Toward an “Abel” UN? The Unification Movement and the United Nations

Journal of Unification Studies Vol. 9, 2008 - Pages 49-84

The United Nations has been on the Unification Movement’s (UM)[1] radar screen for some time. It was, after all, UN forces who liberated Rev. Moon from captivity at Hung Nam labor camp during the early stages of the Korean War (1950-53). In subsequent years, Rev. Moon regularly extolled the sixteen nations who fought under the UN banner and in 1982, he funded production of “Oh Inchon!” a full-length Hollywood feature film intended to memorialize the landing of UN troops on the Korean peninsula. Divine Principle (DP), the UM’s primary doctrinal text, extols the “great powers” for having “allowed minor powers… to become member states of the United Nations” and “giving them rights and duties equal to those of the great powers.”[2] DP goes so far as to associate the UN with the “Last Days” and “close of sinful history.”[3]

At the same time, the UM acknowledged the UN’s limitations. DP argues that the UN mission was undercut by the ideological struggle “between the two worlds of democracy and communism.” During the cold war, Rev. Moon claimed that the “Communist bloc” was “trying to isolate and destroy” Israel, the United States, and Korea at the UN and that these three “brother nations” needed to “join hands in a unified effort to restore the United Nations to its original purpose and function.”[4]  He warned the UN had “become a forum for the propaganda of the communist countries, thereby losing its original function.”[5]

As a consequence, the UM was conflicted in its attitude toward the United Nations. On the one hand, it perceived that the UN had a providential, even eschatological significance. On the other hand, it saw that the UN was politicized in ways that blocked its effectiveness. This ambivalence characterized the movement’s understanding of the UN during the cold war era and has continued to characterize it until the present.

The UM expected that the conclusion of the cold war, which it regarded as World War III, would usher in an era of human, even messianic fulfillment.[6]  The movement also expected that just as after the first two world wars, the victorious “free world” nations would establish new institutions or renew the existing United Nations in ways that were consistent with the new era. When this did not occur, when conflicts continued to be intractable or even genocidal, when the UN remained politicized or even paralyzed in the face of atrocities, the UM did not abandon its core convictions. It simply concluded that the United Nations, at least in its present state, was not equal to the task of building or maintaining world peace.

At this point, the movement’s ambivalence toward the UN bifurcated into two distinct orientations. The first of these led to a renewal or reform program. While acknowledging UN limitations, this approach emphasized the UN’s potential and positive aspects of its work. Based upon this understanding, the UM strengthened its presence at the UN. It set up a UN office, moved to attain official status within the UN for movement-related organizations, sponsored an array of conferences, and sought to become “a major player in the UN-NGO scene.”[7]  The movement also attempted to win support for several of Rev. Moon’s specific proposals, notably his call for “a religious assembly, or council of religious representatives within the structure of the United Nations.”[8]

The UM’s second orientation generated a more radical supersession or displacement program whereby the United Nations would be superseded or at least complemented by a new organization or set of organizations. Unlike the reform model which emphasized the potential and positive aspects of the UN, the supersession model depicted the UN as a dysfunctional institution and highlighted its negative outcomes. Furthermore, given UN resistance to fundamental change, this conceptual approach was pessimistic about working exclusively through the UN. Under these circumstances, the UM backed a new set of organizations which fed directly into its vision of an alternate or “Abel” UN.[9]

Taken together, its renewal and supersession programs have dominated UM thinking about the United Nations since the late 1990s and have taken up an increasing portion of its resource allocations. For this reason, it is important to subject them both to closer examination. This article reviews the UM’s vision and agendas for both renewing and superseding the UN. Having described each of them, the article analyzes them both and offers a set of recommendations for proceeding forward.


Renewing the United Nations

The UM vision and program for UN renewal included three constituent elements: 1) a conceptual model which emphasized the UN’s potential and positive aspects of its work while at the same time highlighting significant limitations; 2) efforts on the part of the movement to strengthen its presence at the UN; and 3) UM efforts to win support for specific reform proposals.

Rev. Moon established the UM’s fundamental orientation toward UN renewal in a number of his speeches. He emphasized the world’s “great expectations for the United Nations as an organization embodying humanity's aspiration for peace” and contended that its importance outweighed that of religion, any single nation-state, or other international organization.[10]  He especially highlighted the UN’s role in promoting the “equalization of life” whereby “developed countries… liberate underdeveloped countries from poverty… help new democratic countries that are in mid-development,” and “sublimate” their “selfish interests.”[11]  For Rev. Moon, this was “the way of the end times.”[12]  As such, the UN served both humanitarian and eschatological ends. However, it was the religious or spiritual element which was to provide the motive force and direction for humanitarian reform, much as the mind worked harmoniously with the body.[13]

Yet it was precisely there that UN shortcomings were apparent. While acknowledging the UN’s “conscientious efforts to establish peace” and its “important contributions,”[14]  Rev. Moon noted that its actions “often meet stubborn resistance.” This was because, “Each country is fighting to get benefit for itself.”[15] Such ingrained selfishness, according to Rev. Moon, was the inevitable result of a politics-only approach since political systems are “based on the idea of a ruling and a ruled class.” Politicization of the UN, in his estimation, would “never resolve the history of the oppressor and the oppressed” and, in fact, had “brought disaster.”[16] As he expressed it,


When we look at the organization of the UN, we find that it has become the symbol of the body by centering upon individual countries. One hundred eighty-two countries meet together at the United Nations, but if we analyze the substance of it, each one is centered on itself and is exploiting and cheating other countries. This runs counter to the fundamental and basic theory of unification and peace.[17] 


The solution he proposed was to combine statesmanship and good governance with the wisdom of the world’s faith traditions and principles of spiritual practice.

However, Rev. Moon was not oblivious to the divisiveness of religion. He acknowledged that “deep-rooted conflict between major religious traditions” constituted the background of “violent wars all over the world.” He also contended that their “preoccupation with individual salvation and narrow denominational interests” had “prevented religious bodies from giving their utmost to the cause of world salvation.” For this reason, religious people “should engage in deep self-reflection” and “repent.” According to Rev. Moon, “Our age more than any other demands that we go beyond our faiths, and the interests of particular religions, and put our love and ideals into practice for the sake of the world.”[18]  It was in that spirit that the UM began to strengthen its presence at the UN.

The UM had maintained a mission at the UN since the early 1970s. Working out of local church centers, its “UN team,” later known as the “New World Forum,” cultivated contacts and invited guests to UM-sponsored events or conferences. In 1974, the UM held a “Seven-Day Fast at the UN” by several hundred members intended to publicize the plight of Japanese wives of North Korean returnees who were alleged to be held against their will.[19] Other of the UN team’s contacts took an active interest and role in the movement’s opposition to communism, especially in the Latin American context.[20] However, during the 1970s and 1980s, the UM regarded the United Nations primarily as an object of religious outreach and support for its “victory over communism” campaign. There were no efforts to ‘reform’ the UN or attempts to obtain standing within the UN by any movement-related entities.

All this changed during the 1990s as UM-related groups began to seek and gain status as NGOs within the UN. The first of these was the International Relief and Friendship Foundation (IRFF), a movement-funded and run charitable organization which since the mid-1970s had provided goods and services in areas of need worldwide.[21]  IRFF gained status with the UN Department of Public Information (DPI) in 1991.[22] In 1993, the International Religious Foundation (IRF), a movement-funded ecumenical and inter-religious organization, also attained DPI status. The Women’s Federation for World Peace (WFWP), a women’s organization of international scope founded by Mrs. Moon, obtained general consultative status with the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in 1997.[23] As only 11 percent of religious NGOs associated with ECOSOC attained “general” status, this was a major breakthrough. The Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU) gained DPI status in 1998, and in 2004, the Inter-Religious and International Federation for World Peace (IIFWP) gained Special Consultative Status with ECOSOC. IIFWP evolved into the Universal Peace Federation (UPF) in 2005 which maintained its ECOSOC status.[24]

Each of these UM-affiliated NGOs conducted programs which supported UN interests and causes. In fact, this was required to maintain their UN status. Thus, IRFF, IRF, WFWP, and FFWPU pursued activities which supported UN millennium development goals, dialogue among civilizations, and pursuit of peace. IIFWP (est. 1999) and UPF (est. 2005), also pursued these goals. However, a key difference separated them from the other UM-related NGOs in that a major thrust, possibly the major thrust, of IIFWP/UPF was UN renewal and reform.

