The League of Nations

The League of Nations was the first worldwide intergovernmental organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace. It was founded on 10 January 1920 following the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War and ceased operations on 20 April 1946.

Members of the League:-

As stated in a previous article, the League of Nations is an association of states (including also India and the British self-governing dominions which are not states in the full sense of the word Like the international administrative unions, the League was created by treaty, but it differs from them both in an organization and purpose.

It has an organization that gives it certain of the characteristics of a state. It possesses a juridical personality of its own, and it can probably sue in the courts, it owns the property, can accept legacies, has a treasury and a budget. In the Covenant, it has a sort of constitution. Still, it has no territory of its own, no citizens or subjects, no army, navy, or police force. It lacks the essential element that most distinguishes the state from all other associations, namely, sovereignty.

Brought into existence in January 1920, with a membership of states and other political entities, it had in 1934 a membership of and embraced all the fully independent states of the world except Afghanistan, Arabia, Brazil, Costa Rica, and Egypt, and the United States. As stated above, Iceland formed in 1918 a personal union with Denmark, to which the conduct of its foreign relations was committed.

In 1919 its government addressed an inquiry to the Secretariat as to the possible conditions under which it would be allowed to accede to the Covenant. Still, it does not appear that any action has been taken on the inquiry. In 1920 the petty states of Liechtenstein, Monaco, and San Marino applied for admission. Still, the Assembly, evidently feeling that states of such small size ought not to be attached to the League, postponed definitive action on their applications. The applications of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Ukraine were also denied, although Armenia would doubtless have been admitted later had it not fallen under the dominion of Soviet Russia.

In considering applications for admission to the League, the First Assembly took into consideration such factors as the size and population of the state, whether its government was a recognized de facto or de jure government, whether it had a stable government with settled frontiers, whether it was fully self-governing, what had been its conduct in respect to its international obligations, etc.

The general principle Is that a state once admitted to membership in the League is on a footing of equality with all the other members regarding its rights and obligations. Still, an exception was made in the case of Switzerland, which because of its perpetually neutralized status which it desired to retain intact, was exempted from the obligation to participate in any military operations which the League might undertake and also from the obligation to allow the passage of troops across Swiss territory in case of armed execution by the League of its covenants. However, it is understood that she will participate in the economic measures taken by the League against a Covenant-breaking member.

Luxemburg, also a neutralized state, likewise requested to be admitted with an exemption from the obligation to participate in the League’s Military operations. However, it was willing to allow the passage of troops across its territory and participate in the League’s economic and financial measures.

While the request was under consideration by a subcommittee of the Council, the proposed reservations were withdrawn. Luxemburg has finally admitted subject to all the rights and obligations that the Covenant creates. Germany, at the time of her application in 1926 for admission to the League, made known that she desired to be exempted from the possible military obligations of the Covenant, but the exemption was not allowed.

The Scandinavian states desired a similar exemption regarding the obligation to participate in the League’s blockade measures, but it was refused. Colombia desired to accede to the Covenant in such a way as to avoid recognition by her of the independence of Panama, which she had never admitted.

After some discussion of the matter, the Council authorized the Secretary-General to acknowledge the Colombian proposal’s receipt without expressing any opinion on the merits of the point raised.

The question as to whether a state could be admitted subject to conditions not imposed on other members was raised in connection with a proposal that states having racial or linguistic minorities should be required to give guarantees for the protection of such minorities such as had been given by certain states, like Poland and Czechoslovakia utilizing special treaties.

Doubt being felt as to the legality of requiring such conditions, the assembly adopted a recommendation that thereafter such states applying for membership should enter into the obligation suggested. In her application, Finland stated that she was prepared to give such an undertaking and was admitted in pursuance of this understanding.

Loss of Membership:-

The membership of a state in the League may be terminated in three ways:

First, by withdrawal after two years of notice, all its international obligations and obligations under the Covenant have been fulfilled (Covenant, Art. I). It is not clear to whom the notice shall be given or determine whether the said obligations have been fulfilled, but it is presumably the Council and the Assembly.

Second, a state which signifies its dissent to a duly adopted amendment to the Covenant automatically ceases to be a member of the League (Art. 26).

Third, any member who has violated any covenant of the League may be declared by a unanimous vote of the Council and the Assembly, not counting the Covenant-breaking member’s vote, to be no longer a member (Art. 16).

Thus, the right of secession is recognized, and the door is left open for the voluntary dissolution of the League. The League’s right to rid itself of Covenant-breaking members is also, properly, reserved since the very foundation of the League consists of a series of covenants. Hence, there can be no place in its for members who refuse to perform their obligations thereunder.

Objects and Purposes of the League:-

The general purposes for which the League was created are:

  • First, the promotion of international cooperation.
  • Second, the achievement of international peace and security.

How these ends are to be accomplished are:

  1. By the acceptance of obligations not to resort to war.
  2. By the prescription of open, just, and honorable relations between nations.
  3. By the firm establishment of the understandings of international law as the actual rule of conduct among governments.
  4. By maintaining justice and scrupulous respect for all treaty obligations in the dealings of organized peoples with one another.

Its powers, or rather those of its organs, are numerous, but they may be classified in a general way as follows:

  • First, those who have to do with the execution of the treaties of peace.
  • Second, those that relate to measures for the prevention of war and guarantee the security of its members.
  • Third, those which are designed to promote fair and humane conditions of labor throughout the world.
  • Fourth, those of a miscellaneous character.

Such as the registration of treaties, the collection and dissemination of information, the supervision of territories under the mandate, and the exercise of a sort of trusteeship over the Saar Basin and Danzig’s free city.

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