League of Nations in 1920

Establishment of League of Nations

  • The out break of the First World War made the leaders of the world to establish an international organisation for preventing future wars.

  • President Woodrow Wilson of USA was the founder of this organization

  • It was his idea to create a world organization to maintain peace and prevent future wars.

  • President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points underline the creation of a general association of nations.

  • The League was actually established in 1920 and its head quarters was shifted from Paris to Geneva in Switzerland.

Aims of the League

  • Preventing wars through peaceful settlement of disputes among member nations.

  • Preserve and protect the independence of member-nations by promoting international understanding and co-operation.

  • International cooperation for socio-economic development across the world.

Organs of the League

  • There were 42 member nations to begin with.

  • By 1926, when Germany was granted membership, the total number reached to 55.League of Nations

The General Assembly

  • This supreme body consisted of the representatives of the various states which were the members of the League.

  • Every member state was given the right of one vote in the Assembly.

  • All decisions of the Assembly were required to be in complete agreement. It acted as International Legislature.

The Security Council

  • It originally consisted of 4 permanent members and 4 non permanent elected by the Assembly.

  • By 1926, the council had 13 members with the seats for non permanent members now increasing to 9.

  • The 4 permanent members were France, Italy, Japan and Britain.

  • The decisions in the council had to be in complete agreement. The mandate of the League of Nations Security Council was to deal with political issues.

The Secretariat

  • It was located at Geneva. The Secretary General was the prominent figure.

  • He was appointed by the Council but the approval of Assembly was essential.

  • The staff of the Secretariat was appointed by the Secretary General in consultation with the Council.

  • The member states had to pay towards the expenses of the Secretariat..

The Permanent Court of International Justice

  • It consisted of 15 judges with its head quarters at The Hague.

  • It gave judgments on questions involving the interpretation of international law, treaties and other mutual obligations.

  • The judges of the court were elected for 9 years.

The International Labour Organisation

  • It was also attached to the League of Nations with its headquarters at Geneva.

  • Its object was to improve the labour conditions in various parts of the world.

  • Its governing body consisted of the representatives of the government, employers and workers

Mandate system

  • It was set up by the League. The territories captured from the Central Powers and Turkey were not restored to them.

  • The administration of those countries was given to various powers under the supervision of the League of Nations.

League of nationsSuccess of the league of nations

Aaland Islands

  • These islands lie between Sweden and Finland. Both Finland and Aaland once belonged to Sweden.

  • On the ownership of Aaland Islands, there came a dispute between Sweden and Finland in 1920.

  • A special Commission of the League investigated the case and settled the dispute in favour of Finland.

Mosul Boundary Dispute

  • Related to the frontier dispute between Turkey and the Great Britain’s mandated territory of Iraq.

  • Both the parties claimed Mosul Villayet which was rich in oil. Both failed to come to an agreement on this boundary line.

  • Ultimately the League Council gave its final judgment on the subject.

  • In June 1926, a treaty was made between Turkey and Great Britain by which a small part of the Villayet was given to Turkey.

Eupen and Malmady
  • In 1920 and 1921 Germany protested to the League of Nations against the decision of giving Euphen and Malmady to Belgium.

  • The League Council discussed the matter in September 1920 and wrote to the government that its decision regarding the transfer of Euphen and Malmedy to Belgium was final.

Curfu Incident

  • In August 1923, an Italian general and two officers were murdered on Greek soil.

  • The Italians demanded apologies and compensations too for the crime.

  • Greece refused to accept the demands of Italy. Hence Italy occupied the island of Curfu.

  • In this dispute Britain and France mediated and brought about a compromise between Italy and Greece.

Dispute between Greece and Bulgaria

  • There was a border dispute between Greece and Bulgaria. In 1925 a Greek army commander was murdered.

  • The Greek army marched in to Bulgaria. The League Council requested Britain and France to investigate this affair.

  • The Greek forces were withdrawn and Greece was asked to pay compensation to Bulgaria for violation of her territory on a scale to be fixed by a League Commission.

Dispute between Great Britain and France
  • In 1921, there was dispute between France and Great Britain over the nationality question in Tunis and Morocco. The matter went to the Court of International Justice. However the dispute was decided by mutual discussions between the foreign ministers of the two countries.

Non-political Work

  • The League did also a lot of non-political work. A slavery meeting met at Geneva in 1925.

  • In 1932 it was decided to set up a permanent Slavery Commission.

  • The Financial Commission was responsible for the issue and supervision of various League Loans for Austria, Hungary, Greece etc.

  • The league also set up in 1923 the Health Organisation with a Health Committee and a secretariat.

  • It did good in fighting diseases such as Malaria, Smallpox, Rabies, Cancer, Tuberculosis and heart diseases etc. It helped nations to improve national health. It organised technical conferences.

  • The League did commentate Common Wealth work in the field of control of traffic in dangerous drugs, peasant reforms, suppression of trade in obscene literature.

Causes for the Failure of League of Nations

1) An Allies Organization

  • League of Nations came to be viewed as an organization of the Allied Powers especially of France and Britain.

  • Turkey and Italy were both dissatisfied with the peace treaties. While Turkey was aggrieved at territories it considered as inalienable being handed over to Greece.

  • The Peace treaties signed were against principle of Self Determination. For instance, millions of Germans, after the peace treaties, resided outside Germany in Czechoslovakia and Poland.

2) Failure of Disarmament

  • It was only Germany, which was made to disarm under the Treaty of Versailles.

  • The League failed to convince other major powers to disarm. Britain and France did not want self disarmament.

3) The League of Nations was not a truly representative organization

  • It had limited membership which resulted in lack of funds for the League’s work.

  • The 3 main world powers, namely, USA, USSR and Germany were not its members when the League was formed in 1920.

  • Germany was admitted only by 1926, while USSR gained membership in 1934.

  • USA never joined the League of Nations and neither did it ratify the peace treaties.

Comparison of League of Nations with the United Nations

League of Nations United Nations
Setup in 1920 after WW I Setup in 1945 after WW II
US did not join. USSR was joined very late Active US and USSR participation
Dominated of Britain and France Dominated of US and Russia
colonies had no voice Developing countries have much more voice
not include protection to rights of an individual all individual human rights & socioeconomic development
Permanent Members: France, Britain, Japan & Italy. Permanent members: USA, France, Britain, Russia & China
No. of Non permanent members were 9 in 1926 & elected for 3 years. No. of non-permanent members are 10 & elected for 2 years
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