League of Nations: A child with an Bad Fortune
League of Nations was established to bring peace in the world, through peaceful settlement of international disputes. It was formed under the Paris Peace Conference, and came into existence on January 10, 1920. It had its headquarters at Geneva. It was the result of a search for a world organization. US President Woodrow Wilson is regarded as the ‘Godfather’ of the League of Nations.
International Organisations Before the League of Nations
A few other International Organizations existed in Europe before the League came into existence.
- The most prominent one was the Concert of Europe, which was a product of the Vienna Congress (1815). However, it could not last long, and ended in 1823.
- There also was the Court of Arbitration, which was set up after the two Hague Conferences, in 1899 and 1907. It was made to devise a system for pacific settlement of international disputes.
- Finally, there existed some non-political international institutions, like the Universal Postal Union.
The Birth of the League of Nations
The need of an international organization was felt since the late 19th century. However, it were the ideas of Wilson that it got materialized. The last point of the Wilson’s 14-points referred to an international organization to establish world peace and justice. During the Paris Peace, the draft of covenant of the League of Nations was prepared by a committee, presided by Wilson. It’s modified version was later adopted by the Conference. Ironically, US Senate did not passed the treaty, due to which USA could not become a member of the League of Nations.
Also, Soviet Union was not invited to join the League, after it turned to communism in 1917. Thus, League could never become a universal organization, and was, thus, referred to as the Victors’ Club.
Germany entered the League as late as in 1926. Gradually, other powers also got seat into the League. However, its influence had deteriorated by then. It existed merely as a loose confederation of independent states, and functioned more like an advisory body.
Soon, League became a platform for the expression of national policies, and conduct of open diplomacy. However, League was still a novelty, for its principles.
Basic values, mentioned in the Preamble of the League, were: Not to resort to War; Open, just, honorable relations between nations; rule of conduct; maintenance of justice; respect for all treaty obligations; and international cooperation.
Membership of League was open to all states. It had two types of members- the original members, and the admitted members. Original members were those self-governing states, dominions or colonies, who had signed the peace treaties, or who were invited by Paris Peace Conference to become the members of the League.
Under Admitted membership, membership could also be extended to any state by a Two-Third majority vote of the Assembly, provided that such a state gives assurance of its desire to observe its international obligations. Also, any member could withdraw from the League after giving a two year notice. Brazil, Costa Rica, Japan, Germany and Italy withdrew from the League, voluntarily.
Member states could also be expelled, for violation of the League covenant, by a unanimous vote of the Council. Soviet Union is the only country that was expelled from the League.
League had 42 original members. By 1927, its membership went up to 56, and in 1935, it became 62. However, it started to decline thereafter, reaching 46 at the time of the outbreak of the Second World War, and only 43 in 1946.
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