J. Antonio Huneeus History and Background CHD 4-29
By J. Antonio Huneeus
In early 2008, the internet was abuzz with reports of secret UFO briefings held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on February 12–14 of that year. Members of U.S. intelligence supposedly briefed a number of representatives of foreign countries about the continuing presence of UFOs around the world and how this presence was likely to increase in the coming years. A policy of international disclosure on the extraterrestrial presence should be implemented in order to prepare global public opinion, so the story went.
The secret UN UFO briefings were quickly denied by the French space agency, Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES), through its UFO-related department known as GEIPAN (a French acronym that stands for Unidentified Aerospace Phenomenon Research and Information Group). On March 28, 2008, GEIPAN issued a short press release entitled “UFO Meeting at the UN?” In that press release, GEIPAN stated, “Information circulating on the internet alleges that in February 2008 there was a secret meeting where the problem of UFOs was discussed. An inquiry undertaken by GEIPAN through the CNES correspondent attached to the French Embassy, has shown that it was nothing else than a gross hoax.” Two years later, no documentary proof has been produced to confirm that the UN meetings took place, leading to the conclusion that if the meetings did take place, they might have been off-the-record or informal discussions. Yet, like many other organizations, the UN does have an official history regarding UFOs.
You might be surprised to find out that the term UFO, in fact, is already codified in the Encyclopedia of the United Nations and International Agreements.. UFO is defined as follows: “Unidentified Flying Object. An international term. Introduced in the 1960s for so-called flying saucers. The UN General Assembly on December 13, 1977 reached a consensus that a Grenada item — Establishment of a UN agency for undertaking, coordinating and disseminating the results of research into unidentified flying objects and related phenomena — be transmitted to the UN member states and to the specified agencies so that they might communicate their views to the Secretary-General.”
The history of UFOs in the UN is something I know first-hand quite well. The very first UFO event that I attended was the famous UFO hearing convened by the government of Grenada before the UN’s Special Political Committee on October 28, 1978. It was there that I met for the first time Dr. J. Allen Hynek, Jacques Vallee, and others (The Grenada initiative will be discussed later in this article). In addition, my own late father was a senior official in the late 1940s and early 1950s; my elder brother served with the Chilean Mission at the UN in the late 1960s and later with the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris; and my sister worked at various posts at the UN Headquarters in New York for many years.
The First Efforts During Secretary-General U Thant
There is no information about UFOs in the UN during its first twenty years (UN was established in 1945). U Thant was the first UN Secretary-General to express great interest on the subject, as revealed in Drew Pearson’s highly influential Los Angeles Times newspaper column of June 27, 1967, entitled “U Thant and UFOs.” Pearson and his assistant Jack Anderson wrote: “In the middle of the Near East crisis, UN Secretary- General Thant took time to do a very significant thing. He arranged to have one of the top advocates of the theory that flying saucers—UFOs—are from another planet, speak before the Outer Space Affairs Committee of the UN.” The columnists added, “Interesting fact is that U Thant has confided to friends that he considers UFOs the most important problem facing the UN next to the war in Vietnam.”
The lecture given to the Outer Space Affairs Committee mentioned in the column was delivered on June 7, 1967, by the late Dr. James E. McDonald, professor of atmospheric physics at the University of Arizona and a renowned UFO expert in the 1960s. Dr. McDonald noted that, “because of the global nature of the phenomenon, it immediately falls into areas where the United Nations Organizations must accept responsibility for encouraging immediate escalation of scientific examination of the problem.” On June 18, 1967, Secretary-General Thant met privately with Dr. J. Allen Hynek, who was still scientific advisor to the U.S. Air Force’s Project Blue Book, and bestselling author John Fuller, the first one to write a detailed account of the Betty and Barney Hill abduction case. Dr. Hynek mentioned this meeting briefly in his landmark book The UFO Experience: A Scientific Inquiry, explaining that U Thant expressed “his strong interest in the UFO problem. During an hour-long discussion with us he pointed out the similar concern that had been expressed to him by General Assembly members from several countries. He told us that he was sympathetic to UN action but that UN action would have to be initiated by a member nation.”
