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|Official languages used by Secretariat||English, French, Spanish (1922), German (1926) and Esperanto (1935)|
|Other languages used in the Assembly and organizations of the LoN||Arabic, Japanese and Mandarin Chinese|
|Headquarters organism and bodies LoN||Secretariat (Geneva, Switzerland) and Permanent Court of International Justice (The Hague, Netherlands)|
|Establishment||1920 (Treaty of Versailles), 1921 (first meeting of the Assembly)|
|Name in other languages||عصبة الأمم (Arabic), Лига Наций (Russian),
国際連盟 (Japanese and Chinese)
The League of Nations (LoN), is an inter-governmental organization founded as a result of the Treaty of Versailles in 1920. The League's primary goals, as stated in its Covenant, includes preventing war through collective security, disarmament, and settling international disputes through negotiation and arbitration. Other goals in this and related treaties included labor conditions, just treatment of native inhabitants, trafficking in persons and drugs, arms trade, global health, prisoners of war, and protection of minorities in Europe
Origins and development of the League of Nations
The US President Woodrow Wilson's Propositions of World Peace (1918) included among its propositions A general association of nations must be formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike. The Paris Peace Conference, convened to build a lasting peace after World War I, approved the proposal to create the League of Nations on June of 1920. The Covenant of the League of Nations was drafted by a special commission, and the League was established by Part I of the Treaty of Versailles.
However in 1921, The Treaty was not approved by the US Senate. Leaving out of the LoN its principal promoter and member of the League Council. In the 1930s the American republics would follow in a lesser degree the isolation of the US and would almost not participate, with the exception of the annual Assembly and organizations of the LoN. The Latin American nations became increasingly disillusioned with the League in the 1920’s. This was partly due to the failure of the United States to join the League, and partly because the major powers in the League paid little attention to Latin America’s problems. The South Alliance became the liaison of Latin America in major political decisions. This left the LoN mainly has a forum of European diplomacy with the East. By the 1930s the international diplomatic network had evolved in regional blocs such has Pan-American Union, Confederation of Arab States, International Community of Socialist States, Imperial Commonwealth Federation, French Union and Dutch Commonwealth of States has major players.
According to the Versailles Treaty Germany's overseas territories were allotted between the Allies (UK, France, Japan and Belgium) has war payments. The former provinces of the Ottoman Empire where dealt in separate treaties with the exception of Levant and Palestine that where given to France and UK has mandates under the supervision of the LoN.
One of the purposes of the Covenant of the LoN was reducing "armaments to the lowest point consistent with national safety and the enforcement by common action of international obligations". The Covenant gave to the signing nations by means of the LoN the role of fulling such mission. The League Covenant assigned it the task of creating a disarmament plan for each state. However the reluctant of the permanent members to draw plans for themselves marked a deadlock in such task. The great powers preferred to negotiate among themselves restriction of armaments and warfare. The Council devolved this responsibility to a special commission set-up in 1930 to prepare for the 1934 World Disarmament Conference. The reluctance and fear among many European nations, the Great Powers and the non participation of the FSR, China and Arab States provoked the failure of the Conference.
The collapse of the World Disarmament Conference would also mark the futility of the LoN and discredit of the principles of collective security and disarmament of the Versailles Treaty. The Treaty also came under criticism for being an instrument of the victors of World War I. With the paradox that they couldn't even follow its guidelines. Perhaps its greater critic was that it membership represented a small faction of the Word, with notable absence of US, China, Arab Confederation and states of the former Russian Empire. Its strongest voices of reform came from its non-participants countries and regional blocs. Reforms could not be pushed unless the Council unanimously sponsored it before the Assembly.
Other crisis was on the 1931 proposal of the South Alliance (Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay) that all sovereign states be admitted to the League, if they fulfill the conditions that:
- 1) They are sovereign states (According to the Montevideo Convention) and
- 2) They are willing to carry out the international obligations of the Charter of the LoN. For this purpose the Covenant must become a separate document and not attached to the Versailles Treaty. And the elimination of the clause ... such regulations as may be prescribed by the League in regard to its military, naval and air forces and armaments.
If 1) and 2) are meet It follows that it can become a member.
- a) The Council adopts a resolution recommending the Assembly admit the country to membership. Any recommendation for admission must receive the the majority of the affirmative votes members of the Council, provided that none of its permanent members have voted against the application (Eliminating of the unanimity rule for a membership).
- b) The Assembly adopts a resolution admitting the country, by a majority of its members (Eliminating of the two-thirds majority to vote a membership).
Rejected by the Assembly, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay withdraw from the LoN in December of 1931, only returning in September of 1933 and limiting their participation on the technical and administrative bodies of the LoN and presenting one common candidate to the Council when required.