In August 2000, IIFWP convened “Assembly 2000”, a major meeting held just prior to the UN’s Millennium Summit and Millennium General Assembly. The event, held jointly at the Waldorf-Astoria and UN Headquarters, was co-sponsored by the Permanent Missions to the UN of Indonesia, Uganda, and Mongolia and chaired by Makarim Wibisono, the Permanent Ambassador to the UN of Indonesia and President of ECOSOC. Under the theme, “Renewing the United Nations and Building a Culture of Peace.” Assembly 2000 “was attended by dignitaries from over 100 nations, including former heads of state and government, religious and parliamentary leaders, and academic, business, and media leaders.”[25] Included among them were Oscar Arias, former President of Costa Rica and Nobel Peace Laureate; Robert Dole, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader and Republican Presidential candidate; the late Sir Edward Heath, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom; Kenneth Kaunda, former President of Zambia; and Richard Thornburgh, former UN Undersecretary General and Governor of Pennsylvania.

The centerpiece of Assembly 2000 was Rev. Moon’s keynote address, “Renewing the United Nations to Build Lasting Peace.” In this speech, Rev. Moon made three separate proposals. The first called for the establishment of “a religious assembly, or council of religious representatives within the structure of the United Nations,” i.e., that the UN be restructured as a “bicameral institution.” The second proposed the creation of “peace zones in areas of conflict … governed directly by the United Nations” with a special emphasis on North and South Korea. The third called for an official commemorative day to uphold the ideal of the family … Specifically … that True Parents' Day be established as a day of global celebration.” He said IIFWP will make “devoted and sacrificial efforts” on behalf of these proposals and toward the attainment of world peace.[26]

Among Rev. Moon’s proposals, IIFWP invested the most effort in attempting to win support for a religious assembly within the UN. In this endeavor, it secured a valuable ally in the Hon. Jose de Venecia, Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Republic of the Philippines. De Venecia had a history of interreligious involvement, having brokered ceasefires and peace agreements with Muslim insurgent groups and “initiated the move to unite the National Union of Christian Democrats… and the Union of Muslim Democrats” to form LAKAS-CMD (Christian Muslim Democrats), the Philippines dominant political party.[27] Introduced to Rev. Moon’s proposal for an Interreligious Council (IC) at the UN in 2002, he was immediately receptive. He enlisted the support of Philippine President Gloria Arroyo and during a state visit to the United States in May 2003, she raised the matter directly with American President George Bush and members of his Cabinet. According to de Venecia,


[W]hen President Arroyo mentioned this to President Bush, he welcomed this positively and directed Condoleezza Rice, his [then] National Security Advisor, to coordinate with us in promoting this peace initiative.[28]


Referring to the convergence of his work with that of the UM, de Venecia reported to a IIFWP-sponsored “Summit of World Leaders” in August 2003 that “At the fulcrum and the core of this proposal, we, with Reverend Moon… and the other leaders of the IIFWP, have proposed the creation of an Interreligious Council as an organ of the United Nations.”[29] In a letter to the Philippine Foreign Secretary, de Venecia described the initiative “as one of the major foreign policy goals of the Philippines.”[30]

De Venecia said that a resolution would be filed at the 58th UN General Assembly when it convened in September 2003. He acknowledged that creating a new organ of the UN would require a charter amendment (something which had never occurred in the institution’s nearly sixty-year history), invited other nations to join the Philippines in advancing the proposal, called for a General Assembly “Special Committee” to prepare a feasibility study, proposed “that 2004 be declared the Year of the Interfaith Council at the UN,” and stated that the proposal “will carry a mandate of a fixed period of not more than two and a half years in which to create the Interfaith Council.”[31] Karen Smith, Director of the Office of UN Relations for IIFWP, said at the same meeting that “IIFWP has made the goal of winning the support of 50 member states supportive of the resolution.”[32]

To some extent, de Venecia and IIFWP’s reach exceeded their grasp. The UN had its own mechanisms of change which ground exceedingly slow. Nevertheless, the Philippine Delegation won approval of several resolutions and stimulated interfaith developments which, by UN standards, were signal accomplishments. In November 2004, a year behind de Venecia’s timetable, the 59th General Assembly unanimously adopted resolution 59/23 (“Promotion of interreligious dialogue”) authored by the Philippines and co-sponsored by 24 other countries. It affirmed that “interreligious dialogue” constituted one of the “important dimensions of the dialogue among civilizations and of the culture of peace.” It also invited the Secretary General “to bring the promotion of interreligious dialogue to the attention of all Governments and relevant international organizations and to submit a report… to the General Assembly.” Philippine Ambassador to the UN Lauro L. Baja termed the resolution a “landmark in UN history” as it “opens the door… to partnership with civil society in general and the religious sector in particular.”[33]

The UN General Assembly passed additional resolutions proposed by the Republic of the Philippines at its 60th assembly in 2005 (60/10) and at its 61st assembly in 2006 (61/221) which garnered more co-sponsors and extended the initial provisions. A “request” in resolution 61/221 calling on the Secretary-General to designate a “focal unit” within the Secretariat to handle interreligious matters and its implementation in 2007 was especially significant.[34] As a result of these resolutions, the UN was on record in affirming interfaith cooperation as a necessary component of peace activity and had established a mechanism to monitor progress. According to the Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the United Nations, this went a long way toward transcending “the orthodox notion that the UN is strictly a secular intergovernmental body.”[35]

Pursuing a parallel line, the Philippines convened a “Conference on Interfaith Cooperation for Peace” in June 2005 which led to the creation of the Tripartite Forum on Interfaith Cooperation for Peace (TFICP) in 2006. This initially was a partnership of sixteen UN-member states, three UN bodies (UN-DESA, UNESCO, and the World Bank), and the Committee of Religious NGOs at the UN representing its 110 member organizations (of which IIFWP was a member). TFICP held monthly information sessions and successfully pressed for the convening of a “High-Level Conference on Interfaith Cooperation for Peace” at the UN General Assembly in September 2006. The Philippines’ president reinforced these efforts at the UN-sponsored 2005 World Summit of World Leaders and in its “Outcome Document” which recognized the role of religious leaders and faith communities as one of the significant means for the promotion of peace.

All this signified progress. However, these measures were not entirely satisfactory from standpoint of the UM. The UN General Assembly had affirmed interfaith cooperation as a necessary component of peace activity, numerous governmental and non-governmental entities had convened conferences, and the UN Secretariat had established a focal unit to monitor interfaith development. Nevertheless, this fell well short of implementing a religious assembly or council within the structure of the UN. Additionally, and perhaps more significantly, the UM had been relegated to the sidelines. De Venecia remained an ally, but the Philippines’ diplomatic corps at the UN was distant. The UM had input on de Venecia’s original proposal but none at all on resolutions 60/10 or 61/221. Moreover, listings of interfaith initiatives in these resolutions did not include any reference to IIFWP or UPF-sponsored conferences and activities. Ironically, IIFWP saw its stated goal of 50 UN member-states supporting the Philippines’ resolution achieved but was no longer a meaningful participant in the process.

IIFWP made no progress on Rev. Moon’s proposals for peace zones or for the establishment of True Parents’ Day. There may have been convergence between Rev. Moon’s concept of “peace zones in areas of conflict” and the Philippines Vice-President’s statement to the Tripartite Forum that the southern Philippines were “carving out Zones of Peace which bar armed conflict within delineated territories.”[36] However, there was no evidence that the Philippines derived this policy from Rev. Moon’s proposal or that any collaborative work was intended. While there may have been an opening for discussion of peace zones, establishment of “an official commemorative day to uphold the ideal of the family” was a non-starter. Conflicting definitions of family, intense acrimony between conservative and progressive UN coalitions over reproductive rights, and efforts on the part of some to have homosexuals declared a “vulnerable” population among other issues rendered this area a virtual minefield.

For good or ill, this was a minefield into which the UM leapt with both feet. In January 2001, during an IIFWP international symposium, “Dialogue and Harmony Among Civilizations: The Family, Universal Values and World Peace” held jointly at the UN and the New York Hilton, Rev. and Mrs. Moon “blessed” 120 young inter-national, inter-religious and inter-cultural couples soon to embark upon married life in a UN conference room. Despite the fact that the symposium had sponsorship from four Permanent Missions as well as the League of Arab States and Organization of the Islamic Conferences, UN officials viewed this as “a serious breech of the rules for use of UN facilities.”[37]

IIFWP UN office personnel attempted to characterize the event as a simple “blessing” of religious and secular leaders on young couples, not a wedding. In 1999, the UM-affiliated Women’s Federation for World Peace conducted a “Bridge Ceremony” at the UN which featured women of formerly “enemy” nations crossing a makeshift bridge and embracing. This provoked no controversy. However, UN sensitivity on family matters and the UM’s reputation for “mass weddings” insured that would not be the case this time. Largely on the basis of this event, critics charged that UM activities at the UN were “facilitated through front organizations and deceptive tactics.”[38]

Taken as a whole, UM efforts to renew the United Nations bore mixed fruit. The UM staked out a clear conceptual position, greatly strengthened its UN presence, and convened an impressive number of international conferences on issues directly relevant to UN concerns. Significantly, evidence suggests that the UM sparked the Philippines UN interfaith peace offensive which previously had been limited to local and regional initiatives. On the other hand, the UM was marginalized by the Philippines’ UN delegation, its contributions were mostly unacknowledged, and prospects for realizing its core vision of a religious assembly or council within the structure of the UN were still dim. The UM made no headway in its proposal for UN administered peace zones and made negative progress toward the establishment of True Parents’ Day. In fact, according to critics, “many delegations are now alerted to the Moon phenomenon and are keen to oppose it.”[39] Based upon these factors, the UM activated a more radical approach.


