The establishment of an Independent Commission on International Humanitarian Issues (ICIHI) was the response of a group of eminent persons from all parts of the world to the deeply felt need to enhance public awareness of important humanitarian issues and to promote an international climate favouring progress in the humanitarian field.

The work of the Commission was intended to be a part of the continuing search of the world community for a more adequate international framework to uphold human dignity and rise to the challenge of colossal humanitarian problems arising with increasing frequency in all continents,

In 1981, the United Nations General Assembly adopted by consensus a resolution relating to a New International Humanitarian Order in which it recognized: “The importance of further improving a comprehensive international framework which takes fully into account existing instruments relating to humanitarian questions as well as the need for addressing those aspects which are not yet adequately covered.” In doing so, the Assembly bore in mind that “institutional arrangements and actions of governmental and non-governmental bodies might need to be further strengthened to respond effectively in situations requiring humanitarian action.” (A/36/136)

The following year, the General Assembly adopted a further resolution relating to the New International Humanitarian Order in which it noted “the proposal for establishment, outside the United Nations framework, of an Independent Commission on International Humanitarian Issues composed of leading personalities in the humanitarian field or having wide experience of government or world affairs.” A/37/201)

The ICIHI was established in 1983 and held its first plenary meeting in New York in November that year. A few days later, the UN General Assembly adopted another resolution in which it noted the establishment of the Commission and requested the Secretary-General to remain in contact with governments as well as the Independent Commission in order to provide a comprehensive report on the subject to the Assembly. (A/38/135)

In 1985, the Secretary-General presented to the General Assembly his report as well as comments from governments on the New International Humanitarian Order. The report included a description of the Independent Commission and its work. In a subsequent resolution, the General Assembly took note of the activities of the Commission and looked forward to the outcome of its efforts and its Final Report. (A/42/126)

In December 1987, the General Assembly adopted without a vote a further resolution (A/42/120) relating to the work of the Independent Commission on the basis of the present Report.