COSV was established in 1968 as the Coordinating Committee of the Organizations for Voluntary Service.

In the Italian context, where some associations were experiencing their first long term cooperation programs, COSV represented an important hub to face issues concerning interventions in the Third World, and especially to interface with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other bodies public. In its first years, COSV concentrated its activity in public opinion and parliamentarians’ awareness on a correct approach toward Third World countries and in supporting some private programs, especially in Africa.

In 1978 COSV began to directly manage a project in Guinea Bissau, thus beginning the transition from being a Coordinating Committee to become a Non-Governmental Organization. In 1979 COSV started projects in Mozambique and in 1980 in Nicaragua, but it was 1981 the year of its take-off quality as NGOs. Public funding increase for cooperation allowed organizations to a better structuring and COSV began six major projects in Mozambique, a health project in Zimbabwe and an important project of emergency in Somalia – the first of the Italian cooperation – for the refugees of Ogaden war.

In 1984 the Statute of COSV was drafted, concluding the activities of the federation and paving the way for the Non-Governmental Organization, directly involved in international cooperation projects.

In all these years, COSV run over 400 projects in 32 countries worldwide.