The founder and first chairperson of the association was Gösta Lindeberg (1910-1995) who, together with the board of Lund Academic Association for the League of Nations (Lunds Akademiska Förening för Nationernas Förbund), decided to establish the Association for Foreign Affairs.
According to the founders, the League of Nations Association lacked a sufficiently broad basis to impartially study all international issues. The new association would adhere to the fundamental principles of the League of Nations, but it was to be politically and religiously independent. Through the years UPF has taken various forms and been connected with both the United Nations and the Red Cross. Since 1986, UPF is a fully independent student association.
Despite the first paragraph of the UPF Charter, which establishes political independence, the Association has both followed and resisted political currents of the surrounding world. During the Second World War, UPF adopted a pro-British attitude, while during the 1960s and 1970s it displayed left-wing tendencies. Contemporary debate, while characterized by humanistic values, has no clear leaning to either side of the political spectrum.
The core activities of the Association remained the same throughout UPF's existence: current issues of international politics have been debated in lectures, seminars, discussion nights and study circles. Members have visited foreign countries, made study trips in and around Sweden, and hosted parties and formal dinners. Since 1935, almost all Swedish Foreign Ministers have given lectures for the association.