Superseding the United Nations

The UM vision and program of supersession whereby the United Nations would be superseded by a new organization or set of organizations also included three constituent elements: 1) a conceptual model which emphasized the UN’s dysfunction and negative outcomes; 2) a pessimistic outlook on the prospects of the movement achieving its goals by working exclusively within the UN; and 3) UM efforts to launch an alternative or “Abel” UN.

The UM’s supersession program had been latent within its approach to the UN for some time. As noted, the movement saw that the UN was politicized in ways that blocked its effectiveness, particularly during the cold war. The UM also was convinced that in the post-cold war period, the victorious free world nations needed to establish new institutions or renew the existing United Nations in ways that were consistent with a new era of human, even messianic fulfillment. This underlay Rev. Moon’s call for “a religious assembly, or council of religious leaders within the structure of the United Nations.”[40]  However, even as the movement emphasized this vision and pursued UN renewal, the UM was alive to the possibility that its work could be easily undermined by secular interests and religious divisiveness.

Given this perspective, the movement’s renewal and supersession programs were strategic options to be pursued separately or even simultaneously depending upon circumstances. Nevertheless, the conceptual differences were clear. Whereas the UM renewal program highlighted the UN’s potential while acknowledging its limitations, its supersession program brooked no such ambivalence. It maintained that the UN was wholly dysfunctional. In a 2003 address, Rev. Moon stated,


It [the UN] has become so crippled that it is incapable of taking even one step forward. It is not just incapable of bringing about world peace; the United Nations can neither present solutions nor offer hope in response to the totally unpredictable situations confronting the world today.[41] 


Two years later, on the occasion of the UN’s 60th anniversary and inauguration of the UM-sponsored Universal Peace Foundation, he claimed, “there is a broad consensus, both inside and outside the organization, that the U.N. has yet to discover the way to fulfill its founding purposes.” To him, the UN and its member states were “inherently unable to resolve conflicts and achieve peace.”[42] The conclusion was inescapable. If the UN was unable to fulfill its founding purposes and “inherently” incapable of achieving peace, renewal would have to come from without.

It is doubtful that the UM would have reached this conclusion minus the reversals it had absorbed. As mentioned, the Philippines UN delegation effectively marginalized the UM from its peace initiative, and UN officials reacted negatively to the UM’s “blessing” at the UN in January 2001. As a consequence, the Secretariat refused a conference space request by Indonesia and other delegation co-sponsors of a UM-sponsored event the following May.[43] However, ECOSOC’s Committee on NGO’s decision to deny accreditation status to the UM-related Youth Federation for World Peace (YFWP) later that year was a more significant reversal.

Rev. Moon’s vision for UN renewal revolved around the twin foci of faith and family. To his mind, it was critical that UM-associated entities connected to faith and family attain standing within the UN. He stated,


Mind and body will become one only when the UN is connected to the religious field. Next, we have to bring the mother - the Women's Federation - and … connect up the Youth Federation and that will be it. Only if we can bring these … organizations to the UN will we become able to suggest the direction in which the UN can bring about peaceful unification and move toward one world in the future.[44]


ECOSOC’s rejection of the Youth Federation was a blow to this vision.[45] This failure, combined with other reversals and the determined opposition of critics, led the movement to re-orient its UN strategy.

Rev. Moon said in 1998 that “if the UN does not listen to us, I will make an Abel-type UN.”[46] In actuality, the UM began constructing a parallel UN years before. As early as 1981, the movement launched the Summit Club, later the Summit Council for World Peace (est. 1987), which brought together present and former heads of state to work on issues of peace and development. In 1985, CAUSA International, a UM affiliate, set up the International Security Council (ISC), an association of former statesmen and senior military officers who dealt with international security issues. These organizations and others coalesced under the Federation for World Peace (FWP), founded by Rev. Moon in 1991 after the passing of the cold war. During the 1990s, the movement generated a dozen or so federations including separate federations of island, peninsular and continental nations as well as federations of women, families and youth for world peace.[47] In effect, the UM was piecing together a shadow UN.

The movement took a decisive step in February 1999 when it linked the constellation of organizations associated with the Federation for World Peace with those under the Inter-Religious Federation for World Peace (IRFWP). IRFWP included multiple ecumenical and interreligious bodies which the UM had established, notably the New Ecumenical Research Foundation (New ERA), the International Religious Foundation (IRF), the Council for the World’s Religions (CWR), and the Assembly of the World’s Religions (AWR). The merger of IRFWP and IFWP created the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace (IIFWP), a new umbrella federation understood to represent internal and external approaches to the solution of world problems.

IIFWP was UM’s prime mover in promoting UN renewal. At the same time, it exemplified the model of inter-religious and political convergence toward which the movement’s UN reform efforts aimed. As such, IIFWP was the first institutional expression of what the UM would later term the “Abel” UN. In Unification language, it represented the “Abel” UN’s formation stage, and its work was largely foundational. Essentially, IIFWP worked to broaden the UM’s network of contacts and develop the movement’s thinking on leadership and “global governance.” From 2000-2004, IIFWP sponsored five annual “assemblies” which convened high level leaders. “Assembly 2000,” as previously described, included a stellar cast of dignitaries. “Assembly 2001” continued that trend, including among its participants former U.S. vice-president Dan Quayle; H.E.Abdurrahman Wahid, former president of Indonesia; the late Jerry Falwell, chancellor of Liberty University; a number of additional former national presidents, and the Rt. Hon. Edward Schreyer, former governor-general of Canada. In addition to annual assemblies, IIFWP sponsored convocations, “international” symposia, and summits for “world” and “Muslim” leaders.” It also maintained an active publications program, publishing conference proceedings and works on governance and peace, more than twenty titles in all from 2000-05.

IIFWP’s emergence was closely related to two other UM-related initiatives, both of which furthered the movement’s supersession agenda. The first of these was WANGO, the World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (initially WAUNNGO, the World Association of United Nations’ Non-Governmental Organizations) established in 2000. Even its name, WANGO, presented a challenge to CONGO, the Conference of NGOs in Consultative Status with the UN, a longstanding, widely recognized NGO umbrella organization.[48] WANGO challenged CONGO at the level of membership and underlying philosophy.

At the level of membership, WANGO looked to construct a broader and more all encompassing NGO network than CONGO. Whereas CONGO limited full membership to NGOs holding consultative status with ECOSOC, WANGO did not make association with the UN system a condition of membership. In fact, it made a point of recognizing “smaller, lesser-known NGOs in the least developed countries, whose exemplary service and success may have gone unnoticed and unappreciated on the international stage.”[49] Attempting to pull together an international coalition of NGOs, WANGO convened major gatherings, initially in conjunction with IIFWP, and later under its own auspices. In New York in October 2000, WANGO and IIFWP jointly sponsored “The Millennium Declaration of the United Nations: A Response from Civil Society,” which brought together representatives from more than 500 NGOs and civil society from 105 countries.[50] In 2001, WANGO and IIFWP co-sponsored symposia on the family, public service and global violence. Participation rates in WANGO “Annual Conferences,” held from 2001-05, and its “World Congress of NGOs,” first convened in 2007, rivaled those of CONGO.[51]

In its underlying philosophy, WANGO upheld a values orientation and more proactive issues-oriented perspective than CONGO. CONGO’s aims were essentially value-neutral, being primarily focused upon gaining NGO’s a voice in the UN. The organization explicitly stated that it “does not take positions on substantive matters,”[52] By way of contrast, WANGO concerned itself with “universal values shared across the barriers of politics, culture, religion, race and ethnicity” and defined itself as “an international leader in tackling issues of serious global concern.”[53] In its first several years of operation, WANGO produced a NGO “Code of Ethics” and a statement of NGO “core values” It also convened meetings on a variety of hot-button issues such as U.S.-UN relations, sustainable development and spirituality, and family values. WANGO clearly was attempting to carve out an “Abel” sphere in the realm of NGOs and civil society. Just as clearly, it looked to position itself in a way that challenged, if not superseded CONGO.

