Who do I call if I want to speak to Earth?

If you haven’t heard, Earth has its first foreign minister to ET.

Well, not really.

In apparently “breaking news,” various media reported that the United Nations was to appoint on Sunday Ms. Mazlan Othman, Director of the the UN Office of Outer Space Activities, as humanity’s official ambassador to space aliens.  The Onion could not have better stitched together such an obviously unbelievable story. To be generous, perhaps the reporters were just lazy in suggesting “the United Nations” would be appointing anyone to any post.  Even amateur UN observers know it’s a bit more complicated that than.

The rumor was apparently sparked by a speech which Ms. Othman gave recently in which she stated that the “continued search for extraterrestrial communication, by several entities, sustains the hope that some day humankind will receive signals from extraterrestrials” {emphasis added} and the international community “should have in place a coordinated response that takes into account all the sensitivities related to the subject. The UN is a ready-made mechanism for such coordination.”

The rumor then alluded to a conference of the Royal Society next week at which Ms. Othman would apparently be proposing that UNOOSA be the agency for making such a coordinated response. Various media and bloggers who forwarded the story attempted to give it some legitimacy by explaining that Ms. Othman’s proposed role for UNOOSA, and by extension herself as Director, would then be discussed by the UN’s various scientific committees before being taken up by the UN General Assembly.

But apparently her expanded job description is news to Ms. Othman. After trying to confirm the story through various UN channels, the Guardian received an email from Ms. Othman herself, denying the story and saying that she’ll only be discussing how to deal with near-Earth objects at the conference.

But to which conference is she referring? According to the Royal Society’s events calendar, she is participating on 4 October in a conference entitled “Toward a scientific and societal agenda on extra-terrestrial life,” during which one of the panels will be discussing “Extra-terrestrial life and arising political issues for the UN agenda.” Perhaps the near-Earth objects she’s referring to are UFOs?  UN folk do speak a unique diplomatic dialect, but that would be beyond even the normal spin.

If ET is planning a phone call or a visit soon, he might hold off just a bit. It’s not yet clear who should take his call.

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About Tony Fleming

Tony is a communications and advocacy professional with over 15 years experience in United Nations reform advocacy. He began blogging about multilateral elections in 2006 at UNSG.org. He and his wife currently live in Panajachel, Guatemala. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.