The International Lithosphere Programme (ILP) is rooted in the Upper Mantle Project (1960-1970), an international program of research on the solid Earth coordinated by IUGG and IUGS with participation of several other unions of the International Council for Science (ICSU; since 2018 the International Science Council) and UNESCO, which took part in initiating an international project for the study of the East African Rift System. A successful termination of the Upper Mantle Project generated a discussion between IUGG and IUGS on developing an inter-Union Commission on Geodynamics / the International Geodynamics Project, which was then established in 1972 and was active until 1980. This ICSU inter-Union programme addressed the solid Earth but paid special attention to is uppermost part. The programme was recognized as the beginning phase of a new multi- and inter-disciplinary approach to the scientific understanding of the solid Earth. This successful program spawned the Inter-Union Commission on the Lithosphere, which was established by ICSU in 1980 at the request of IUGG and IUGS with the main goal to implement the international program“Dynamics and Evolution of the Lithosphere: The Framework for Earth Resources and the Reduction of Hazards”. IUGS and IUGG's associations IASPEI and IAVCEI carried out the scientific work of the program. Since 2005, ILP became an inter-Union programme of IUGG and IUGS. 

Summarized by Prof. Alik Ismail-Zadeh, Secretary General of IUGG in 2007-2019. [Source: Ismail-Zadeh, A., and Joselyn, J.A., eds. (2019). The International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics: from Different Spheres to a Common Globe, Special Issue of the journal of History of Geo- and Space Sciences, Copernicus Publ., Goettingen.]