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League of Nations: Structure of the League of Nations

Principal Organs

Chronology of the League of Nations

The main organs of the League of Nations were the General Assembly, the Council and the Secretariat. The General Assembly, which met once a year, consisted of representatives of all the member states and decided on the organization's policy. The Council included four permanent members (Britain, France, Italy and Japan) and four (later nine) others elected by the General Assembly every three years. The Secretariat prepared the agenda and published reports of meetings.

The Assembly was the annual conference of League member states. The Proceedings of the Assembly appeared as a separate publication for the first three sessions, the first of which was held in Paris on January 16, 1920. Thereafter, until 1938, they were issued as a Special Supplement to the Official Journal. Resolutions passed in the Plenary Sessions were also published in Special Supplements. These supplements were numbered consecutively over the years. Dates for Assemblies and links to list of members of each country's delegation

The Council's main function was to settle international disputes. The numbers of permanent and non-permanent members varied. Council meetings were held in ordinary session four times a year and as often as needed in extraordinary sessions. 107 public sessions were held between 1920 and 1939. From 1922 onwards, the minutes appeared in the Official Journal. Records for meetings held before 1922 were published separately. The resolutions can only be found in the minutes of the meetings.

Hans Aufricht's Guide lists Assembly and Council meeting records. (Guide to League of Nations publications : a bibliographical survey of the work of the League, 1920-1947 O.REF/LN.2)

The Secretariat carried out the day-to-day work of the League, under the direction of the Secretary-General. The three Secretaries-General were Sir Eric Drummond, 1919-1933; Joseph Avenol, 1933-1940; and Sean Lester, 1940-1946. The Secretary-General wrote annual reports on the work of the League. These are also listed in Aufricht's Guide

Autonomous bodies

Permanent Court of International Justice

Establishment of the Permanent Court of International Justice (PCIJ) was provided for in the Covenant of the League of Nations. It held its inaugural sitting in 1922 and was dissolved in 1946.

Printed Resources

PCIJ's cases (Series A - F , incomplete)  Bodleian Law Library, open shelfInternat 120
World court reports: a collection [of PCIJ cases] Bodleian Law Library, open shelf:  Internat 123 H886

Books on the practice and impact of the PCIJ  Bodleian Law Library, open shelf Internat 725

 

International Labour Organisation

The International Labor Organization/Bureau International du Travail (ILO/BIT) was established in 1919 at the Paris Peace Conference as an international organization working in cooperation with the League of Nations.  The goal of the ILO/BIT was stated in the Covenant of the League of Nations (Article 23a) which called for the maintenance of “fair and humane conditions of labor for men, women, and children.”  The membership of the ILO/BIT consisted of all of the member states of the League of Nations, plus the United States (which accepted membership in the organization on August 20, 1934). 

The Official Papers section has been designated a depository library since 1938, holding official records and publications. The collection is on open shelf, under O.ILO. Please search the online catalogue SOLO 

Conferences, committees and commissions

Committees, commissions and conferences received mandates from the League of Nations; for example the Opium Advisory Committee and the Permanent Mandates Commission

Committee documents may not have been printed. The League ceased to print the minutes of most committees after 1931.
If a committee submitted reports to the Assembly or Council, these reports were printed as Assembly or Council documents. A general introduction to committee structure can be found at  'Committees of the League of Nations'  [C.287.M.125.1934]/General.1934.4

Conference documents received a number using a scheme peculiar to the conference itself, and only received a formal League document number if they were submitted to the Assembly or the Council. The preliminary documents and the proceedings of conferences were often issued in collected form as League documents. Aufricht’s 'Guide to League of Nations publications' lists by topic the final acts and related documents for many conferences.

Document class: The links below display the archive content of the United Nations Archives, Geneva, for each document class

 

I. A.  Administrative Commissions and minorities section
I. B. Protection of Minorities
II. Economic and Financial Section
III. Health
IV.  Social Questions
V. Legal Section
VI.A.  Mandates
VI.B. Slavery
VII. Political Section
VIII.  Communications and Transit
IX. Disarmament
X. Financial Administration of the League
XI. Traffic in Opium and Other Dangerous Drugs
XII.A. Intellectual Cooperation
XII.B. International Bureaux
XIII. Refugees Mixed Archival Group