Back   Describe the Organisation of the League of Nations.

 

 

Summary

The main meeting of the League was the Assembly of all the member states once a year, but it could only make decisions only by a unanimous vote (so it never decided anything).   For times of crisis, the League also had a Council.   This had 5 permanent members – Britain, France, Italy, Japan and (after 1926) Germany.  

         The League also had a number of Agencies, which tried improve people’s lives and jobs.   The Court of International Justice gave decisions on things like shipping.   The Health Committee worked to improve health (e.g. malaria).   The International Labour Organisation tried to bring in a 48-hour week.   The Mandates Commission ran the mandates, and League-controlled areas such as Danzig.   The Refugees Committee and the Slavery Commission also tried to help people.

   Behind all this, worked the Secretariat, although it was always in a muddle. Because of this, the ‘Conference of Ambassadors’ – a meeting of the important countries in the League – often made the decisions (e.g. the Corfu crisis of 1923).

 

 

The main meeting of the League was the Assembly – the meeting of all the member states once a year.   All nations which had signed the Covenant could attend, but it could only make decisions only by a unanimous vote (which made it virtually impossible for the League to decide anything).

 

Because international affairs could not wait a year for the Assembly to meet, the League also had a Council.   The Council had 5 permanent members – Britain, France, Italy, Japan and (after 1926) Germany, but other countries joined it on a rota basis.   The Council met 4–5 times a year and in times of crisis, when it tried to solve international disputes.   The permanent members of the Council had a veto, which was a problem when one of the permanent members was involved in a dispute (e.g. Italy in Abyssinia in 1935, or Japan in Manchuria in 1931–33).

 

The League also had a number of Agencies and Commissions, through which it tried to do its work to stop wars and improve people’s lives and jobs:

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The Court of International Justice consisted of 15 judges meeting at the Hague in the Netherlands, and it gave decisions on things like fishing and shipping disputes.   It only made decisions when asked, and had no power to enforce decisions.

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The Health Committee worked to improve public health world-wide (for instance, killing mosquitoes to try to prevent malaria).

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The International Labour Organisation met once a year, when it invited governments, employers and workers to send representatives.   It wanted to improve working conditions, and it achieved a lot in many countries, but it failed to persuade the League members to accept the 48-hour week.

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The Refugees Committee worked to help refugees and disaster victims (e.g. Turkey, 1922).

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The Mandates Commission made sure that League countries were ruling the mandates properly, and administered League-controlled areas such as the Saar and Danzig.

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The Slavery Commission worked to try to abolish slavery (for instance, it organised the attacks on Burma and Sierra Leone which set free 200,000 slaves).

 

Behind all this, worked the Secretariat – although it did not have enough workers to do all the work, and was always in a terrible muddle.

 

Because the League’s organisation was such a muddle, another body, called the ‘Conference of Ambassadors’, worked close to the League.   It was not a formal part of the League, but was an informal meeting of the more important countries in the League.   Although it was not part of the League, it often made the decisions – and because it consisted of the League’s more important members, what it agreed happened (for instance, it was the Conference of Ambassadors which sorted out the Corfu crisis in Italy’s favour in 1923).