The “See Change” Campaign
Should one religion be granted special privileges and recognition as a state while the others are not? We don’t think so either.
The Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations is the representative of the Vatican at the United Nations. As the Holy See, representatives of the Catholic church use direct access to the United Nation’s General Assembly and influential international conferences to impose an ultraconservative agenda on the global population, Catholic and non-Catholic alike.
The “See Change” Campaign believes that the Holy See, the central governing body of the Roman Catholic church, should participate in the U.N. in the same way as the world’s other religions do—as a nongovernmental organization.
Our report tells the story of how the Catholic church came to be the only religion with the privileges of a state at the UN.Download the full report
Questions about See Change
The Holy See was informally accepted at the United Nations in 1964, and people have questioned how that came to be.
The Holy See claims that its possession of a territorial entity—Vatican City—qualifies it as a state. Yet, according to the criteria established by international treaty, Vatican City may not be considered a state. The Holy See and the Roman Catholic church both fail the same test and neither can be considered a state.
The Holy See acquired its status at the U.N. through a process of custom, rather than consensus. In fact, the Holy See owes its status at the U.N. to the early membership of Vatican City in the Universal Postal Union and the International Telecommunication Union.
Today, in stark contrast to other religions, which participate like most other nonstate entities—as nongovernmental organizations—the leadership of the Catholic church enjoys unparalleled access and influence at the U.N.
Official documents from the major U.N. conferences on women, population and development in the past 20 years are replete with objections by the Holy See to the majority consensus, which generally favored the expansion and strengthening of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights. The Holy See has opposed the use of terms previously accepted by consensus, such as “gender” and the expansion of human rights to include topics that contradict Catholic doctrine on marriage, abortion, contraception and LGBTQ rights. As a Nonmember State Permanent Observer, the Holy See is able to place items on the provisional agenda of the General Assembly, and it enjoys greater access to the plenary sessions of the U.N. and its main committees, as well as to the Security Council.
This campaign to change the status of the Roman Catholic church at the United Nations calls on the Secretary-General to review the church’s current status as a nonmember State Permanent Observer. We believe that the Holy See, the central governing body of the Roman Catholic church, should participate in the U.N. in the same way as the world’s other religions do—as a nongovernmental organization.