On his 65th birthday, Bruno Kreisky renounced his gifts. A circle of friends and co-workers of the then mayor of Vienna, Leopold Gratz, and the president of the Austrian Trade Union Federation, Anton Benya, developed the idea of a Foundation for Human Rights, which should bear Kreisky's name. The then financial Secretary of the Austrian Trade Union, Alfred Ströer, a former political prisoner of the Nazi regime, took over the duties of realising and managing the project.
By then, the Austrian perception of the problematic of international human rights was determined by the crimes of dictatorial regimes in Central and South America, the oppression in communist systems as well as of the beginning of the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe process, the Apartheid system in South Africa, but also the underdevelopment of the southern hemisphere, and the North-South conflict.
Bruno Kreisky had been imprisoned by both the Dollfuß regime in 1935 for 15 months and by the National Socialists in 1938 for another five months. He was then forced into exile in Sweden, from where he returned only in 1951. These experiences marked his political opinions, especially in relation to dictatorial regimes, human rights' abuses, and Asylum seekers problematics.
These experiences played an important role in the formulation of Kreisky's policies on the great issues of his time: the East-West conflict, Détente, and development policies - They also influenced his engagement toward dissidents and victims of torture in Eastern Europe and Latin America.
„In awareness of the responsibility I bear, and in its broadest sense, I have come to the conclusion that it is necessary, without hate and without design, to intervene in the internal affairs of other states.“13 September, 1971, Bruno Kreisky, conference of the international council of Amnesty International.
To emphasize the independent and non-partisan character of the foundation, companies and institutions which were not allied to the Social Democratic camp in Austria also contributed to raise the capital for the Foundation. € 700,000 Euro (ATS 10 million) were collected in two tranches. The Foundation is still presently financed substantially from returns on this capital and from private contributions. Austrian tax regulations require that the foundation distributes 50% of prize money within Austria.
Even though Bruno Kreisky exercised no influence over the establishment of the Foundation, the composition of the first international and independent jury most definitely did reflect Kreisky´s international network of Kreisky as a statesman. International personalities such as the German journalist and resistance fighter Countess Marion Dönhoff, professor Herwig Büchele, SJ, as well as statesmen and personal friends of Kreisky such as Willy Brandt, Olof Palme, and Roland Dumas were also prominent jury members. It emphasized the Foundation's readiness to honour special merit in the area of protecting and supporting economic and social human rights.