Space colonies and the United Nations

This post was originally posted on at June 30, 2012

In this post I will the discuss the question whether Space Colonies should join the so-called United Nations.

This question is a legitimate one, because nowadays virtually all nations are members of this organization. Some people, therefore, see UN membership as the ultimate proof of Statehood. But the organization only exists since the end of the second world war and there is no obligation under international law to join this club, for instance Switzerland only joined in 2002, while it being an independent state prior the foundation of the united nations. The main reason for the Swiss not to join for years was due to their policy of strict neutrality. So it is possible for a widely recognized country to stay out of the UN, and according to the organization’s own rules no country can be forced to join.

Therefore one has to conclude that it won’t be an automatism that Space based nation will ever join the UN. The legitimate question would be why space colonies should join instead of why not. But since most people see UN membership as self-evident, so it would be a good idea to present arguments against UN membership.

There are several arguments against UN membership, but I will restrain myself to those I consider to be the most relevant:

  • the role of so-called elite nations (P5) → fait accompli & → membership security council

  • the un are structurally undemocratic

  • the united nations are very ineffective

  • violation of national sovereignty

  • existing UN “law” is unfavorable to Space colonies

The role of elite nations is a result of the organizational structure of the united nations, which give five countries a permanent seat and veto power in the UN security council. The five permanent members (the USA, Russia, China, France and the UK) are selected on relations in international politics at the end of the second world war, and are nowadays out of touch with global developments. Because the P5 states have veto power, they determine whatever the UN will do or not. This means that the interests of the P5 are the determinants of UN policy and not the principles of the UN charter. An example of this is that all five permanent members of the UN are nuclear weapon states, and the only recognized nuclear weapon states under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (if it would otherwise, the P5 would block this treaty). Because the UN charter actually place the P5 above international law, they tend to meet privately (outside the formal meetings of the security council) and to pretend their resolutions as a fait accompli, to much annoyance of the rest of the world.

That the UN is structurally undemocratic is evident, most member states of the united nations are not democracies themselves. Another point is that in general assembly each state as one vote, which means that majority of states which only possesses as much as eight percent of the World population can pass any resolution they wish (fortunately this had never happened, but is nevertheless dangerous). And as we have already seen, the permanent members of the security council and their veto right is also at odd with the democratic principles which the UN claims to adhere.

Furthermore is the UN a very ineffective organization. Since its inception the united nation have obvious failed in the primary objective: “To maintain international peace and security […] by taking preventive or enforcement action” (UN charter). The history of the world since 1945 shows that the UN has failed to prevent many international conflicts. A related objection to the UN is that this organization regularly fails to establish consensus about anything.

But the perhaps the most important reason for Space Colonies to reject UN membership is the unfavorable principle of common heritage of mankind. This (bullshit) principle is created by the united nations, and states that all resources in the seas and in outer space belongs to all mankind. With regard to the sea: we do not care, but this principle is actually a prohibition of space colonization by anyone, both states and private persons, and therefore objectionable since it limits people to escape from an unfree Earth. But only is this principle contrary to the interests of Space Settlers, it also obviously immoral since it appropriates the entire universe as common “property” of mankind, and thereby violating the fundamental rights of possible intelligent (here defined as comparable to humans) extraterrestrial life forms anywhere else in our large universe.

Thus, answer to the question of this essay: No, Space colonies should not join the united nations. Reforms of the united nations are VERY unlikely and membership would also imply legitimation of the un and its structure; this is something we can not allow.

Instead of joining the un, Space colonies should form their own organization: the Organization for Cooperation among Space Settlements (OCSS), with stricter requirements for membership than the un (and more in line with Kant’s ideas).

Peaceful coexistence of Space colonies should be the most important principle of the OCSS.

Further Space colonies should adhere to a policy of strict neutrality towards purely terrestrial affairs; and certainly no (ab)use the “responsibility to protect”-principle (which sole purpose is to justify wars of aggression*).

* This can easily be demonstrated: a consequent application of this principle would require military intervention is countries/regions like Darfur, Syria etcetera, but since such interventions are not in the interest of the so-called great powers  the poor inhabitants of those regions are neglected by the international community.

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