In 1996, after twelve years of teaching Anthropology and Latin American and South Asian studies, followed by fifteen years at the Ford Foundation, Dr. Shepard Forman founded the Center on International Cooperation (CIC) at New York University. Dr. Forman's goal was to create an institute that would address the legal, political, institutional, and financial bases for effective multilateral action in order to help the international system function more effectively.

CIC started its work by identifying the central thematic areas of multilateral activity and conducting research on five key issues: international courts and tribunals, post-conflict reconstruction assistance, humanitarian assistance, the US and its approach to multilateralism (post-Cold War and amid a changing global balance of power), and international and regional organizations. Simultaneously, to begin building CIC's credibility base, we established both an advisory and an expert committee made up of academics, policy analysts, and practitioners for each of the projects. We also developed a rigorous social science methodology for our research, and CIC has maintained this degree of vigor since that time: all our studies are peer reviewed before publication, and each larger project is accompanied by a public policy paper, or recommendations internal to the paper, to turn the research findings into actionable policy points for multilateral actors.

By 2002, Dr. Forman was ready to begin looking at succession for CIC. When Dr. Bruce Jones, who was then with the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, met Dr. Forman, their early discussions focused on investigating and improving the way the UN and other multilateral institutions could adapt to meet the changing demands of an increasingly dynamic world. Their productive professional relationship soon turned into a Co-Directorship.

In 2008, Dr. Forman retired and Dr. Bruce Jones became Director of the Center on International Cooperation. Under Dr. Jones's tenure, CIC has developed its work from a largely UN-focus to a broader range of global issues and the political and policy solutions that work to solve multilateralism's more intractable challenges. In January 2015, CIC’s third Director Sarah Cliffe continued the evolution bringing a renewed focus on conflict and development to the Center that built on her landmark work in this field with The World Bank.

At the time of its founding, CIC was comprised of three staff members. We now number 15 full-time staff and more than 25 fellows.

For almost twenty years since its foundation, CIC has established itself as a leading policy research institution on fragile and crisis-affected states; multilateralism and global governance; crisis diplomacy, peace operations, and political missions; Afghanistan and strategic mediation; and development in insecure contexts. In addition, work with our partners keeps us fundamentally involved in issues of humanitarian assistance, weapons of mass destruction, and other issues. We are defined by our dynamism, creativity, and policy impact in addressing current and future challenges of the global system.