A second initiative which fueled the UM’s supersession agenda was IIFWP’s Ambassadors for Peace (AFP) program. Rev. Moon’s proposal to create an interreligious assembly included the appointment of “religious” ambassadors. He stated that they must have “a genuinely ecumenical or interreligious consciousness” as well as “the training and ability to teach a universal, transnational ideal of peace.” According to him,


The interreligious ambassador appointed as a member of the United Nations senate or council should have a global consciousness and take responsibility to represent the United Nations' global vision and agenda … Wherever they go in the world, these ambassadors would promote movements dedicated to the realization of peace and social welfare. Moreover, in all nations, they would serve as conscientious guardians of lofty ideals such as justice, security, and peace.[54]


Rather than wait for the UN to set up an interreligious assembly and appoint interreligious ambassadors, a process which could take years, the UM, itself, began commissioning Ambassadors for Peace (AFPs) in 2001. It defined them as “a worldwide network of leaders dedicated to transcending racial, religious and ethnic boundaries to promote a world of genuine peace.”[55]

Significantly, AFPs were understood to have been “fully introduced to the IIFWP, its founding vision and its programs.” Furthermore, they were expected to “affirm and put into practice” the following five “peace principles”:

1. God is the Parent of all humankind;

2. Human beings are essentially spiritual in nature;

3. The highest standard for human relationships is the ethic of “living for the sake of others”;

4. The family is the fundamental institution of society, and functions as a school of love. Committed and faithful marriage, as the foundation of stable, loving families, should be honored as a sacred union; and

5. Interreligious and international cooperation are essential for world peace.[56]


By 2007, the movement claimed to have appointed tens of thousands of AFPs, making it “the world's largest and most diverse network of peace leaders.”[57]

The Interreligious and International Peace Council (IIPC) was the second institutional expression of what the UM then explicitly termed the “Abel” or “Peace” UN. In Unification terms, this represented the Abel UN’s growth stage. IIPC was formally launched in New York on October 3, 2003. Based upon IIFWP’s efforts, it was intended to embody a new model of global governance, not just a religious assembly but a wholly other “Abel” UN. At its inaugural assembly, IIPC Chairman Rev. Dr. Chung Hwan Kwak stated that IIPC’s launch marked “a new chapter not only in the history of the IIFWP, but the entire world.”[58] Rev. Moon concurred. IIPC’s founding, he proclaimed, was “nothing less than the most revolutionary and wondrous event to happen since God created humankind.” He also made it clear that he would “gladly transfer to the control of the Peace United Nations the entire foundation that I have built with blood, sweat, and tears over more than eighty years.”[59]

It probably was fortunate that Rev. Moon did not transfer his entire foundation to IIPC as there was little evidence that the organization ever developed an identity. It generated no governing board, charter or even working documents, headquarters site (though a floor in the UM-owned New Yorker Hotel had been designated), or recognizable structure. Its leadership doubled as leaders of IIFWP. Instead, IIPC piggybacked on already existing projects, and its name simply was added as a co-sponsor to IIFWP conferences, symposia and convocations. In February 2005, nearly a year-and-a-half after its founding, IIFWP leadership called on delegates attending a summit on leadership and good governance to empanel “regional Peace Councils” which “should draft IIPC charters applicable to the region, develop a plan of action, and select regional delegates who would then sit on the world-level Peace Council.”[60] A few were established, though mostly without the desired apparatus.

In April 2005, at a UM-sponsored International Leadership Convocation (ILC), Rev. Kwak acknowledged that “the Peace Council has been functioning as a loose, informal coalition of Ambassadors for Peace.” However, he claimed the Peace Council was “shifting to a more formal structure” and that “Preparatory Committees are being formed.” These, he said, will “consider the charter, the rules of procedure, the code of ethics and a plan of action for the Peace Council.” He told delegates,


Rest assured … that the Peace Councils have the potential to truly transform this world, bringing together leaders from governments, religions, faith-based NGOs, civil society, academia, business, the arts, sports, etc., all working together collaboratively for peace. It is an idea whose time has come. The dream is about to become a reality.[61]


At the same conference, IIFWP Secretary-General Thomas Walsh outlined an “International Agenda” leading to the convening of “the inaugural World level Peace Council” on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the UN.[62]

The Universal Peace Federation (UPF) was the UM’s third institutional expression of the “Abel” UN. From a Unification perspective, it represented the “Abel” UN’s completion phase. UPF was established on September 12, 2005 prior to the UN’s 60th anniversary. In effect, it absorbed both IIFWP and IIPC and inherited their respective missions. Its inaugural convocation was held before 376 delegates from 157 nations at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall in New York. Its mission, Rev. Moon declared, was “to renew the existing United Nations and provide a new level of leadership as an ‘Abel-type’ United Nations.” As part of the launch, he also proposed a “World Peace King Bridge Tunnel” to “build a passage for transport across the Bering Strait.” Rev. Moon described this as “a truly providential and revolutionary project” and envisioned it as a crucial “link” in “an international highway system connecting the world as a single community.” He also announced the founding of a “peace police and peace army” (later re-conceptualized as the “peace kingdom police force” and the “peace kingdom corps”) under the UPF banner “to safeguard global peace.”[63]

These initiatives may have been sufficiently breathtaking to overshadow any of IIPC’s previous shortcomings. Nevertheless, the enormity of generating an entity which would function as an “Abel” UN remained. The UM originally conceived of IIPC as a representative, deliberative body. However, this proved difficult, if not impossible to achieve. In response, UPF re-conceptualized its identity and mission as primarily educational. Rather than exhaust itself in attempting to construct a new and improved General Assembly or compete with the existing UN and other international organizations in addressing critical issues, UPF focused on leadership education and “global governance.” It then applied its models of leadership and governance to targeted peace initiatives, some regional, some issue-based. This way, UPF freed itself to do what UM-affiliated organizations did best: visioning, networking, conferencing, and engaging specific issues for which there was a perceived providential mandate and potential for success.

Re-defining the “Abel” UN in these terms may have been a retreat from IIPC’s more grandiose design. However, there were significant benefits. For one thing, UPF avoided an immense investment of human and material resources for which there may not have been a significant return. At the same time, UPF retained a “Global Peace Council” comprised of some 150 former and sitting government leaders and a “Presiding Council” of fourteen members drawn from the council and from the UPF Secretariat.[64] These entities were marginally active and, in effect, kept in reserve. In this way, there was the possibility of re-activating the “Abel” UN as a structural alternative to the existing UN if and when the time was ripe.

A second benefit of conceptualizing its identity and mission as primarily educational was that it enabled UPF to align more fully with the wider Unification movement. UM personnel recruited “Ambassadors for Peace” for UPF conferences and UPF drew freely and explicitly from UM sources in its presentations. At the same time, the UPF action-agenda quickly coalesced around four key initiatives of interest to the UM: the Middle East Peace Initiative (MEPI) which sponsored interfaith “Pilgrimages for Peace”; the Northeast Asia Peace Initiative (NEAPI) which supported Korean unification; the “Abel” United Nations; and the Bering Strait Project.[65] In all of these projects, the activities of UPF and the wider Unification movement were mutually reinforcing. In fact, a listing of “Affiliated Organizations” on the UPF website reads like a review of groups established by the movement over the past two decades or more.[66]

As a result, the lines of demarcation between UPF and the Unification movement became blurred. In an October 2006 interview, UPF Secretary-General Thomas Walsh stated,


Our conferences are for the sake of education in a vision, in the principles, methodology and programs by which we can transform the world. Embedded within them… are aspects of Divine Principle and its application to the world situation. People do get inspired, because their original mind catches something that is here, something they don’t find in other places. This is also because the conferences… embody Unification culture;


He continued,


[M]uch of our work is a form of attendance to God’s providence, by attending True Parents and their work during Father’s lifetime. That involves bringing the best of the … world to participate in the major providential moments.[67]


The convergence of UPF and the UM was evident in UPF meetings. Conference emcees regularly referred to “Father” and “Mother” Moon as the “True Parents” and organizers included marriage rededications modeled after the Unification Blessing in the proceedings. Walsh said that the Ambassador for Peace initiative was “gradually breaking down the barriers between those who are in our movement and those outside.”[68] The “Abel” UN as embodied by UPF was coming increasingly close to being the UM writ large.

UM efforts to supersede the UN, no less than its efforts to renew it, had mixed results. The movement was able to consolidate its varied federations for world peace and numerous other organizations under a unified banner, convene truly impressive gatherings, and become a “player” in the international NGO scene. It also was able to assemble a worldwide network of peace-builders and reinforce significant initiatives in the Middle East, northeast Asia and elsewhere. On the other hand, the UM proved unequal to the task of launching an alternative to the existing UN or competing with it in addressing critical issues. The “Abel” UN taught, but it did not exemplify a model of global governance, and increasingly it pursued objectives related to acceptance of Rev. and Mrs. Moon status and participation in Unification marriage rites.



The intent of this section is to analyze the UM’s UN program in terms of its strengths and weaknesses. This analysis focuses on resources available to the movement in three broad areas: ideology, leadership and organization, and the social environment. The UM attempted to mobilize each of these resources in pursuit of its objectives at the UN. The nature of these resources and how well they were managed is the focus of this analysis.[69]


Ideology refers to “a set of beliefs about the social world and how it operates, containing statements about the rightness of certain arrangements and what action should be undertaken in light of those statements.”[70] Essentially, ideologies divide into those which support existing arrangements and those which seek change. However, whether an ideology is conservative, reformist or revolutionary, there are common indicators of ideological strength or weakness. These include a given ideology’s clarity, motivational force, coherence, and adaptability. According to these criteria, the UM’s UN renewal and supersession programs exhibited ideological strengths and weaknesses.

