League Of Nations-Origin, Powers, Functions, Structure And Cause
League Of Nations-Origin, Powers, Functions, Structure And Cause



The League of Nation with acronym “LN” was an organization formed immediately after the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. The following were the objectives of the LN;

  • Disarmament
  • Preventing war through collective security
  • Using negotiation diplomacy to settle disputes between countries
  • Improving global welfare

The League of Nations didn’t have security forces of its own but however depended largely on great power countries to keep economic sanctions and enforced its resolutions. The great power countries provided the army for the League to use when needed. However, these countries often feel reluctant to deploy their armed forces for the League to use.

After some early failures and notable successes in the 1920s, the League of Nations in the 1930s proved incapable of preventing the great powers from always attacking smaller states.

The Second World War is another testament to the fact that the League had failed in its primary responsibility – to prevent any future world war.

After the World War II, the United Nations Organization replaced the League and inherented several of its agencies and organizations.



The concept of peaceful community nations had been described by Immanuel Kant in his book “Perpetual Peace: a Philosophical Sketch in 1795.” In order to avoid a bloody war like the World War I, the thought of forming the League of Nation was conceived by Edward Grey, a British Foreign Secretary and subsequently adopted by Woodrow Wilson, the Democratic US president, as well as his advisor Col. Edward House. Wilson’s 14 points agenda for peace centered on the creation of the League, which specifically seek to create a community of Nations for the purpose of guiding territorial integrity both for great powers and smaller states.

The proposal to create the League was accepted by the Paris Peace Conference on the 25th of January. The League’s covenant was subsequently drafted by a commission. The treaty of Versailles, Part l, established the League after the treaty’s signature on the 28th of June, 1919.

Despite the effort by the United States president to promote the League of Nations, which he was subsequently awarded a Noble Peace price in the same year, America didn’t wasn’t a member of the League due to opposition from members of the American Senate led by Henry Lodge and Williams Borah.

The League’s first meeting held on the 10th of January 1920 in London. The League’s first action was to end World War l by ratifying the Treaty of Versailles. On November 1, 1920, the League’s headquarters was moved to Geneva, Switzerland, where its first general assembly was held with 41 Nations in attendance.



The League didn’t have any official logo or flag. Although, there was a proposal for the League to adopt a symbol in 1920, but the proposal was not adopted member states. However, the League made use of several flags and logos in their operations. In 1929, there was an international content to decide on a symbol’s design, but yet again, the contest failed.


The major reason for this failure might not be unconnected with the fact that member states feared that their powers might be upsurged by the League of Nations Organization. Finally, a semi-official flag emerged in 1939: 2 by 5 pointed stars within a blue pentagon. The flag was named in French (Société des Nations) and English (League of Nations). The New York World’s Fair hosted the flag in 1939 as well as 1940.



From 1920, the League’s official languages were English, French, and Spain. There was a proposal in the early 1920 for the League to adopt Esperanto as one of its working languages. The proposal was accepted by 10 delegates and rejected by Gabriel Honataux, a French delegate. His reason for rejecting the proposal was that the French language was losing its grip as the international diplomacy language and saw the inclusion of Esperanto as a threat. The League of Nation later recommended the inclusion of Esperanto into the educational curriculum of member states two years later.



LN had three fundamental organs – A council, a secretariat based in Geneva and headed by the General Secretary, and an Assembly. The League of Nations also had several commissions and agencies. For any action to be taken, a unanimous vote must be adopted by both the Council and the Assembly.

The following are the detailed explanations of the League’s 3 organs:



The Secretariat’s staff members were saddled with the responsibility of preparing the Assembly and Council’s agenda. The staff also published the reports of the meetings. Basically, the Secretariat’s staff members acted as the League’s civic service. Between 1920 and 1946 which the League existed, three Secretaries Generals headed the League’s Secretariat. The Secretaries Generals were;

  • (1920-1933) Sir James Eric Drummond, 7th Earl of Perth (UK)
  • (1933-1940) Joseph Avenol (France)
  • (1940-1946) Seán Lester (Ireland)

The League’s Pioneer president was Paul Hymans. He was a politician from Belgium. The responsibility of the General Secretary was to wrote annual reports on the activities of the League.


The responsibility of the League’s Council was to handle any matter affecting world peace. The League’s Council began with 4 permanent members (from Italy, France, Japan, and the United Kingdom), and 4 non-permanent members that were elected by the Assembly for a tenure of three years.

