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International Conferences Overview

The creation of the League of Nations as an organization to promote world peace and security sometimes required special dialogue between nations to settle interstate disputes and to address global issues.  Some problems could not easily be settled through the League's bureaucracy and states chose to participate in a conference setting to ameliorate these issues.  As a result, the League sponsored a wide range of conferences which focused on political, security, economic, social, health, and education issues from 1920 to 1946.  These conferences often led to treaties, conventions, and protocols, which formed a body of international law to promote pacific relations between members.  Simultaneously, governments often conducted numerous conferences outside of the official scope of the League which affected the organization's mission and success.

International conferences during the League of Nations' existence can be divided into four major phases.  The Period of Settlement (1918-1924) began with President Woodrow Wilson's proclamation of the Fourteen Points as the basis for a peace plan to end the First World War.  This period included the peace settlements between the Allies and Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkey and the territorial redivision of Europe, Africa, and Asia.  The German adoption of the Dawes Plan and reparations payments marked the establishment of a global status quo.  The Period of Fulfillment (1924-1930) represented the high water mark of the League of Nations as member states worked to achieve security and economic cooperation as the best means to avoid war and improve global welfare.  The Locarno Conference, the admission of Germany and the Soviet Union into the League, the international economic conferences, the Young Plan, and numerous disarmament conferences contributed to a new sense of cooperation and collaboration between League member states.  The Allied evacuation of the Rhineland and the onset of the global depression marked the end of this phase of inter-war relations.  The Period of Repudiation and Revision (1931-1939) exposed the weaknesses of the League of Nations as an institution which could address global economic problems and the revisionist demands of the authoritarian states.  The spread of the Great Depression from the United States to Europe resulted in the collapse of major banks and the evaporation of international liquidity.  The Germans could no longer meet their reparations payments while the Allies defaulted on their war debts.  Countries rejected free trade economics and imposed neo-mercantilist economic policies to jump start their economies, a process which undermined world trade. The economic crisis led to the rise of Fascist governments across Europe and Asia which repudiated the post-World War I peace treaties and sought to revise the international system.  Heightened tensions resulted in the collapse of disarmament regimes and the revival of arms races.  The Versailles system finally collapsed with the German invasion of Poland in 1939, although the system had already disintegrated in Africa and the Far East.  The Period of Total War and Reorganization (1939-1946) acknowledged the demise of the League of Nations and the search for a new world order.  The Allied and Axis powers became locked in a global war for dominance of the post-World War II world.  President Franklin Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill outlined the Allies' war aims in the Atlantic Charter and the Allies formed the United Nations to confront the Axis threat.  Through a series of wartime conferences, the Allied powers planned a new international economic system and an enhanced security system which became embodied in the United Nations Organization.  The San Francisco Conference of 1945 marked the birth of this new international organization and the remaining member states of the League of Nations officially ended operations in April 1946.

In this section, information about conferences includes dates, locations, a brief summary of the issues, and a listing of the type of conference.  League of Nations sponsored conferences are identified by the abbreviation LON; general conferences outside the scope of the League are listed as General; conferences sponsored by the International Labor Organization are designated by ILO/BIT; and conferences associated with the formation of the United Nations Organization are specified as UN.  For specific information about the issues discussed and the governments involved in the conferences listed in this section, please refer to the League of Nations Time Line section.

Conference Data



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League of Nations Archives, Palais des Nations, CH-1211, Geneva 10, Switzerland
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Last updated:  October, 2002 -  Send Comments to:
Blandine Blukacz-Louisfert, Chief, UNOG Registry, Records and Archives Unit, United Nations