In 1954, the International Social Science Council (ISSC), in cooperation with UNESCO’s Social Science Department (SSD), initiated a Meeting of Representatives of National Social Science Councils and Similar Bodies. This meeting facilitated the healthy exchange of ideas and experiences between various country-based social science councils. Similar meetings were organized in 1965 and the early 1970s. To sustain these efforts, the ISSC established in 1973 a Standing Committee for Cooperation with National Councils (SCCNC).

In 1975, this Committee became an independent body with its own organizational membership and dues and was then called the Conference of National Social Science Councils and Analogous Bodies (CNSSC). The aims of the CNSSC were: 1) to exchange experience; 2) to contribute to the more effective organization of research and teaching; and 3) to facilitate cooperation in the planning and evaluation of programs. It had a Board to which three regions – developed countries, developing countries, and socialist countries – each elected three representatives.

In 1979, the Conference transformed itself into an international non-governmental organization that is independent of the ISSC and changed its name to the International Federation of Social Science Organizations (IFSSO). The new organization established its headquarters in Copenhagen, Denmark. IFSSO’s membership then consisted of national and regional bodies and later on, this was expanded to include academies. As of 1989, IFSSO had member research councils and academies from 25 countries. After Copenhagen, IFSSO has moved its headquarters to several locations including Rome, Bangkok, and since December 2009, in Manila.

Although now an independent organization, IFSSO still maintains strong ties with ISSC and UNESCO. IFSSO was accepted as a full member of the ISSC during the latter’s General Assembly in November 1979. The ISSC’s Statutes were specifically amended to bring in IFSSO into the Council since only international disciplinal associations were previously considered as full members.

On the other hand, the UNESCO recognized IFSSO as a Category C international NGO in 1981 on account of its mutual information relationship with IFSSO. In April 1989, this relationship was upgraded to a category of information and consultative relations (Category B).