The Institute of International Law was founded on 8 September 1873 at the Ghent Town Hall in Belgium. Eleven international lawyers of renown had decided to join together to create an institution independent of any governmental influence which would be able both to contribute to the development of international law and act so that it might be implemented.
Behind the Ghent meeting one can discern in particular, the combined efforts of Gustave Rolin-Jaequemyns and Gustave Moynier. The latter had in 1863 been one of the five founding members of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Like many others, he had been appalled to observe that the Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded in Armies in the Field (1864) had met with such little compliance during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. There was a need to react and it is in this spirit that the founders established a private association whose scientific credentials, the quality of its works and its independence were to enable the “progress of International Law”, in accordance with the terms of the Statutes (Article One).
For more information about the origins of the Institute please see Les origines de l’Institut de Droit international 1873-1923 – Souvenirs d’un témoin par le Baron Albéric Rolin (only available in French).