The first Clowns Without Borders, Payasos sin fronteras, was founded in Barcelona in July 1993. The idea began when Tortell Poltrona, a professional clown in Spain, was invited to perform in a refugee camp in Croatia. This performance unexpectedly attracted audiences of more than 700 children, proving to Poltrona that there is a great need for clowns and entertainment in crisis situations. He founded Clowns Without Borders to offer humor as a means of psychological support to communities that have suffered trauma.

Another project was organised for May of 1993, and this time two more artists, Boni and Caroli, accompanied Tortell, traveling and performing in the refugee camps in Croatia. What followed was a wave of performers and shows in the ex-Yugoslavia region from Spain. Soon Clowns Without Borders organisations sprung up in France and Sweden. The CWB movement expanded into other areas of conflict, from the Western Sahara, to Palestine and Israel, to Columbia and other countries throughout Central America. By the year 2000, over one hundred expeditions had been launched.

Besides Finland, where the local Clowns Without Borders was established in 2009, there are currently organisations in fourteen countries (Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brasil, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, USA).