The IAWN was established (2013) to create an international group of organizations involved in detecting, tracking, and characterizing NEOs. The IAWN is tasked with developing a strategy using well-defined communication plans and protocols to assist Governments in the analysis of asteroid impact consequences and in the planning of mitigation responses.

In 2013, the United Nation's General Assembly endorsed the final report of action team 14 (AT-14) of the Committee Of the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) that recommended tasks for the science technical sub-committee to coordinate the international response to an NEO Impact Threat. These included the establishment of an International Asteroid Warning Network (IAWN), and of a Space Mission Planning Advisory Group (SMPAG). IAWN satisfies the first of these mandates by fulfilling several functions.

IAWN's functions are:

  1. To discover, monitor, and physically characterize the potentially hazardous NEO population using optical and radar facilities and other assets based in both the northern and southern hemispheres and in space;
  2. To provide and maintain an internationally recognized clearing house function for the receipt, acknowledgement and processing of all NEO observations;
  3. To act as a global portal, serving as the international focal point for accurate and validated information on the NEO population;
  4. To coordinate campaigns for the observation of potentially hazardous objects;
  5. To recommend policies regarding criteria and thresholds for notification of an emerging impact threat;
  6. To develop a database of potential impact consequences, depending on geography, geology, population distribution and other related factors;
  7. To assess hazard analysis results and communicate them to entities that should be identified by Member States as being responsible for the receipt of notification of an impact threat in accordance with established policies
  8. To assist Governments in the analysis of impact consequences and in the planning of mitigation responses.

More information of how these functions and IAWN's participation fit in to the UN's Office for Outer Space Affair's partnerships regarding NEOs and Planetary Defense is provided in UNOOSA's brochure Near-Earth Objects and Planetary Defence from UNISPACE+50].