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The International Astronomical Union (IAU) was founded in 1919. Its mission is to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy in all its aspects through international cooperation. Its individual members — structured in Divisions, Commissions, and Working groups — are professional astronomers from all over the world, at the Ph.D. level and beyond, and active in professional research and education in astronomy. The IAU has 10593 Individual Members in 94 countries worldwide. Of those 73 are National Members. In addition, the IAU collaborates with various scientific organizations all over the world.

The IAU actions towards the public culminated with the organization of the UNESCO International Year of Astronomy in 2009, which reached out to over 800 million people from 148 countries. Following this effort, it has recently created an Office of Astronomy for Development in Cape Town (South Africa), and an Office for Astronomy Outreach in Tokyo (Japan). Regional offices are being created in other countries as well (for the moment: China, Thailand, Ethiopia and Zambia). In 2015, the IAU will actively participate in the International Year of Light.

The IAU follows the regulations of the International Council for Science (ICSU) and concurs with the actions undertaken by their Standing Committee on Freedom in the Conduct of Science on non-discrimination and universality of science. Participants in IAU-sponsored activities who feel that they may have been subjected to discrimination should contact the General Secretary for advice.

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