The International Life Saving Association (ILS) is the world governing body for the sport of lifesaving. The main goal for ILS would be to grow the sport worldwide, but it does not involve only lifesaving on a competitive level. Working very closely with international bodies, ILS is constantly developing an exchange of expertise and information on drowning prevention, lifesaving information and the best lifesaving practices. This cooperation also extends to partners, governments, NGOs and sponsors of competitive events or congresses. ILS gives authority to regional responsibilities for Africa, the Americas, Asia-Pacific, and Europe. Further responsibilities have also been divided into four Commissions managed by established committees. These Commissions are Drowning, Prevention, Rescue, Lifesaving Sport, and Business.
It goes back as far as the eighteenth century when the importance of setting up organizations to assist in lifesaving became much more important. These include the Maatschappij tot Redding van Drenkelingen formed in Amsterdam in 1767, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) in England in 1824 and the Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS) also in England in 1891. All three are still in existence today. Several nations established national lifesaving organizations leading to greater cooperation and exchanging of information.
In 1878 the first recorded congress was held in Marseilles. In the years that followed two further organizations were set up to act as an international forum for the exchange of ideas. They were the Fédération Internationale de Sauvetage Aquatique (FIS) and World Life Saving (WLS). It was from the merger of FIS and WLS in 1993 that the International Lifesaving Federation was established.
Although for ILS it centers on oceanic safety and aquatic rescue, the act of lifesaving will also involve ice rescue, flood, and river rescue. During a competition, participants are tested on fitness, endurance, skills, speed, and teamwork. Surf Lifesavers specialize in oceanic environments and is performed voluntarily by members of the public, while lifeguards are employed to professionally perform activities. Competitions are not only outdoor oceanic events but are often also performed in indoor swimming pools. Lifesaving is one of the few sports that also has a humanitarian purpose.