IGAD was created in 1996 to supersede the Intergovernmental Authority on Drought and Development(IGADD), which was founded in 1986. This followed the recurring and severe drought and other natural disasters between 1974 and 1984 that caused widespread famine, ecological degradation and economic hardship in the Eastern Africa region. Although individual countries made substantial efforts to cope with the situation and received generous support from the international community, the magnitude and extent of the problem argued strongly for a regional approach to supplement national efforts.
In 1983 and 1984, six countries in the Horn of Africa (Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia,Sudan and Uganda) took action through the United Nations to establish an intergovernmental body to collectively combat drought and desertification in the region. The Assembly of Heads of State and Government met in January 1986 to sign the agreement that officially launched IGADD with headquarters in Djibouti. The State of Eritrea became the seventh member after attaining independence in 1993 and South Sudan joined in 2011.
In April 1995 in Addis Ababa, the Assembly of Heads of State and Government made a declaration to revitalize IGADD and expand cooperation among Member States. On 21st March 1996 in Nairobi, the Assembly signed “Letter of Instrument to amend the IGADD Charter” establishing the revitalized regional organization with a new name, “Intergovernmental Authority on Development”. IGAD with expanded areas of regional cooperation and a new organizational structure was launched during the Summit of the Heads of State and Government on 25th November 1996 in Djibouti.