Since 1991, the Programme on Space Applications of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, in cooperation with the European Space Agency, has organized annually Workshops on Basic Space Science to contribute to the worldwide development of astronomy and space science. Such Workshops have been organized in India (1991) and Sri Lanka (1995) for Asia and the Pacific, in Costa Rica (1992) and Honduras (1997) for Central America, in Colombia (1992) for South America, in Nigeria (1993) for Africa, in Egypt (1994) for Western Asia, and in Germany (1996) for Europe.
Additional to the benefits of common scientific Workshops, the UN/ESA series has led to the implementation of a number of follow-up projects: (i) the establishment of an astronomical telescope facility in Sri Lanka; (ii) the operation of a radio telescope in Colombia, (iii) the inauguration of the astronomical observatory for Central America in Honduras, (iv) the refurbishment of the Kottamia telescope in Egypt, (v) the development of Egypt's Marshod drill project for the US/Russia Mars Mission 2001, and (vi) the publication of an urgently needed newsletter (African Skies) for the astronomical community in Africa. In the past eight years astronomers and space scientists from more than 120 UN Member States participated at or contributed to the success of the UN/ESA Workshops on Basic Space Science.
The above referred workshops were conducted as part of the activities of the United Nations Space Applications Programme, which promotes awareness of advances in space technology and their applications, including new system developments, in developing countries. The Programme conducts an annual series of training courses, seminars, conferences, and workshops on space-related issues. It also administers a long term fellowship programme for in-depth training of specialists in space science and technology, provides technical advisory services on request and is establishing regional Centres for Space Science and Technology Education (Affiliated to the United Nations) around the world with the goal of developing indigenous capabilities.
The Government of Japan, in cooperation with leading astronomers from the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, was particularly supportive in establishing astronomical facilities in developing countries around the world. The astronomical telescope at the Arthur C. Clarke Center in Sri Lanka was donated to the Government of Sri Lanka by the Government of Japan through the Cultural Grant Aid Programme.
Currently the Governments of Japan and Paraguay, in cooperation with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, are discussing the establishment of an astronomical telescope facility at the National University of Paraguay at Asuncion, including the donation of a solar telescope by Japan through its Cultural Aid Grant Programme.
Further follow-up projects of the above series of UN/ESA Workshop, discussed during the General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union at Kyoto, Japan in August 1997, (i) the feasibility of the establishment of a World Space Observatory (WSO), (ii) the Network of Oriental Robotic Telescopes (NORT), (iii) the worldwide network of small astronomical telescopes to be preferentially used for observation of variable stars and near-Earth objects, and (iv) the finalization of education kits to be used for introducing astronomy into the education curricula in developing countries at the high school, college, and university levels.
An assessment of the achievements of the series of UN/ESA Workshops on Basic Space Science will be part of the agenda of the forthcoming United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III) to be convened at Vienna, Austria, in July 1999.