The first ufologist to bring the subject to U Thant’s attention, however, was a retired Hungarian military officer, Col. Colman von Keviczky, who was at the time a UN employee. In a sworn affidavit, von Keviczky wrote: “In June 1965, and continuously in February 1966, as a member of the United Nations Secretariat’s staff, Office of Public Information, I duly referred my experience and findings to my Secretary-General U Thant, who requested me to elaborate a guideline and analytic system for the United Nations to control the UFOs global operation. My PROJECT UN-UFO suggested a coordinated co-operation amongst the nations on the UFOs’ created international problem, and to seek peaceful communication with the exploring forces, the outcome being unexpected openings in solving the piling up earthly problems.”
News of the UN UFO Project was leaked to the press by von Keviczky himself and published by the New York Daily News on February 8, 1966 under the title of “Aid[e] Tells UN: Prepare for Visitors From Outer Space.” On May 12, 1966, von Keviczky received a letter from Chakravarthi V. Narasimhan, U Thant’s Under Secretary-General, acknowledging receipt of “Addenda” to the “PROJECT [UN-UFO] submitted February 24, 1966 to the Secretary-General’s Office.” Narasimhan added that “the Secretary-
General has asked me to thank you for your voluntary efforts and your interest in the matter of unidentified flying objects.”
Col. von Keviczky claims that he was blacklisted by the U.S. Government as a result of his UFO initiative, eventually losing his UN job. He formed his own organization, Intercontinental UFO Network (ICUFON), and continued to lobby for action at the UN and various member states’ missions until his death in 1998. The colonel’s historical documentation on the matter was published in 1979 in ICUFON’s Blue Memorandum, “Project World Authority for Spatial Affairs (WASA)” and other similar memoranda.
Despite von Keviczky’s tireless efforts, his proposals were doomed for failure since only a member state can put UFOs officially on the UN agenda. A July 2, 1982 letter to von Keviczky by Lottie Robbins on behalf of Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuellar, made this point quite clearly: “The Secretary-General has asked me to inform you that the United Nations can only act on proposals or suggestions presented to it by an official representative of a Member State.” In the 1970s, the newly independent Caribbean island of Grenada, the smallest country in the Western Hemisphere, became just the member state that von Keviczky was looking for.
The Grenada UFO Initiative: 1977-78
Grenada gained independence from Great Britain in 1974, and its first prime minister was Sir Eric Gairy, an eccentric politician who first lobbied about UFOs to the Organization of American States (OAS). When this failed, his strategy shifted to the United Nations General Assembly, where he first mentioned the UFO issue in a speech in 1975. Gairy recruited the assistance of several prominent ufologists including Colman von Keviczky, Leonard Stringfield, and Dr. Hynek. In April 1977, Gairy was invited to address an international UFO congress in Acapulco, Mexico—to my knowledge, the first and only time a head of state gave a speech at a UFO conference. On September 9, 1977, Gairy paid an official visit to President Jimmy Carter in the White House, where they certainly touched upon the UFO subject (Carter himself had seen a UFO in 1969 and filed a report, a fact which became widely known during the 1976 presidential campaign). There are no official records of their conversation, however, other than it lasted approximately forty- five minutes.
Grenada’s UFO proposal was finally raised officially by Prime Minister Gairy and Grenada’s UN ambassador Wellington Friday at a meeting of the UN General Assembly Special Political Committee on November 28, 1977. Grenada proposed the “establishment of an agency or a department of the United Nations for undertaking, coordinating, and disseminating the results of research into Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) and related phenomena.” Grenada made further statements on November 30 and December 6, 1977. In an earlier speech in October, Prime Minister Gairy disclosed his own sighting: “I have myself seen an unidentified flying object and I have been totally overwhelmed by what I have seen.” As a result of all this effort, on December 13, 1977, “the General Assembly adopted Decision 32/424,” which acknowledged, “the draft resolution submitted by Grenada” and further stated that: “The General Assembly
requests the Secretary-General to transmit the text of the draft resolution, together with the above-mentioned statements, to Member States and to interested specialized agencies, so that they may communicate their views to the Secretary-General.”
Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim duly forwarded “Decision 32/424” to the member states by a “note verbale” on March 13, 1978, however, only three governments responded (India, Luxembourg, and Seychelles) and only two specialized agencies (International Civil Aviation Organization and UNESCO) replied with a flat “no comments to offer.” Of the three countries, only Seychelles supported Grenada’s motion. India rejected it, although it left open the possibility of the UN organizing “a discussion on the question” and having scientists from the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space “study and analyse such data on the question of unidentified flying objects… and make recommendations for further action.”
Undeterred, Grenada launched a new offensive in 1978 with the help of one of the original NASA astronauts, Gordon Cooper, among others. On July 14, 1978, Gairy paid a visit to Secretary-General Waldheim with a distinguished group of UFO experts that included Gordon Cooper, Dr. Hynek, Jacques Vallee, Claude Poher (who was then running the recently created French specialized UFO investigation group, which would become GEIPAN), researcher Leonard Stringfield. The meeting was considered “personal,” thus there are no transcripts of the discussion, but an official UN photo was taken.
A group of recognized experts was assembled again by Gairy to testify at a hearing before the Special Political Committee on November 27, 1978, which became the high point of the Grenada initiative. Besides Sir Eric Gairy and Ambassador Friday, who was now Grenada’s Minister of Education, the hearing included testimony by Dr. Hynek, Jacques Vallee, Stanton Friedman, and a first-hand witness account by Lt. Col. Lawrence Coyne of the U.S. Army Reserve on his famous October 18, 1973 UFO-helicopter near- collision in Ohio. A montage of UFO photos and film clips compiled by Dr. Hynek’s Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS) was also shown. Finally, a letter of endorsement by astronaut Gordon Cooper, who was then working for the Walt Disney Company as vice- president of research & development for Epcot, was read into the record. Besides mentioning his own sighting and views on UFOs, Cooper wrote that “we need to have a top level, coordinated program to scientifically collect and analyze data from all over earth concerning any type of encounter, and to determine how best to interface with these visitors in a friendly fashion.” Cooper dedicated an entire chapter of his autobiography Leap of Faith: An Astronaut’s Journey into the Unknown to the Grenada UN initiative..
At a meeting of the UN General Assembly on December 18, 1978, Decision 33/426 was adopted with the same heading to the previous Decision 32-424, “Establishment of an agency or a department of the United Nations for undertaking, coordinating and disseminating the results of research into unidentified flying objects and related phenomena.” The “consensus text” informed in its Point 1 that the General Assembly had “taken note” of the “draft resolutions submitted by Grenada” and that:
2. The General Assembly invites interested Member States to take appropriate steps to coordinate on a national level scientific research and investigation into extraterrestrial life, including unidentified flying objects, and to inform the Secretary-General of the observations, research and evaluation of such activities.
3. The General Assembly requests the Secretary-General to transmit the statements of the delegation of Grenada and the relevant documentation to the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, so that it may consider them at its session in 1979.
Point 4 stated that the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space would permit Grenada “to present its views” at the 1979 session and the committee’s deliberation would be included in its report to the thirty-fourth General Assembly. The Grenada initiative was gradually opening the door to UFOs, but unfortunately, the effort came to an abrupt halt when the Gairy government was overthrown by a Marxist revolution led by Maurice Bishop of the New Jewel Movement in March 1979. Ironically, Gairy was in New York to meet with Kurt Waldheim regarding Decision 33/426 when the coup took place. According to researcher Grant Cameron of PresidentialUFO.com, the crowds gathered right after the coup chanted, “Freedom come, Gairy go, Gairy go with UFO.” The new government launched a publicity campaign to discredit Gairy as a believer in voodoo and flying saucers. Decision 33/426 was never implemented, but its mere existence provides a useful framework for any future initiative on the matter.
