With the restoration of democracy in Nepal in 1990 was and the establishment of the Parliamentary system, the conduct of the foreign policy came under the most powerful Prime Minister. The new government represented a complete volte-face in the exercise of power in this regard.
As the pressing need for a Think Tank was felt amidst internal pressure and external suggestions, a search was explored for all possible avenues towards the establishment of such a body. In the past, as everything is usually done with regard to the framing and implementation of foreign policy, the rein of influence and power was under the purview of the Royal Palace Secretariat, the chief of which was, in fact, more powerful than the Foreign Minister and whose direction circulated to the agencies concerned had perforce to be followed without any question and argument. Now, the Prime Minister, the most powerful person under the new set-up, was reluctant to rely upon the old policy-makers and, for that matter, wanted a new institutionalized Think Tank for being advised on foreign policy issues.
At one time, the new Government thought to make the well-stabilized the Nepal Council of World Affairs, the oldest and most prestigious non-governmental organization in this regard, and to make such Think Tank as it comprised the elite members of Nepalese society. As the King was the Patron of this organization and its members are too numerous, this idea was given up, the persistent search for such Think Tank gave birth to the Institution of Foreign Affairs but created within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs eventually.
The Institute of Foreign Affairs (IFA) was founded in 1993 as an integral part of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). With a view to making Nepal's foreign policy more effective and systematic, the then His Majesty's Government formed the High-Level Task Force, on November 16, 1995 (2052.07.30), to suggest suitable measures for the government.
One of the far-reaching recommendations was the need for the semi-autonomous Institute of Foreign Affairs, more or less independent than a unit of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which would be able to provide valuable, independent, impartial and objective advice to the Government, particularly the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on foreign policy issues. Accordingly, the Government decided to grant a semi-independent status to the Institute of Foreign Affairs, thereby reconstituting it in 1998 under the Development Committee Act, 1955. Pursuant to the Formation Order, 2012 issues by the Government of Nepal in the exercise of the power conferred by 1955 Act, the Institute has now been formed as a separate autonomous body.
Originally designed to cater to professional training needs of the Nepalese Foreign Service officials and personnel by providing them background knowledge, information and professional skills as well as to serve as a catalyst for generating national consensus on foreign policy issues through interactions, discussion and deliberations, the Institute, under the new setup is also conceived of as a 'think tank' on foreign policy issues. Besides, documentation and the preservation of the documents of historic importance as well as dissemination of information on foreign affairs and foreign policy-related issues is another major responsibility of the Institute.
The main objectives and functions of the Institute are to:
1. Provide suggestions and support, recommendations and advice to the Government of Nepal on short and long term foreign policy formulation, and the diplomatic practices and their reforms;
2. Prepare concept papers including strategic analysis on foreign affairs and submit them to the Government of Nepal;
3. Organize seminars, workshops, meetings, talk programmes and conferences to discuss and deliberate on foreign policy issues and come up with recommendations;
4. Undertake study and research programmes on more pressing foreign policy-related issues of the country;
5. Provide suggestions and advice to the Government of Nepal with regard to reforms to be made in Consular Services;
6. Provide suggestions to the Government of Nepal regarding the Code of Conduct while opening the Embassies, Consulates-General and Consulates;
7. Provide training to, particularly, Nepalese Foreign Service officials and personnel of MOFA and other Ministries on foreign policy issues and objectives;
8. Update and systematically compile all historical documents and information on Nepal's relations with foreign countries and publish them as and when necessary;
9. Establish linkages with foreign Governments, INGOs, NGOs and eminent personalities at home and abroad to achieve common objectives and programmes;
10. Implement annual policies, projects and programmes of the Institute;
11. Pass the Budget for the operation of the Institute, and Perform such other activates as are necessary for the achievement of the objectives of the Institute, as provided for in this Formation Order of the Development Committee of the Institute of Foreign Affairs.