At the initiative of UNESCO and with the support of its former Director General, Mr Federico Mayor (1987-1999), the International Institute for the Study of Nomadic Civilizations was established by an agreement concluded on 16 September 1998 between the governments of Kazakhstan , Kyrgyzstan , Mongolia and Turkey.
Over thousands of years nomads have inhabited vast expanses of the world. Nomadic societies have devised forms of culture which have been particularly suited to their environment and conditions of mobility as well as to the demands and possibilities of their way of life. They have made an undeniable contribution to the development of different techniques and ways of using land and sea which have created original and sometimes unique civilizations. Today, in numerous regions of the world, nomadic populations are faced with crucial challenges to their current existence, future viability, and especially to their cultural identity. Many are suffering from the decline of their traditional social structures and poverty from marginalization.
The idea for an international institute to study nomadic civilizations germinated during the Nomads' Expedition in Mongolia . It was organized by UNESCO in 1992 as part of the Silk Roads Project when an international team recommended an institute. At the General Conference during the 27th Session, held in 1993, UNESCO confirmed the recommendation. Prof Jacques Legrand ( France ) undertook a feasibility study in which he drew attention to the importance, on the one hand, to preserving the unique historical and cultural heritage of nomads and, on the other, of actively contributing to the development of appropriate elements of modernization for the continual improvement of nomadic life.
As a result of these events, it was strongly felt that the right time had arrived for the international community to make a significant effort to deal with these matters in accordance with the possibilities and requirements of contemporary academic and scientific research. This led to the creation of the Institute, with the assistance of UNESCO and the strong support of the Mongolian State Secretary for Foreign Affairs and the Mongolian State Secretary for Science, Technology, Education and Culture.
At present, the Institute has 13 workers and has its own Information center.
IISNC has 34 associate members from scientific institutions of 16 countries and 143 corresponding members from 18 countries.