Capacity building in space science and technology ( ST/SPACE/41 )
Between 1985 and 1989, the United Nations, through the Programme on Space Applications, organized three regional meetings and one international meeting on the subject of the development of indigenous capability in space science and technology at the local level. These meetings were held in Ahmedabad, India (1985), Mexico City, Mexico (1986), Lagos, Nigeria (1987) and Dundee, United Kingdom (1989). The participants at these meetings concluded that in order for the developing countries to effectively contribute to the solution of global, regional and national environmental and resource management problems, there was an urgent need for a higher level of knowledge and expertise in the relevant disciplines by educators as well as by research and application scientists in these countries. These capabilities, they further noted, could only be acquired through long-term intensive education.
In support of the above initiative, the United Nations General Assembly, in its resolution 45/72 of 11 December 1990 endorsed the recommendation of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space that:
In 1995, the United Nations General Assembly, further endorsed the regional centres initiative and in its resolution 50/27 of 6 December 1995, recommended that:
In 2005, the United Nations General Assembly, in its resolution 60/99:
In order to translate the recommendations of the Committee and the General Assembly into an operational programme, the Programme on Space Applications initiated a project aimed at the establishment of regional centres for space science and technology education at existing research and higher education institutions in each region covered by the United Nations Economic Commissions: Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Western Asia.Objectives of the Centres
Each centre is conceived as an institution that should offer the best possible education, research and applications programmes, opportunities and experience to the participants in all its programmes. Thus the principal goal of each centre is the development of the skills and knowledge of university educators and research and applications scientists, through rigorous theory, research, applications, field exercises, and pilot projects in those aspects of space science and technology that can contribute to sustainable development in each country.
The initial programmes of each centre focuses on the following four core disciplines:
Its data management unit should be linked to existing and future relevant global databases. Each centre should also foster continuing education programmes for its graduates and awareness programmes for policy and decision makers and for the general public.
The activities at each centre are undertaken in two major phases. Phase 1 emphasizes the development and enhancement of the knowledge and skills of university educators and research and application scientists in both the physical and natural sciences as well as in analytical disciplines. That is accomplished over a nine-month period as laid out in the curricula of the education programme of each centre. Phase 2 focuses on ensuring that the participants make use of the skills and knowledge gained in phase 1 in their pilot projects, which are to be conducted, over a one-year period, in their own countries.
The activities and opportunities provided in the two phases should result in the development and growth of capacities that will enable each country to enhance its knowledge, understanding, and practical experience in those aspects of space science and technology that have the potential for a greater impact on its economic and social development, including the preservation of its environment.
In 1992-98 the Programme on Space Application undertook a series of evaluation missions to the countries that offered to host a centre in their respective regions in order to asses the viability of the potential host institutions and to conduct detailed analyses of these offers. After a careful study of each of the evaluation reports prepared by international groups of experts participated in the evaluation missions, host country and institution in each region have been identified as the most viable locations for the regional Centres.
As a result of these evaluation missions five Regional Centres for Space Science and Technology Education, affiliated to the United Nations, have been established in:
It was noted that education varied significantly between nations and even between institutions within the same country, which led to differences in space science and technology education curricula in terms of content and modes of presentation. To ensure a common standard of teaching at the centres, education curricula have been developed in the major fields of space application.