There is one clear demand in First Contact with an extraterrestrial civilization: We must have the ability to speak as one people and act as one planet. Alien visitors should not be forced to delve into the intricacies of human politics. We should have one voice and a specific set of expectations and conditions with which to form the new relationship. The United Nations is the answer to this demand. Is the United Nations up to the challenge?
President Obama asked this question in his recent address to the U.N. General Assembly. Granted, concerns about alien diplomacy were not on his agenda. Still, his challenge applies to all of these needs:
“The United Nations does extraordinary good around the world in feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, and mending places that have been broken. But it also struggles to enforce its will, and to live up to the ideals of its founding.”
“I believe that those imperfections are not a reason to walk away from this institution - they are a calling to redouble our efforts. The United Nations can either be a place where we bicker about outdated grievances, or forge common ground; a place where we focus on what drives us apart, or what brings us together; a place where we indulge tyranny, or a source of moral authority. In short, the United Nations can be an institution that is disconnected from what matters in the lives of our citizens, or it can be indispensable in advancing the interests of the people we serve.”
The G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh also drives home the fundamental changes in the world political and economic climate. The world economy is not longer bullied by a few powerful nations. The group is growing. The crisis in the world economy can either pull human civilization closer together or it can drive us apart.
Environmental worries, terrorism and human rights were more reasons cited by the President Obama in his call for greater world cooperation. A strong United Nations is needed to respond to these challenges. We cannot hope to solve such enormous problems as a group of bickering nations.
First Contact will present a profound change in the way we view ourselves. Suddenly our giant world will be reduced to the size of a postage stamp and we will have a new context with which to view the universe. This is inevitable. The question is whether we will have the tools to forge a positive relationship with our new neighbors. This is the challenge for the United Nations.
Will we be ready?
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