its unusual religious, organizational and financial practices and its legal embarrassments.
We have reviewed the strange history and practices of the Moon organization and its initiatives at the UN. Its activities are often surprising and disturbing. We can summarize the concerns raised in this paper 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 Moon organization could not have achieved its high-profile presence at the United Nations without the support of several government delegations. Through the support of the Indonesian mission, the Moon organization was able to obtain major conference facilities at UN headquarters on at least three occasions within a six-month period. A number of other missions have also lent support to Moon functions. According to IIFWP sources, the missions of The Arab League, Bangladesh, Comoros, Iran, Mozambique, Mongolia, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan all lent their “cooperation” or “co-sponsorship” to Moon conferences in 2001.(131) Such involvement lends support and an appearance of legitimacy to Moon events.
The Rev. Moon and his organization will certainly continue to seek influence at the United Nations, through WANGO and through many other front organizations, using government backers when possible. We can expect more applications for accreditation, more elaborate conferences, and more financial lures that draw the unsuspecting into the Moon orbit. Money will be no object.
Fortunately, many delegations are now alerted to the Moon phenomenon and are keen to oppose it. The Secretariat is aware of the issue and has acted to limit future problems. The NGO community must likewise inform itself, reflect on the implications and be on guard against further inroads and blandishments from this well-funded, slickly-organized and skillfully manipulative group.
For full article:
II. The Moon Organization
III. Moon’s Arrival at the United Nations
IV. Other Recent Moon Developments at the UN