Thursday, 16 January 2020

interbellum or roaring twenties

Framed during the Paris Peace Conference six days earlier, the League of Nations (Société des Nations, previously) held its first council meeting on this day in 1920. With an executive body comprised of Italy, the United Kingdom, Japan and France (the victors of World War I) and charged with not only maintaining peace but also championing social justice for native inhabitants of colonial holdings, fair labour standards, global health and combatting human trafficking, the organisation lacked the authority and means to enforce its mandate through sanctions or military interventions.

With the outbreak of World War II, it became clear that the supranational body had not been invested with the powers it required to prevent the revanchment of hostilities, and though unable to carry on with its functions except in a wholly nominal sense with the headquarters in Geneva unoccupied for nearly six years after the onset of war, the League of Nation was not formally dissolved until 19 April 1946, the Tehran Conference three years prior recommending it being disbanded and reconstituted into a new, stronger institution. The finally assembly was mostly a housekeeping session, transferring assets to its successor organisation, the United Nations, and the remittance of reserve funds that member nations had furnished. Chaired by the Right Honourable Viscount Cecil of Chelwood (*1864 – †1958), Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, one of the chief architects of the League of Nations and ardent adherent to its ideals and concept it stood for, he concluded the meeting:


“Let us boldly state that aggression wherever it occurs and however it may be defended, is an international crime, that is the duty of every peace-loving state to resent it and employ whatever force is necessary to crush it, that the machinery if the Charter, no less than the machinery of the Covenant, is sufficient for this purpose if properly used, and that every well-disposed citizen of every state should be ready to undergo any sacrifice in order to maintain peace … I venture to impress upon my hearers that the great work of peace is resting not only on the narrow interests of our own nations, but even more on those great principles of right and wrong which nations, like individuals, depend.

The League is dead. Long live the United Nations.”