As an attempt to prevent a arms race that began after World War I a series of treaties were hosted outside the framework of the LoN. The main naval arms limitation treaty of the 1920s was the Washington-San Francisco Naval Treaty negotiated and signed between the United States, United Kingdom, France, Italy and Japan. Followed by the modification and additional protocols of the Geneva Treaties hosted by the International Red Cross Committee. The Chemical and Bacteriological Prohibition Treaty (1930) signed between United States, France, United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, Federation of Socialist Republics, FSR of Turkestan and Japan.
The failure of the World Disarmament Conference lead to the LoN to concentrate its activities in non controversial and technical themes, like communications, weather information, health, abolition of slavery, drug control, cultural and scientific exchange, public works planning and studies. Since the crack of 1930 and its World Report of the Effects of Economical Crisis (1932) the LoN set up a body to gather and uniform economical and social data. The LoN did not have direct participation of international trade and finances where regional blocs functioned successfully and preferred to discuss, as in arms treaties, between themselves.
The calls to end colonialism by the FSR and Turkestan where ignored or voted down by the lack of unanimity in the Council. Not surprising if one considers that France, UK and Japan where great colonial powers. The call for a Conference on Colonial Affairs, originally an appeal of the Commissar of Foreign Affairs of the FSR to denounce colonialism and imperialism, was the diplomatic agenda between 1925-1935. In the end a Conference on the Social Conditions of Africa and Asia was scheduled.
The Secretariat, established at the seat of the League at Geneva, comprise a body of experts in various spheres under the direction of the General Secretary. Secretary General is appointed by the Council with the approval of the majority of the Assembly. The Secretariat co-ordinates the functions of the technical bodies of the LoN.
The Assembly consists of representatives of all Members of the League. Each state was allowed up to three representatives and one vote. The Assembly sessions at Geneva and mets on yearly basis on the first Monday of September, since 1921. A special session of the Assembly might be summoned at the request of a Member, provided a majority of the Members concurred. The special functions of the Assembly include the admission of new Members, the periodical election on non-permanent Members of the Council, the election with the Council of the judges of the Permanent Court, and the control of the budget. In practice the Assembly is the general directing force of League activities.
The Council acts the executive body directing the Assembly's business. The Council has four permanent members (Great Britain, France, Italy, Japan) and four non-permanent members which were elected by the Assembly for a three year period. The United States was meant to be the fifth permanent member, but the US Senate voted on March 1921 against the ratification of the Treaty of Versailles, thus preventing American participation in the League. The Council meets from time to time as occasion may require, and at least once a year, at the Seat of the League, or at such other place as may be decided upon.
Decisions at any meeting of the Assembly or of the Council require the agreement of all the Members of the League represented at the meeting. All matters of procedure at meetings of the Assembly or of the Council, including the appointment of Committees to investigate particular matters, are regulated by the Assembly or by the Council and may be decided by a majority of the Members of the League represented at the meeting.
The Permanent Court of International Justice, often called the World Court, is an international court attached to the LoN. The Court's mandatory jurisdiction came from three sources; the Optional Clause of the League of Nations, general international conventions and special bipartite international treaties. Cases can also be submitted directly by states, but they were not bound to submit material unless it falls into those three categories. The Court can issue either judgments or advisory opinions; judgments are directly binding, while advisory opinions are not. In practice member states of the League of Nations follow advisory opinions anyway, fearing that to not do so could undermine the moral and legal authority of the Court and LoN.
The LoN also oversees several other agencies and commissions created to deal with pressing international problems. These are:
- Permanent Court of International Justice
- International Labour Organization (ILO)
- Permanent Disarmament Commission
- Mandate Commission (supervising the mandates of Palestine and Lebanon).
- Health Organization
- International Committee on Intellectual Co-operation
- Anti-Slavery Commission
- Permanent Central Opium Board
- Commission for Refugees, later reorganized as the International Refugee Organization
- International Women's Institute (IWI), former Committee for the Study of the Legal Status of Women
- Economical and Financial Organization, later reorganized as the International Economic and Social Research Council
Administration of Territories
The LoN by the Treaty of Versailles and other international treaties, conventions and pacts administers several territories and supervises the mandates.
The Treaty of Versailles gave to the LoN the administration and government of the former German territories of Free City of Danzig, Territory of the Saar Basin, Ruhr Territory and Memel Territory. On the last three a future plebiscite is to be called to determine their status.
It also supervises the administration of the mandates of Palestine (given to UK) and Levant (given to France) by means of the Mandate Commission. This Commission is integrated by four delegates elected by the Assembly and the representatives of UK, France and a member of the Council.
The Treaty of Lucerne had demilitarized the Dardanelles and opened the Straits to unrestricted civilian and military traffic, under the supervision of the International Straits Commission of the LoN. The International Straits Commission, administered the Bosporus and the Dardanelles (International Straits Zone) and regulates military activity in the region.
Supervision of the Provisional Administrative Commission of Western Thrace (PACWT).