One UM strength was its ideological clarity. As has been shown, some UN-related organizations such as CONGO are avowedly non-ideological and refuse to take positions on “substantive issues.” On the other hand, the UM grounded its renewal and supersession programs in a distinct ideology. The ideological core of both programs was a belief that the UN needed to incorporate the wisdom of the world’s faith traditions into its deliberations and structure. The UM’s ideology included additional elements. As noted, it promoted the “equalization of life” whereby “great powers” gave “minor powers” equal rights and duties and whereby developed countries liberated underdeveloped countries from poverty. It also upheld peaceful methods of conflict resolution, principles of good governance, and “the ideal of the family.” However, these elements were subsidiary to the core idea of including interreligious participation in global governance. This was clear, readily understood, and an ideological strength.

A second strength of the movement’s ideology was its motivational force. In presenting his proposals for renewing the United Nations, Rev. Moon stated,


Although secular authorities rule most human societies, religion lies at the heart of most national and cultural identities. In fact, religious faith and devotion have far greater importance in most peoples' hearts than do political loyalties.[71] 


He was correct at least insofar as UM personnel, the movement’s allies, and an increasing number of diplomats and politicians were concerned. UM personnel were motivated to invest stunning amounts of time, energy and financial resources to host all manner of assemblies, convocations, symposia and summits which promulgated the movement’s core ideas. Allies such as Philippine House Speaker Jose de Venecia were willing to invest similar effort on behalf of an interreligious council at the UN and to mobilize others. The receptivity of the UN General Assembly to resolutions that affirmed interfaith cooperation as a necessary component to peace activity suggested that the UM’s core idea had broad-based appeal.

A third strength of the movement’s ideology was its adaptability. Simply stated, the UM’s core ideas were sufficiently flexible to pursue both renewal and supersession depending upon circumstances. Given a positive or even a neutral environment in which to function, the movement’s ideology showed itself capable of undergirding an impressive number of organizations and initiatives within the framework of the UN and which supported its goals. However, given a negative environment in which the UM was resisted or ignored, its ideology proved equally capable of undergirding a plethora of organizations and initiatives which operated outside the UN framework and which modeled competencies intended to supersede it. In this respect, the movement’s longstanding ambivalence toward the United Nations nuanced its perspective and was an ideological strength.

The UM’s UN program also exhibited ideological weaknesses. One was a lack of content. The movement’s core ideological position was clear enough, but it lacked sufficient and systematic elaboration. Conference participants gave speeches or sometimes presented papers and UM representatives conveyed movement ideas via Power Point but the two were poorly integrated. As a consequence, a succession of conference proceedings volumes had little practical value. More importantly, the movement’s UN programs lacked sufficient intellectual grounding to hold together a coalition of supporters in anything more substantial than annual rounds of assemblies, summits, and convocations. UM leaders spoke of establishing a Peace Academy, but this never got off the ground. The movement launched IIPC as a would-be international governance structure, but it floundered.

A second weakness of the UM’s ideology was its inability to fully manifest religious universalism. Eschatological certitude that these were the “Last Days” or that the world’s religious leaders represent the “mind” while the world’s political leaders represented the “body” were ideas not likely to garner much assent outside the narrow base of movement adherents. Moreover, even as the UM called upon religious people to “go beyond our faiths, and the interests of particular religions,” it persisted in privileging the Judeo-Christian tradition through its conceptualization of the “Abel” UN. These and other expressions were examples of the movement’s “primary language.” Proponents of interfaith dialogue point out that early use of “primary language and particular religious rituals” (such as the Unification “Blessing”) provoke defensiveness and opposition. They advocate use of a “universal or religious secondary language” to bridge gaps and establish a “vernacular” to explore differences.[72] The UM’s failure to translate core theological concepts into language suitable for public discourse and debate was an ideological shortcoming.

A final weakness of the movement’s ideology was a lack of inner coherence. Specifically, the UM did not present an entirely united front. As noted, the movement was convinced that the conclusion of the cold war, which it regarded as World War III, would usher in an era of human, even messianic fulfillment and that global institutions such as the UN had an important role to play in this process. However, certain conservative constituencies within or associated with the UM retained a cold war outlook and articulated anti-UN, anti-globalization positions which ran counter to the UM’s UN thrust. This generated internal dissonance. The chief hold-outs were movement-funded media outlets, notably The Washington Times which kept up a steady stream of anti-UN rhetoric during the 1990s and beyond even as the movement reached out to UN organizations and officials.[73] The UM attempted to bridge this divide by sponsoring a symposium series on “U.S.-U.N. Relations.” These were only partially successful. Internal dissonance remained and was an ideological weakness that undermined movement initiatives.

Leadership and Organization

Rev. Moon fits Max Weber’s classic description of the charismatic leader as one “endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least exceptional powers and qualities.” Weber held that charisma in its “pure” form was “a specifically revolutionary force.” At the same time, he recognized the necessity of “routinization” or the setting up of a “permanent routine structure” if the prophet’s organization was to survive his passing.[74] The transition from pure to routinized forms of charisma commonly involves a shift from communal to bureaucratic forms of organization. Charismatic/communal and routinized/bureaucratic forms of leadership and organization each have particular assets and liabilities. The UM was very much immersed in these leadership and organizational dynamics. As a consequence, their strengths and weaknesses affected its UN programs.

Charismatic leadership was a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it was a great strength. Rev. Moon set the tone for the movement’s UN work, provided the core ideas, mobilized personnel and resources, formulated strategy, and continually pushed the envelope of what was thought to be possible. Under his leadership, the UM responded quickly and decisively to perceived opportunities, convened major assemblies and launched new initiatives with very little lead time. Likewise, the movement was able to shift priorities or abandon projects with equal rapidity. Rev. Moon’s stature within the UM also served to foster unity. Though the movement’s conservative Washington Times-based wing was at odds with its progressive peace-building NGOs at the UN, their common loyalty to Rev. Moon prevented any open breach or fissure.

On the other hand, charismatic leadership had its drawbacks. One of these was a tendency to disregard bureaucratic rules and regulations in obedience to a higher authority. This was especially problematic at a highly bureaucratized organization like the United Nations as the UM’s UN conference room “Blessing” amply indicated. According to Weber, charisma survives only so long as it is “proved.”[75] Hence, prophets must continually “produce.” This emphasis on results energizes development but also can be a significant liability. It can, for example, lead to exaggeration and hyperbole as was the case in the movement’s buildup of IIPC. More importantly, the urgency to succeed can put pressure on leaders and subordinates to inflate results and thereby undermine access to accurate information. Finally, charismatic authority inevitably raises the problem of succession. Minus Rev. Moon’s energizing and unifying presence, maintenance of the UM’s UN initiatives could by no means be assured.[76]

Organizationally, the movement has proved itself marvelously adaptable to bureaucratic machinery. The UM, itself, is a complex, diversified, multi-national conglomerate with an imposing array of non-profits. Moreover, the movement’s top and mid-level leadership has interacted with societal elites for years. For these reasons, the UM was neither intimidated by the UN environment nor clueless when it came to gaining access. As was shown, a number of UM-related NGOs attained standing with the UN within a relatively brief period of time. Beyond that, the movement convened large-scale conferences which were co-sponsored by UN-member delegations, included sessions on UN premises, and featured remarks and appearances by top-level UN officials. Most importantly, the UM succeeded in winning support for its core proposal that the UN incorporate a religious council or assembly.

Another UM organizational asset was the ability of its “Abel” UN vehicles to transcend the merely bureaucratic and retain familial-communal dimensions of what UPF Secretary-General Thomas Walsh termed “Unification culture.” This was a bit dicey. Movement conferences, symposia and assemblies always included substantive proceedings. However, they also worked in aspects of Unification theology and ceremonial elements. As noted, conference emcees regularly referred to “Father” and “Mother” Moon as the “True Parents” and organizers increasingly included marriage rededications modeled after the Unification Blessing. This may have been off-putting for some. It resonated for others, including numerous high-level dignitaries who developed close personal ties with Rev. Moon and the movement.

As a global institution, the UM took full advantage of its international connections. Unlike U.S. or other national-based organizations, the Unification movement had missions in most of the world’s countries. This enabled it to cultivate relationships on the ground, especially in many less developed nations which, nonetheless, had UN representation. On that basis, the UM was consistently able to line up co-sponsorship for its events and therefore avoid bureaucratic delays with the UN Secretariat. The movement’s international scope was an asset not unlike that possessed by the Roman Catholic Church or Islamic organizations. However, they both had infinitely more clout and mobilized their global constituencies at the UN to a far greater degree than the UM.

