The International Law Association was founded in Brussels in 1873. Its objectives, under its Constitution, are "the study, clarification and development of international law, both public and private, and the furtherance of international understanding and respect for international law". The ILA has consultative status, as an international non-governmental organisation, with a number of the United Nations specialised agencies.
The activities of the ILA are organised by the Executive Council, assisted by the Headquarters Secretariat in London. Membership of the Association, at present about 3500, is spread among Branches throughout the world. The ILA welcomes as members all those interested in its objectives. Its membership ranges from lawyers in private practice, academia, government and the judiciary, to non-lawyer experts from commercial, industrial and financial spheres, and representatives of bodies such as shipping and arbitration organisations and chambers of commerce.
The Association's objectives are pursued primarily through the work of its International Committees, and the focal point of its activities is the series of Biennial Conferences. The Conferences, of which 74 have so far been held in different locations throughout the world, provide a forum for the comprehensive discussion and endorsement of the work of the Committees.