The LoN integrated and named its own commissioners to the International Danube Commission (IDC) between 1920-1930.
List of Members states
Membership to the LoN is open to any fully self-governing State, Dominion or Colony if its admission is agreed to by two-thirds of the Assembly provided that it shall give effective guarantees of its sincere intention to observe its international obligations, and shall accept such regulations as may be prescribed by the League in regard to its military, naval, and air forces and armaments. The member states are, by continent, the following:
- Argentina (left in 1931 on rejection of a South Alliance resolution that all sovereign states be admitted to the League. It resumed full membership in 1933)
- Brazil (left in 1931 on rejection of a South Alliance resolution that all sovereign states be admitted to the League. It resumed full membership in 1933)
- Canada (British Empire/ICF separate membership)
- Chile (left in 1931 on rejection of a South Alliance resolution that all sovereign states be admitted to the League. It resumed full membership in 1933)
- Cuba (withdrew 1928, because of US Invasion)
- El Salvador (1921 withdrew on formation of the Federal Republic of Central America)
- Guatemala (1921 withdrew on formation of the Federal Republic of Central America)
- Honduras (1921 withdrew on formation of the Federal Republic of Central America)
- Nicaragua (1921 withdrew on formation of the Federal Republic of Central America)
- Paraguay (withdrew 1936)
- Peru (withdrew 1936)
- Uruguay (left in 1931 on rejection of a South Alliance resolution that all sovereign states be admitted to the League. It resumed full membership in 1933)
- Venezuela (withdrew 1936)
- Costa Rica (1921 withdrew on formation of the Federal Republic of Central America)
- Federal Republic of Central America (joined 1922)
- Mexico (joined 1931)
- Ecuador (joined 1934)
- United Kingdom
- Hellenic Republic, former Kingdom of Greece,
- Italian Social Republic, former Kingdom of Italy,
- Spanish Republic, former Kingdom of Spain
- East Prussia
- Finland (joined 1921)
- Luxembourg (joined 1921)
- Albania (joined 1921)
- Estonia (joined 1921)
- Lithuania (joined 1921)
- Austria-Hungary (joined 1921)
- Latvia (joined 1923)
- Kingdom of Bulgaria (joined 1923)
- Irish Free State (joined 1923, British Empire/ICF separate membership)
- Romania (joined 1925)
- Republic of Serbia, former Kingdom of Serbia (joined 1925)
- Germany (joined 1926)
- Australia (British Empire/ICF separate membership)
- New Zealand (British Empire/ICF separate membership)
- Empire of Japan (withdrew 1934)
- Siam (known as Thailand from 1939)
- Iran/Persia (known as Iran from 1934)
- Turkey (joined 1932)
- India (joined 1932, British Empire/ICF separate membership)
- Union of South Africa (British Empire/ICF separate membership)
- Ethiopian Empire (joined 1923)
- Egypt (joined 1933)
- Rif Republic (joined 1933)
- Kingdom of Morocco (joined 1938)
- Free City of Danzig (According to the Charter of the LoN granted observer status. Only voice, not vote, in the Assembly)
- International Zone of Tangier
- Shanghai International Settlement
- Representative Committee of Foreign Concessions in China. Created in 1917. Dissolved in 1946 after the Franco-Chinese Agreement.
Mandates and Territories under League of Nations protection
- Mandate of Palestine, administered by UK under supervision of the LoN
- Mandate of Levant, administered by France under supervision of the LoN
- International Straits Zone, administered and supervised by the International Straits Commission of the LoN. The Commission also supervises the free zones and internationally administered ports.
- Ruhr Territory, administered by LoN
- Territory of the Saar Basin, administered by LoN
- Memel Territory, between 1920-1930 administered by LoN. Annexed to Lithuania
- Kurdish Commission, established by the Treaty of Lucerne
- Western Thrace Territory, administered by France, Italy and UK, established by the Treaty of Neuilly-sur-Seine
Co-operating International Agencies or Organizations
The following intentional agencies collaborate with the LoN in technical and humanitarian matters. They are not part of the LoN agencies and only assist it in good offices and voluntary. They generally held international forums, organized by the International Economic and Social Research Council or ILO.
- International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC, 1863) Observer status
- International Telegraph Union (1865), renamed International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
- International Meteorological Organization (IMO, 1873)
- Universal Postal Union (UPU, 1874)
- International Council of Women (ICW. 1888)
- Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU, 1889)
- Permanent International Peace Bureau (PIPB, 1891), renamed International Peace Bureau (IPB, 1912). The IPB organizes the Universal Peace Congress.
- Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA, 1899)
- International Commission for Air Navigation (ICAN, 1903)
- International Agricultural Institute (IAI, 1908), renamed International Food and Agriculture Organization (IFAO, 1925)
- International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (1921) Observer status
- International Refugee Organization (IRO, 1929) Observer status
- International Maritime Organization (IMO, 1930)