The organizational weaknesses of the movement’s UN programs surfaced when its charismatic-communal and routinized-bureaucratic structures became unbalanced. Usually it was the charismatic-communal element that became dominant. UPF Secretary-General Thomas Walsh noted, “there are two kinds of conferences: those that come from above and those that come from below, so to speak.”[77] The conferences “from above,” i.e., those which Rev. Moon initiated, had priority. However, Rev. Moon was inspired to initiate literally hundreds of conferences, not just at the UN but worldwide. In Fall 2000, for example, he directed IIFWP to hold conferences in 191 countries by the end of the year.[78] As a consequence, IIFWP and its successor UPF operated at a frenetic pace. The end result was that both organizations produced crack teams of conference organizers. The downside was that they had little time for longer-term planning, research, or the development of expertise.

Another downside was that the movement’s “Abel” UN vehicles were in-bred. The UM maintained interlocking directorates with the same UM leaders serving as Chairman or Secretary-Generals of IIFWP, WANGO, IIPC and UPF. Other UM leaders doubled as “regional chairpersons” of UPF chapters worldwide. As noted, UPF retained a “Global Peace Council” which was largely ceremonial and a “Presiding Council” which was marginally active. The result of this was that the “Abel” UN taught about global governance but did not practice it in a meaningful way.

Social Environment

Resources in the social environment, what sociologists term “structural conduciveness,” include several components. First, they include the level of openness to and opportunity for change within a given environment. For example, it would be difficult to imagine UN reform having much chance of success if there was no discontent with the organization or if the UN were polarized as it was during the cold war. Second, they include a given movement’s relationship to the wider social context. At the UN, dozens of groups clamor for attention. In this setting, it is crucial for movements to escape anonymity and attain visibility. It also is critical for them to gain legitimacy. A third contextual resource or, depending upon circumstances, a contextual hazard, are mechanisms of social control. Movements seeking change challenge “status quo beliefs and institutional order.”[79] They must overcome or at least neutralize opposition. They also must resist efforts by the establishment to co-opt their proposals.

The UM correctly identified UN reform as a salient issue during the 1990s. Discontent with the UN had been rife for several decades, especially outside the organization, but this was overshadowed by polarization between the two superpowers during the cold war. The end of the cold war surfaced discontent not only outside but within as the UN grappled with questions of identity and philosophy. Reform proposals were especially prominent during the administration of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan (1997-2007).[80]

The movement also correctly identified religion as a key factor missing in UN deliberations, particularly as numerous conflicting parties and even terrorists invoked religious tenets in the post-cold war context. The Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders, “a high-profile and much-publicized interfaith gathering of some 1,000 representatives and numerous unofficial observers from many of the world’s religions funded by CNN-founder Ted Turner just prior to UN’s own Millennium Summit of heads of state and government” in 2000, echoed many of the same sentiments as the UM. In fact, its secretary-general called for establishment of a “council of religious and spiritual advisors to the UN.”[81]

Finally, the UM correctly identified religious NGOs as an effective vehicle to advance its programs. After a lull during the cold war, global society matured during the 1990s and the number of NGOs with ECOSOC consultative status more than doubled from under 1000 to over 2000 over ten years.[82] The UM’s launch of WANGO was a response to the global rise of non-governmental organizations. There was a parallel increase of religious NGOs including those from conservative traditions which were previously distrustful or even hostile to the UN and from non-Christian, non-Western religions such as the Baha’i International Community and Soka Gakkai International, a Buddhist group.

In summary, the UM correctly identified UN reform as salient issue, religion as a key factor missing in UN deliberations, and religious NGOs as an effective vehicle to advance its programs. However, it was one thing to recognize opportunities and another to effectively act on them, especially as the field was crowded with competitors. The movement and Rev. Moon had a certain degree of name recognition, but this was a decidedly mixed advantage since the UM’s primary identification was still as a ‘cult’. Given these realities, the movement showed itself to be remarkably shrewd and savvy in mobilizing visibility and legitimacy. Critics, including some within the UM, criticized the movement’s expenditures on lavish conferences. In fact, UM-sponsored assemblies, summits and convocations extracted maximum exposure and value. Given that Rev. Moon was an octogenarian, albeit an extraordinarily one, the movement had a limited window within which to present its proposals and obtain recognition as a ‘player’. In doing so, the UM did not hold back. As already described, it scheduled gatherings at the top venues, pre-empted or responded to UN meetings, and paid what was necessary to get the best people. That its expenditures were regarded as extravagant and critics considered its efforts “A Challenge for the NGO Community” only confirmed that competitors noticed and took the movement’s initiatives seriously.

There was, of course, the danger of a backlash or that opponents would employ mechanisms of social control against the UM. The movement did endure some reverses. As noted, the UN Secretariat rejected a May 2001 request for conference room space and ECOSOC turned down the UM-affiliated Youth Federation of World Peace (YFWP) application for consultative status in December of the same year. However, the movement fared far better than other religious NGOs, some of which were censured or excluded from the UN. UM affiliates may have committed a faux pas or two, but they did not receive government funding with the intent to subvert the UN or engage in political acts against any member state. They did not encircle opponents outside elevators, praying over them, leave documents on delegates’ desks, or “take other peoples’ documents away and throw them out” as it was alleged some religious NGOs had done.[83]

The UM’s ability to take advantage of UN openness to reform, ride the crest of a NGO wave, and avoid sanctions were all undoubted strengths. However, the movement also evidenced weaknesses in relating to the UN environment. One of these was a lack of patience with “inflexible procedures” and “institutional inertia.” According to an NGO expert, “One weakness of NGOs is that they have an impatience with bureaucratic processes that seem irrelevant to their issue area.”[84] The UM was not exempt from these feelings. This led to an escalating rhetoric of frustration, including statements to the effect that the UN was “inherently unable to resolve conflicts and achieve peace.” It also may have led the movement to close off its program of renewal in favor of supersession. Although the movement correctly perceived openness to reform and religion on the part of the UN, it inadequately understood the way the UN got things done. A study of Religion and Public Policy at the UN concluded,


[E]ffective religious NGOs are driven by effective religious people who individually embody the principles … [of] integrity and reliability, practical knowledge and skill, and the virtues of patience and perseverance.[85]


Having effective religious people “in the trenches of the UN” on a consistent basis would have enhanced the movement’s efforts. Unfortunately, given the frenetic pace of its work and a bias against undue specialization, especially when it interfered with its personnel’s availability for urgent tasks, the UM did not develop a team of such people.[86]

A second weakness in relating to its social environment was the movement’s unwillingness to relinquish control or at least to share governance in its organizations. The “Abel” UN and the movement’s global initiatives had their supporters, a number of whom offered eloquent testimony on behalf of Rev. Moon or in favor of the UM’s efforts.[87] This would not have been a major issue if like the Roman Catholic Church, the Lutheran World Federation, the Anglican Consultative Council, or the Quaker United Nations Office, the UM made it clear that it represented its own denominational interests and perspectives. However, the UM made it clear, especially in its efforts to create an “Abel” UN, that it was not working on behalf of a single denomination of faith but on behalf of all faiths and humanity at large. The UM was unequivocal that religions must go beyond themselves. Yet, in governance, the “Abel” UN functioned like a denomination or, as its critics would have it, as a “cult.” It was apparent that the “Abel” UN, would not attain legitimacy until it established clear rules and broadened participation in governance.

The UM was successful in overcoming or at least neutralizing opposition. No UM-related NGO faced any sort of censure or exclusion and all of them maintained their standing within the UN. However, a third weakness related to its immediate environment was the movement’s inability to resist efforts by the UN establishment to co-opt its proposals. The Republic of the Philippines’ action on behalf of its UN interreligious cooperation resolutions was the best example of this. It was patently obvious that Rev. Moon’s proposal for a religious assembly at the UN lay behind the Philippines’ initiative. Nevertheless, apart from Jose de Venecia’s acknowledgement of Rev. Moon and the movement’s role, the Philippines’ UN delegation effectively excluded UM representatives from any participation in their resolutions and ignored IIFWP and UPF work though its resolutions cited numerous lesser activities. The movement was unable to secure enough leverage to counter this and was reduced to the status of a bystander.



It is important that the UM maximize its assets and minimize its limitations in relating to the United Nations. To do so, this study recommends the following:

1. The UM should be unapologetic about and promote its core ideology which affirms that the United Nations needs to incorporate the wisdom of the world’s faith traditions into its deliberations and structure and that it should pursue “equalization” whereby developed countries raise the political and economic standards of lesser developed countries. The movement also should continue to uphold peaceful methods of conflict resolution, principles of good governance, and “the ideal of the family.”

2. The UM should continue to draw upon religious ideals which lie at the heart of most national and cultural identities and generate significant motivational force.