Some have suggested a conspiracy linking Gairy’s overthrow with the U.S. government’s anti-UFO policies. However, this conspiracy does not work. Gairy’s UFO crusade might have been a nuisance for the U.S., but a new, self-declared Marxist government in the Caribbean with friendly ties to Cuba was far worse, as later events demonstrated. When then Prime Minister Bishop was killed in yet another more radical Marxist coup in 1983, President Ronald Reagan ordered U.S. Marines to invade Grenada and squash the revolution. When Gairy himself returned to Grenada from exile in the U.S., there was some speculation in the press that he may start his political career anew, but this was not the case. With his reputation trashed in the media following the 1979 Bishop coup, Gairy kept a low profile until his death on August 23, 1997.
Moreover, U.S. Department of State documents released under the Freedom of Information Act show that, while not enthusiastic about the Grenada UFO resolution, the Department of State was not totally opposed to it. A “draft US position” entitled, “Agenda Item — UN Agency for UFOs” was written by Irwin M. Pikus of the State Department’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs on August 29, 1977. He first outlines Grenada’s wishes: “In particular, Grenada wants: to have 1978 declared as the International Year of Unidentified Flying Objects; the establishment of a UN agency for UFO’s; the holding of UFO’s in Grenada; and the issue of a special commemorative stamp on the subject.” (A set of UFO stamps were indeed issued by Grenada in 1978.)
Pikus then proceeds with a substantive paragraph about the State Department’s position: “The U.S. has no objection to inclusion of these matters on the agenda. The U.S. has conducted extensive studies of this subject in years past and these studies have been inconclusive. While the results of past studies have been and will continue to be made available, the U.S. has no interest in participating actively in further studies. The budgetary implications of the Grenada proposals should be examined. The U.S. has no objection to the allocation of nominal sums to these proposals.”
The Beach Incident
It seems quite clear that Sir Eric Gairy had a real passion for UFOs, not just a casual interest. He was devoting so much time and effort to it during 1977–79, that it opened the door to the New Jewel Movement’s revolution. One factor was Gairy’s own sighting, which was described as a “covey of brightly lit elliptical objects hovering high over the ministerial mansion then darting silently at tremendous speeds toward the southeast back in Grenada.” Gairy discussed the sightings in an interview with the newspaper, Honduras This Week, stating, “The sightings were so anomalous, their potentiality so out of character with the dignity of my office, that I felt compelled to rouse the world out of its torpor and exhort it to take a closer look. I was worried that these apparitions might seriously impact world security.”
Gairy lived in exile in the U.S.—first in New York, then San Diego—during the period between the 1979 coup and the American invasion of Grenada in 1983. During his stay in San Diego, Gairy became a friend of researcher Wesley Bateman, now deceased, who used to direct the Molecular Energy Research Institute. Gairy and Bateman met several times, and during one of these meetings the former prime minister of Grenada revealed an incredible story. Gairy used to meet informally with many citizens at a nightclub he owned in Morne Rouge, Grenada, above a long white sand beach. A fisherman came one night with the news that they had found a giant human body. Gairy assembled a small team of trusted people and went immediately to the beach spot where a tarp covered a human-looking body between 7 1⁄2 and 8 feet in length, dressed in a skin-tight one-piece dark blue suit. Although his appearance was human, the being had six fingers, and Gairy quickly concluded that it was an extraterrestrial. As the sun rose, the team noticed metallic wreckage on the beach, including several metal containers. Gairy’s team collected the wreckage, and the body was taken to the local medical school, which was the best facility on the island. What happened to the body after the 1979 coup is a mystery, and little else is known about this incident.
Although he didn’t go into any details, Prime Minister Gairy did confirm a “UFO incident in the beach” near the medical school during a brief conversation that I had with him at a cocktail party following the morning session of the November 27, 1978 UFO UN hearing and a heavily attended press conference. Wesley Bateman’s full report, “Sir Eric Gairy: Prime Minister of Grenada, His UN UFO Meeting, and His E.T. Secret,” can be read on the UFO Digest website at www.ufodigest.com/news/0308/gairy.html.
