The first seminar held at the new International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste in 1964 was on plasma physics, and the directors were B.B. Kadomtsev (USSR), M.N. Rosenbluth (US), W.B. Thompson (UK). An interesting history about the ICTP and it's goals can be found in a recent (2001) issue of Physics Today. The early years of the ICTP were during the cold war between the East and the West, and the ICTP was an important early forum forum for detente, peaceful interactions between people from the East and West which, along with other events, eventually helped lead to a more peaceful international situation.
Marshall Rosenbluth described well the goals for such international scientific interactions, in his introduction to an earlier conference a couple of years earlier He wrote this introduction (quoted below) in the fall of 1963, but I think his words describe well the goals and hopes we continue to have today for ongoing work such as the Abdus Salam ICTP Autumn College on Plasma Physics, which brings together scientists from all over the world. [The comment in brackets below were added by me.]
Unhappily, I am finally writing this introduction in the days following the awful events of President Kennedy's assassination which is dominating my thoughts now. Perhaps I will be excused then for saying some words about a strong nontechnical recollection I have of the Varenna summer school. I think everyone who has been there will recall it as a vital experience in international co-operation where new friends from many countries are made and ideas and feelings--technical, political and personal--freely exchanged. Even after making allowances for the idyllic setting and the common technical interest of the participants, one is bound to receive a strong impression of the common humanity of us all and a hope that the obstacles to the late President's vision of a world of peace and progress may indeed be overcome.
The field of plasma physics is especially suitable for an international school since so many of the participants have been involved in the world-wide quest for thermonuclear power [and now at Trieste, also in the study of astrophysical and space plasmas]. Fortunately, a happy tradition of total co-operation between all countries exists in this area, perhaps because it is almost unique in being a well-defined and challenging scientific problem from which great economic, but not military, benefits may be foreseen as the result of scientific progress...