3. The UM should remain sufficiently flexible to pursue UN renewal or supersession depending upon circumstances.

4. The UM’s ideas require more systematic elaboration and intellectual grounding. The movement needs to integrate speeches and position papers of conference participants with UM ideas. UPF should cease publishing poorly prepared conference proceedings and work to establish a research component on its web site. It also should explore developing a think-tank or “peace academy” to develop its ideas.

5. The UM should consistently affirm religious universalism and avoid privileging particularistic beliefs or rituals including those of its own tradition. The movement should re-think its conceptualization of the “Abel” UN as nomenclature that privileges a particular tradition. The UM should utilize a “universal or religious secondary language” and develop more competency in translating core theological concepts into language suitable for public discourse and debate.

6. The UM needs to manifest greater ideological coherence and reduce inner dissonance, especially from internal constituencies which articulate anti-UN, anti-globalization positions. The UM should continually work to bridge the divide between movement-funded media outlets, such as The Washington Times, which promote U.S. interests and its UN-affiliated organizations.

7. The UM should continue to take advantage of Rev. Moon’s charismatic leadership, benefiting from his fresh ideas, energy, vision, decisiveness and unifying presence.

8. The UM should be careful to observe bureaucratic regulations, particularly within the UN environment, and resist the temptation to deliver inflated or distorted reports regardless of pressures to produce results.

9. The UM should continue to maintain a diversified network of non-profits, interact with societal elites, co-sponsor meetings with UN-member delegations, and lobby for its core proposals.

10. UM organizations and conferences should retain familial-communal dimensions of “Unification culture” which facilitate a sense of belongingness and develop affective bonds.

11. The UM should continue to take advantage of its international connections in arranging co-sponsorship for its events and avoiding bureaucratic delays.

12. The UM should strive to keep its charismatic-communal and routinized-bureaucratic impulses harmonized, balancing immediate demands with longer-term planning, research and development of expertise.

13. The UM’s “Abel” vehicles should diversify their leadership, introducing fresh perspectives and avoiding the concentration of power into a single extended social network. UPF should activate its “Global Peace Council” and “Presiding Council” and thereby model as well as teach global governance.

14. The UM should continue to focus on UN reform, religion as a “missing dimension” of UN statecraft, and NGOs as effective vehicles to advance its programs.

15. The UM should continue to sponsor high-profile events to extract maximum exposure for its projects.

16. The UM should support a cadre of “effective religious people” in the “trenches” of the UN on a consistent basis. These people should “embody the principles … [of] integrity and reliability, practical knowledge and skill, and the virtues of patience and perseverance.”

17. The UM should relinquish control or at least share governance of the “Abel” UN. It should ratify a charter which clarifies rules of procedure and ensures the participation of non-UM leaders.

18. The UM should insist that it be included or at least its efforts be acknowledged in the Republic of the Philippines UN interfaith resolutions.


Implementation of these recommendations will put the UM in a stronger position to achieve its UN goals.



[1] For the purpose of this article, the Unification Movement (UM) refers to individuals or groups which accept the teaching and authority of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon (b. 1920).

[2] Divine Principle. (New York: HSA-UWC, 1973), 109.

[3] See the chapter on the “Consummation of Human History” in Divine Principle, pp. 99-136, especially pp. 109, 128-29.

[4] Sun Myung Moon, “America and God’s Will,” speech delivered at the Washington Monument, September 18, 1976.

[5] Sun Myung Moon. “May the Fatherland Shine Forth,” Seoul, Korea, October 19, 1978.

[6] Rev. Moon spoke of a “Wilderness Course” during which time his ministry was rejected by Christianity and he founded the Unification Church. With the collapse of communism, he openly declared that he and Mrs. Moon were the “True Parents of all humanity … the Savior, the Lord of the Second Advent, the Messiah” (Sun Myung Moon, “Becoming the Leaders in Building a World of Peace,” August 24, 1992). He also proclaimed the beginning of a whole new historical epoch, the “Completed Testament Age” (Sun Myung Moon, “The Reappearance of the Second Coming and the Completed Testament Age, January 10, 1993).

[7] Harold Payne and Birgit Gratzer, “Rev. Moon and the United Nations: A Challenge for the NGO Community,” Global Policy Forum, November 2001.

[8] Moon, Sun Myung, “Renewing the United Nations to Build Lasting Peace,” in Renewing the United Nations and Building a Culture of Peace, A Report from Assembly 2000 (NY: Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace, 2000), 68, 71. See

[9] The UM defined “Abel-type” as “having an attitude of service to God and living for the sake of others; “Cain-type” meant “acting selfishly and independently of God.” According to the movement, “Cain and Abel are to unite, cooperate, and serve one another for the sake of peace.” See “Glossary” in Sun Myung Moon, “The Establishment of the ‘Abel UN’ for Universal Peace and Unification.” Founder’s Address, International Leadership Conference, Washington, D.C., December 18, 2007.

[10] Sun Myung Moon, “Renewing the United Nations to Build Lasting Peace,” 66.

[11] Sun Myung Moon, “Reforming the United Nations and Organizations for Peace,” in The Reunification of Korea and World Peace (Seoul: Sung Hwa Publishing, 2002).

[12] Sun Myung Moon, “Sunday Service,” Belvedere International Training Center, February 17, 1991.

[13] Sun Myung Moon, “Renewing the United Nations to Build Lasting Peace,” 67.

[14] Ibid., 66.

[15] Sun Myung Moon, “Reforming the United Nations and Organizations for Peace,” 172.

[16] Ibid., 167, 169.

[17] Ibid., 172-73.

[18] Moon, “Renewing the United Nations to Build Lasting Peace,” 66-68.

[19] The UM published a volume of testimonies which publicized their plight. See If I Had Wings Like a Bird I Would Fly Across the Sea (Washington, D.C.: The American Committee for Human Rights of Japanese Wives of North Korean Repatriates, 1974). The UM had conducted a shorter fast in 1971 to protest communist China’s admission to the UN.

[20] One of the most prominent was Ambassador Jose Maria Chaves of Columbia. He played a significant role in helping the UM gain a foothold in Latin America, notably through the movement-funded Association for the Unity of Latin America (AULA).

[21] See

[22] The Department of Public Information (DPI) is an organization within the UN Secretariat. It provides information about the UN and UN activities through publications and briefings. As of 2000, approximately 1600 NGOs had entered into association with it (Religion Counts, Religion and Public Policy at the UN [Washington, D.C.: Religion Counts, 2002], 14).

[23] The UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) is a council of 54 member states which makes recommendations to the UN General Assembly on a wide range of issues. ECOSOC grants NGOs consultative status under three categories. General Status is granted to NGOs that work on issues deemed most relevant to ECOSOC. Special Status is granted to NGOs with less range and relevance to ECOSOC and Roster Status is granted to NGOs with limited consultative value (Religion Counts, Religion and Public Policy at the UN, 14).

[24] See

[25] Mark Barry, “Executive Summary,” Renewing the United Nations and Building a Culture of Peace: A Report from Assembly 2000, 1. IIFWP followed Assembly 2000 with annual assemblies from 2001-04, each of which dealt with issues directly relevant to UN concerns. These were supplemented by an impressive number of IIFWP convocations, symposia, and “world” summits accompanied by published proceedings.

[26] Sun Myung Moon, “Renewing the United Nations to Build Lasting Peace,” 73.

[27] See “Jose de Venecia, Jr.” Wikipedia.

[28] Jose de Venecia, “The Philippine Proposal for an Interreligious Council at the UN,” in The World at a Turning Point: A Global Vision of Peace and Good Governance (Tarrytown, NY: IIFWP, 2004), 372.

[29] Ibid., 371-72.

[30] Cited in Karen Smith. “The Spiritual Dimension of World Order and the Renewal of the United Nations,” in The World at a Turning Point, 59-60.

[31] Jose de Venecia, “The Philippine Proposal for an Interreligious Council at the UN,” 372-73.

[32] Karen Smith, “The Spiritual Dimension of World Order and the Renewal of the United Nations,” 60.

[33] “Press Release,” Mission News, Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Nations, NYPM-087-04, November 11, 2004.

[34] See Noli de Castro, “Statement,” UN High Level Conference on Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue for Peace: Partnership between Government and Civil Society, The Philippine Experience. .

[35] Hilario Davide, “Message,” Informal Session on Interfaith Dialogue at the U.N., April 18, 2007.

[36] Noli de Castro, “Statement.” UPF did begin a relationship with the DMZ Forum, a New York-based organization seeking to turn the Korean DMZ into a peace park

[37] The sponsoring Permanent Missions to the UN were Bangladesh, Indonesia, Mongolia, and Uzbekistan. See Harold Payne and Birgit Gratzer, “Rev. Moon and the United Nations: A Challenge for the NGO Community,” Global Policy Forum.

[38] Ibid. This report is cited in Religion Counts, Religion and Public Policy at the UN, 17.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Sun Myung Moon, “Renewing the United Nations to Build Lasting Peace.” 68.