The San Marino Charta
After the 1979 coup in Grenada and the public campaign to discredit Gairy, the UN General Assembly Decision 33/426 of December 18, 1978 laid dormant, as no other member nation or head of state dared to reopen the UFO issue. Twenty years later, in 1998, there was a short-lived hope that the Republic of San Marino, the small city-state located in central Italy, might revive the issue. San Marino’s Ministry of Tourism sponsored in 1998, and still does, a World UFO Symposium. During the sixth Symposium in April 1998, speakers from sixteen countries (including Col. Philip Corso, Prof. Sun Shi Li of China, myself as a representative of Chile, and many others) signed the “San Marino Charta.” This document requested that the San Marino government “present to the United Nations a motion urging the ‘Establishment of an Agency or a Department of the United Nations for undertaking, coordinating and disseminating the results of research into unidentified flying objects and related phenomena’ as suggested by Decision 33/426 adopted at the 87th plenary meeting of the General Assembly on December 18th 1978, as a result of the action of the Grenada delegation, and never implemented.”
Unfortunately, this motion didn’t prosper, due to the pro-UFO faction in the San Marino government led by then Tourism Minister Augusto Casali, having lost some of its influence. To this day, Decision 33/426 is still looking for a sponsor. The words spoken by Prime Minister Gairy in one of his speeches seem as true and valid today as they were on October 7, 1977 when he delivered them to the UN General Assembly. “In the same way that this planet is the accepted inheritance of all humanity,” said Gairy, “knowledge is also to be shared for the benefit of all mankind, and, in this light, one wonders why the existence of UFO’s, or flying saucers as they are sometimes called, continue to remain a secret to those whose archives repose useful information and other data. While we appreciate that some countries consider this to be in the interest of military expedience, I now urge that a different view be taken because it is my firm conviction that the world is ready, willing and ripe enough to accept these phenomena in relation to man and his existence on the earth planet and life in outer space.”
[SIDEBAR] The United Nations UFO Clubs
In the late-1980s early-1990s, there were many UFO lectures and even a symposium at the UN. The list of speakers included Dr. John Mack, Col. Colman von Keviczky, Michael Hesemann, Colin Andrews, Richard Hoagland, Linda Moulton Howe, Peruvian contactee Sixto Paz, J. J. Hurtak, and many others. The meetings were held either at lunchtime in a small conference room or at the Dag Hammarskjöld Auditorium. It must be stated very clearly, however, that none of these meetings were part of the official agenda of the UN. They were sponsored by two UN staff clubs known as the Mystics Roundtable Discussion Group and the UN Parapsychology Society, later renamed Society for Enlightenment and Transformation (SEAT), which was led by Mohammed Ramadan, an Egyptian translator very active in ufology. These clubs are, in fact, regulated by the UN Staff Recreational Council (UNSRC) and were on the same level as
a sports team, a yoga club or a literary society. I make this point because some people misrepresented or misunderstood the real status of these events.
Nevertheless, the meetings certainly served a purpose in making available an eclectic variety of UFO information—from mystical to scientific and everything in between—to anybody who works at UN Headquarters. The meetings are posted by the UNSRC in bulletin boards throughout the building and anyone from an ambassador to a secretary can attend; outside public is not allowed because of standard security regulations, which apply to all UNSRC club activities, and not due to a conspiracy of silence.
The most ambitious unofficial event was SEAT’s First Symposium on Extraterrestrial Intelligence and Human Future, held at the UN Dag Hammarsjkold Auditorium on October 2, 1992. The speakers included Mohammed Ramadan, Stanton Friedman, John Schuessler of MUFON, Dr. Rauni-Leena Luukanen-Kilde of Finland, and channeler Dr. Norma Milanovich. There were two more SEAT UFO conferences in later years, but these were held outside the UN building at a place called the UN Church and were clearly unofficial. After Mohammed Ramadan’s retirement in the mid-1990s, the era of the UN UFO clubs came to an end.