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 Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (A/AC.105/456) 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 its resolution 54/68 of 6 December 1999, the United Nations General Assembly recommended to strengthen the mandate and activities of the Programme on Space Application to include :
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.
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:
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.