[41] Sun Myung Moon, “Let Us Perfect the Peace Kingdom through the Peace United Nations,” Keynote Address, Inaugural Assembly of the Headquarters of the Interreligious and International Peace Council (IIPC), October 15, 2003, Seoul, Korea.

[42] Sun Myung Moon, “God’s Ideal Family—the Model for World Peace,” Keynote Address, Inaugural Convocation of the Universal Peace Federation, September 12, 2005, Lincoln Center, New York.

[43] The event was a three-day symposium on “Serving the Nation, Serving the World: Establishing Peace by Renewing Families, Communities and Nations,” held in commemoration of the International Day of Families and the International Year of Volunteers at the New York Hilton on May 26-28, 2001. UN officials may have been prescient as “Rev. Moon held a high-profile mass wedding … on the very day that the UN rooms had been requested” which “drew heavy coverage in the media” and included “a maverick Catholic Archbishop [Emmanuel Milingo] who wed a Korean woman selected as a partner by Rev. Moon.” (see Payne and Gratzer, “Rev. Moon and the United Nations: A Challenge for the NGO Community”)

[44] Sun Myung Moon, “Reforming the United Nations and Organizations for Peace,” 171-71.

[45] Payne and Gratzer, “Rev. Moon and the United Nations: A Challenge for the NGO Community,” describe ECOSOC’s decision to deny the YFWP’s application as follows: “As the application moved through the accreditation process, governments noticed certain anomalies—this world organization reported that it had a total expenditure of only $11,729 (1998) and said that it had held several world conferences prior to its listed date of establishment. Governments suspected a Moon connection, so they gave the file especially close scrutiny. Members of the ECOSOC Committee objected that the organization was represented by a lawyer, rather than by staff or board members. The Committee eventually decided that it had heard enough… [it] decided to close the case and deny accreditation.”

[46] Sun Myung Moon, “Reforming the United Nations and Organizations for Peace,” 169.

[47] These are well documented in a commemorative volume, The Fruits of True Love: The Life Work of Reverend Sun Myung Moon (Washington, D.C.: Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace, 2000).

[48] Payne and Gratzer, “Rev. Moon and the United Nations: A Challenge for the NGO Community.”

[49] See “About CONGO” at and “WANGO Awards” at

[50] Mark Barry, “Executive Summary,” The Millennium Declaration of the United Nations: A Response from Civil Society, p. 5. Critics claimed that WANGO was not an independent organization and that the large number of attendees was due to UM funding. According to Paine and Gratzer, “The idea for WANGO as well as ‘backing’ came from Rev. Moon.” They claimed, “WANGO flew in large numbers of NGO representatives from many countries, picking up the tab for hotel bills, banquets, and other meals.” See “Rev. Moon and the United Nations: A Challenge for the NGO Community.”

[51] CONGO convenes General Assemblies every three years which attract a hundred or so NGOs and two to three hundred participants. WANGO’s attracted these numbers to annual conferences convened between 2001 and 2005 and to its Global Congress in 2007.

[52] See “About CONGO” at and “About WANGO” at

[53] See “About WANGO” at

[54] Sun Myung Moon, “Renewing the United Nations to Build Lasting Peace,” 71.

[55] See “Ambassadors for Peace, North America” at

[56] “Application for Becoming an Ambassador for Peace.”

[57] “Ambassadors for Peace.”

[58] IIPC, Kwak said, would offer “an integrated model of governance… guided by spiritual and moral principles that can be applied in very practical ways.” It also would transcend “the narrow interests of any one nation, religion, or religion.” He described the IIPC vision as cooperative, inclusive, collaborative, and productive… one that can be observed, assessed, and… emulated.” See Chung Hwan Kwak, “Welcoming Remarks” and “God and the Core principles of Peace,” in Global Governance for a New Realm of Peace (Tarrytown, NY: IIFWP, 2004), 12, 26.

[59] Sun Myung Moon, “Let Us Perfect the Peace Kingdom Through the Peace United Nations” Keynote Address, Inaugural Assembly of the Headquarters of the Interreligious and International Peace Council (IIPC), October 15, 2003, Seoul, Korea. It was, perhaps, noteworthy that Rev. Moon did not include any UM-related business interests among the organizations he would transfer to the Peace UN.

[60] Glenn Strait and Eric Olsen, “Universal Values and Lasting Peace: Toward a New Model of Global Governance,” Unification News, March 2005, 21.

[61] Chung Hwan Kwak, “Chairman’s Address at the International Leadership Convocation 2005,” April 10, 2005, Washington, D.C. Reprinted in Unification News, May 2005, 19.

[62] Glenn Strait and Eric Olsen, “International Leadership Convocation 2005: Leadership for Global Transformation: Exploring the Vision, Methodology, and Best Practices Necessary for a New Era of Lasting Peace,” Unification News, May 2005, 19.

[63] Sun Myung Moon, “God’s Ideal Family—The Model for World Peace,” keynote address, inaugural convocation of the Universal Peace Federation, September 12, 2005, Lincoln Center, New York. Reprinted in Unification News, September 2005, 2-5.

[64] See “Leadership” in “About UPF” at

[65] UPF supported two additional initiatives with links to the broader Unification movement: a South Asia Peace initiative based largely on work accomplished by movement representatives in Nepal; and a Youth and Sports program which included an Interreligious Peace Sports Festival held on alternate years; a high profile “Peace Cup” soccer tournament initiated by Rev. Moon, and a “Play Soccer, Make Peace” project conducted with WANGO.

[66] Eighteen separate affiliates are listed, all founded by or funded by the Unification movement. See

[67] “Sitting down with the UPF Secretary General,” Today’s World, October 2006, 31.

[68] Ibid., 32.

[69] This section builds on the “resource mobilization” model used by David Bromley and Anson Shupe in “Moonies” in America: Cult, Church, Crusade (Beverly Hills, CA: Sage, 1978). See especially pp. 27-29.

[70] J. Wilson, Introduction to Social Movements (NY: Basic Books, 1973), 91-92.

[71] Sun Myung Moon, “Renewing the United Nations to Build Lasting Peace,” 67.

[72] See Mohammed Abu-Nimer, “The Miracles of Transformation through Interfaith Dialogue: Are You a Believer?” in David R. Smock, ed. Interfaith Dialogue and Peacebuilding (Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace Press, 2002), 20-21

[73] In “Rev. Moon and the United Nations: A Challenge for the NGO Community,” Paine and Gratzer note, “The Moon organization’s key media organs, in particular the heavily-subsidized Washington Times, offer the public extremely negative and hostile interpretations of the UN and its work.”

[74] Max Weber, The Theory of Social and Economic Organization (NY: Free Press, 1964), 398.

[75] Max Weber, Charisma and Institution-Building, edited by S. N. Eisenstadt (University of Chicago Press, 1968), 52.

[76] Hyun Jin Moon, Rev. Moon’s third son, has taken a major leadership role within the UM. However, according to one movement scholar, “It is usually very difficult for hereditary charisma to demand the same or stronger dedication from the original founder’s followers… Few biographical stories about Rev. Moon’s children… are likely to match the dramatic and extraordinary quality of their father’s story.” (Yoshihiko Masuda, “Moral Vision and Practice in the Unification Movement,” Ph.D. diss., University of Southern California, 1987, 386-87).

[77] “Sitting Down With the UPF Secretary General,” 31.

[78] as cited in Paine and Gratzer, “Rev. Moon and the United Nations: A Challenge for the NGO Community.”

[79] Bromley and Shupe, “Moonies” in America, 29.

[80] Annan initiated an official reform program shortly after starting his first term January 1, 1997. On March 21, 2005, he presented a major report on UN reform, In Larger Freedom.

[81] The secretary-general was Bawa Jain of the Interfaith Center of New York. He also requested that the UN “convene a UN summit of religious and spiritual leaders every ten years” and “create a department of religious affairs in the UN secretary-general’s office.” The summit of religious and spiritual leaders was originally suggested and funded by Ted Turner who reportedly told Kofi Annan, “If you want peace in the world, you should bring the religious leaders of the world to the UN and make them sign a commitment of peace.” See Religion Counts, Religion and Public Policy at the UN, 43-44.

[82] Ibid., 14.

[83] Ibid., 10-11, 26.

[84] Ibid., 27.

[85] Ibid., 36.

[86] The UM did have effective individuals who headed up its UN office. For example, Taj Hamad, of Sudanese background, established a movement-funded UN office in 1997 and in “mid-1998 he won election to a two-year term as Secretary of the NGO/DPI Executive Committee, the official umbrella group of NGOs in association with the UN Department of Public Information” (Paine and Gratzer). He subsequently became Executive Director of WANGO.

[87] A good example of this was the UPF publication, Peace King: Essays on the Life and Work of Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon (Tarrytown, NY: UPF, 2007).