The contribution of the United Nations to promote the worldwide development of astronomy is made through the United Nations Programme on Space Applications. This programme was established in 1970 to strengthen cooperation in space science and technology between developing and industrialized countries. Since 1991 the Programme organizes annually a Workshop on Basic Space Science for astronomers in developing countries. The Workshop was held in 1991 in India.
An important topic at the 1991 Workshop on Basic Space Science was an initiative of the Government of Japan to support the establishment of national astronomical observatories in developing countries through the provision of a moderate-sized astronomical research telescope or a planetarium. In the past few years Singapore received a Mitaka-kokhi 40 cm reflector for its science centre of public education and Malaysia started operating a Minolta Planetarium at the space science education centre. Through the Japanese Cultural Grant Aid Programme, Thailand was able to install a Goto 45 cm reflector at the Department of Physics of the Chulalongkorn University Bangkok and the Bosscha Observatory at Lembang, Indonesia, is using its Goto 45 cm reflector for astronomical research. As a result of the Basic Space Science Workshops, Sri Lanka applied to receive a 45 cm astronomical telescopes through Japan's Cultural Grant Aid Programme.
Moderate-sized optical telescopes set-up at appropriate locations on Earth have contributed significantly to astronomical research. The 45 cm reflecting telescope from Goto is equipped with photoelectric photometer, a spectrograph and a photographic camera. Although the telescope was designed primarily for photometric observational studies of variable stars, it allows also the observation of comets, asteroids and possibly studies of interstellar, interplanetary, and atmospheric dust. A network of telescopes of this type throughout a region or worldwide would form an even more powerful astronomical tool. It would foster international cooperation in astronomical research over the region or, as in the case of the "spacewatch" programme, worldwide. It is one of the major objectives of the United Nations/European Space Agency Workshops on Basic Space Science to promote this type of international cooperation, particularly involving developing countries.