GCSE Modern History/Structure of the League

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Aims of the League[edit]

The League had four main aims that were defined in its charter:

  • To encourage nations to disarm.
  • To discourage aggression from any nation.
  • To improve the living and working conditions of people in all parts of the world.
  • To encourage countries to co-operate, especially in business and trade.

Membership of the League[edit]

The League was supposed to be a representative world body but in reality many countries weren't part of it. Germany, for example, wasn't invited until several years after the League had been founded.

The USA[edit]

The USA, the most powerful country at the time, was never a part of the League. Some of the reasons for this were:

  • They were worried about having to stop trade because of trade sanctions.
  • The American public disliked the Treaty of Versailles.
  • They did not want to get involved in another horrible war like the First World War.
  • Americans did not want to have to defend Britain and France's empires.

However, the USA observed what was going on in the League. There was also always an American judge in the International Court of Justice.

The structure[edit]

The League was made up of a number of parts.

The Secretariat[edit]

This dealt with the administrative work of the League. It kept records of meetings, prepared reports, translated speeches, etc.

The Council[edit]

This was a small group, made up of about a dozen countries (the exact figure varied throughout the League's history). There were two types of members:

  • Permanent members stayed permanently. Initially these were Britain, France, Italy and Japan. These countries could vote on any decision they chose.
  • Temporary members were elected by the Assembly on three-year terms.

The Council was the part of the League intended to sort out disputes between countries. If sorting out matters by discussion did not work, the Council had these powers:

  • Moral condemnation: They could condemn the aggressor and tell it to stop what it was doing.
  • Economic sanctions: They could make members of the League stop trading with the aggressor.
  • Military force: They could use the armed forces of member countries, however the League had no armed forces of its own.

The Assembly[edit]

This was the League's parliament. Every country that was part of the League was represented in it. It could recommend action to the Council and vote on:

  • Adding members to the League.
  • Appointing the temporary members of the Council.
  • The budget of the League.
  • Putting forward ideas to the Council.

The Assembly had a number of problems. Firstly, it had very little power, and could do much because it only met once a year. Another problem was that decisions had to be unanimous - everyone had to agree. This made it very difficult to reach a decision.

The Permanent Court of International Justice[edit]

This part of the League, based in The Hague in the Netherlands, was made up of judges from various countries. The Court ruled on border disputes and gave legal advice to the Assembly and Council. However, it had no way of ensuring that countries followed its rulings.