The 4 non-permanent members were from Spain, Greece, Belgium, and Brazil. The US was supposed to be the 5th non-permanent member, but due the opposition by the US Senate against the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, the US lost its membership position.

On the 22nd of September 1922, the number of non-permanent members rose to six and subsequently rose to nine on the 8th of September, 1926. After a while, Germany joined the League as the 5th non-permanent members, pushing the total number of members to 15. Japan and Germany later resigned their membership position.

On the average, the Council held meeting at least 5 times a year. Between 1920 and 1939, the number of public sessions held by the League was 107.


The League’s Assembly had a representation from each member states and had one vote. The Assembly usually held its session only once a year in the month of September.

The League’s Council president at its 68th session in September 1932 was Éamon de Valera. He also doubled as the President of the League’s Assembly in 1938. In 1939 and 1946, the Assembly’s President was Carl Joachim Hambro. Nicolae Titulescu served as the League’s president for 2 terms between 1930 and 1931.

Other bodies

The League of Nations coordinated several agencies, commissions, as well as the Permanent Court of International Justice created to tackle pressing international issues. The other bodies were;

  • The Disarmament Commission
  • The Health Organization
  • The International Labour Organization
  • The Mandates Commission
  • The Permanent Central Opium Board
  • The Commission for Refugees
  • The Slavery Commission.


Even though the League was touted to have failed, some of its agencies and commission recorded a lot of successes within their Jurisdiction.


Disarmament Commission

In order to limit the size of their navies, the commission obtained an initial agreement by Italy, France, Britain, and Japan. However, the UK rejected the idea of signing a disarmament Treaty in 1923 and the Kellogg-Briand Pact, which the commission facilitated in 1928. Ultimately, the armaments commission didn’t live up to expectation.

Health Committee

The Health Committee was created to end leprosy, yellow fever, and malaria. The committee launched an international campaign against mosquitoes and succeeded in preventing the spread of typhus across Europe.

Mandates Commission

The commission was in charge of supervising the League’s mandate. The mandate commission also organized plebiscites in order to settle territories that were in disputes.

International Labour Organization

The head of this body was Albert Thomas. The body was able to convince a lot of countries to adopt a 40hrs weekly working routine. In addition, its worked to end child labor.

Permanent Central Opium Board

The essence of establishing this board was to supervise the production, retail and trade of opium and its allied products.

Commission for Refugees

The Commission for Refugees was headed by Fridtjof Nansen. The commission was saddled with the responsibility of repatriating and resettling over 400,000 ex-prisoners and refugees, most of whom were displaced after the World War l.

Slavery Commission

The Slavery Commission was established to eradicate the slave trade and slavery across the world. The commission also fought drug trafficking and forced prostitution, especially in Opium. The commission suceeded in emancipating over 200,000 slaves in Sierra Leone and raided slave traders in an effort to stop the practices of the slave trade in Africa.



The following are the responsibilities of the league of nations;

  • A reduction on national armaments to the lowest point.
  • To protect the interest of all members of the league
  • To peaceful settle international disputes
  • To enthrone peaceful change with respect to international change
  • Maintenance of international security and peace



The following are some of the events which led to the failure of the league of nations;

  • The 1923 attack on Corfu (a suburb in Greece) by the Italians.
  • The 1931 attack on Manchuria by Japan.
  • The 1935 attack on Ethiopia by Italy
  • The 1939 invasion of Finland by the Russians.
  • The failure of the disarmament conference organized in 1932 at the behest of the League of Nation.



The League of Nations didn’t perform well in the following areas;

  • The council’s decision was unanimously taken, resulting in the failure of the league
  • The League’s covenant simply imposed restrictions instead of totally prohibiting wars.
  • America wasn’t a member of the League despite the effort of the then American president Wilson.
  • The League’s covenant clearly mentioned that any member of the League can exit if the covenant was no longer acceptable by members.
  • The League made a provision for members’ withdrawal. The League started with 62 members, after a while, it reduced to 32 due to this provision.
  • The League’s council were incompetent in terms of peacefully settling international disputes.
  • The league couldn’t prevail on great powers to stop attaching smaller countries.
  • There was discrimination between great powers and smaller countries.
  • The great power countries were always selfish and self-centered
  • The League didn’t live up to its responsibility of establishing peace



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