Connecting Ophthalmologists from Around the World to Achieve Eye Health for Everyone

About the ICO


Who we are

International Council of Ophthalmology – The world’s leading community of ophthalmic professionals

The International Council of Ophthalmology (ICO) represents and serves our members which include national, regional and subspecialty ophthalmology societies throughout the world and is the only ophthalmology organization in official relations with the World Health Organization.

The roots of the International Council of Ophthalmology date back to 1857 when 150 ophthalmologists from 24 countries convened in Brussels, Belgium for the first World Ophthalmology Congress. Participants in the Congress founded the ICO in 1927 in Scheveningen, Holland. The ICO World Ophthalmology Congress® is held every other year and is the longest continuous international medical meeting.

Our mission is to work with the world’s ophthalmology societies and other stakeholders to enhance ophthalmic education, improve access to the highest quality people-centred eye care, and to preserve and restore vision for the people of the world. We bring ophthalmologists and their teams together to learn, share, inspire and engage in excellence and innovation. In particular, we aim to strengthen eye care capacity in low- and middle-income settings to address inequities and pressing public eye health needs to secure eye health for all.

The ICO is building a “World Alliance for Sight” by leading, stimulating, and supporting the efforts of ophthalmology societies and our partners worldwide including eye care providers, universities and institutes, NGOs, and related organizations, to enhance ophthalmic education and access to high quality eye care.

Through this collaboration, the ICO focuses on three strategic priorities:


Supporting ophthalmologists and their teams at all career stages and convening the ICO World Ophthalmology Congress® since 1857.

Learn more…


Offering a global network of ophthalmology societies and ophthalmologists.

Learn more…


Creating public awareness for preserving eye health, increasing access to comprehensive high-quality eye care services, and placing ophthalmology and eye heath on the global health and international development agenda.

Learn more…

Sign up to receive program updates and our e-newsletter, ICO Connections

What we do

Our work is guided by the ICO Strategic Plan 2021-2024 and builds on the ICO’s far-reaching activities to enhance ophthalmic education. The ICO’s legacy of service dates back to the first International Congress of Ophthalmology in 1857, now the World Ophthalmology Congress®, and our organization’s official founding in 1927.

Offering a global network of ophthalmology societies and ophthalmologists

The ICO represents and serves our members which include national, regional and subspecialty ophthalmology societies. We are committed to responding to our members’ needs, supporting their overall growth, and enhancing operations for building accessible and sustainable eye care services for their communities. In particular, we aim to strengthen eye care capacity in low- and middle-income settings to address inequities and pressing public eye health needs. We bring ophthalmologists and their teams from around the world together to learn, share, inspire and engage in excellence and innovation in eye care to secure eye health for all.


Supporting ophthalmologists at all career stages

Our programmes are designed and conducted to support ophthalmologists at every stage of their careers so that they may be best equipped to deliver high-quality eye care to preserve and restore vision for the people of the world. Those studying ophthalmology as well as those engaged in ophthalmology teaching find a broad range of ICO Resources including curricula, learning and teaching guides, and clinical guidelines for general ophthalmologists and subspecialists. ICO Resources are applicable across various socio-economic settings, leadership and society development programs to support and harmonize the standards of education, eye care delivery, health promotion, advocacy and allocation of resources to eye health around the world.


ICO World Ophthalmology Congress® bringing ophthalmologists together since 1857

Our World Ophthalmology Congress® (WOC) is our flagship event and is the world’s longest continuous international medical meeting, first convened in 1857. The WOC has earned a reputation of presenting high-quality ophthalmic education that builds on the evolving research and knowledge landscape, and the changing needs of all people around the world. Its comprehensive approach in engaging all major subspecialties in ophthalmology, including public health, eye care delivery, low vision and rehabilitation, research and interdisciplinary care has attracted thousands of participants from those studying and practicing ophthalmology, to those building eye care teams and conducting research, through to those seeking specific skills and knowledge, and maintaining their professional growth.


Over 25 years of testing ophthalmology knowledge around the world with ICO Examinations

As the only worldwide provider of ophthalmology examinations, we strive to leverage and harmonize ophthalmic knowledge around the world. Through a range of Basic, Advanced and Subspecialty ICO Examination modules, ophthalmologists are provided with a structured pathway to test their knowledge. By passing the ICO Advanced Examination, along with a local face-to-face examination, successful candidates are awarded Fellow of the International Council of Ophthalmology and can use the post-nominal acronym FICO. More than 46,000 ophthalmologists have engaged in the ICO Examination process to date through our network of ICO Examination Centres that include a growing number of locations in over 80 countries around the world.


ICO Fellowships enhance skill transfer and excellence in eye care

We provide active support to promising young ophthalmologists from low-resource countries through our ICO Fellowships program that offer a broad range of opportunities to help recipients improve their practical and research skills and expand their knowledge of ophthalmology. ICO Fellowship recipients bring the acquired knowledge and skills back to their home countries and participate in programs to preserve vision and prevent avoidable vision impairment. This process ensures education programs and services are tailored to all stages of professional development in ophthalmology.


Placing ophthalmology on the global health agenda

At the global level, the ICO supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals, delivering evidence-based insights and contributing to the global eye health agenda of the World Health Organization. Eye health is closely linked to socio-economic development and eye health advocacy and engagement with our partners and stakeholders remains at the heart of our mandate. Our engagement efforts span from promoting integrated people-centred eye care that ensure the best quality of life, to positioning eye health in global developmental agendas as a key prerequisite for overall societal growth.

What are ophthalmologists?

Ophthalmologists are physicians who specialize in the medical and surgical care of the eyes and visual system and in the prevention of eye disease and injury.

An ophthalmologist is a medically trained specialist who can deliver total eye care (i.e., vision services, eye examinations, medical eye care and surgical eye care), diagnose general diseases of the body and treat ocular manifestations of systemic diseases.

Skip to content