The League of Nations Facts for Kids

  • The League of Nations was a group of countries that met and wanted to keep the peace. 
  • It was the first organization like this. 
  • The League’s main goal was s to stop wars and disarmament by settling international disputes through negotiation.

The League of Nations was an international organization that tried to stop wars and settle disputes. It helped people talk to each other and try to find a solution.

Before the League of Nations

In 1865, countries first started to work together internationally. Countries wanted to cooperate about specific things, so they created international organizations. 

In 1874, the Universal Postal Union was established and in 1899 the International Peace Conference was held. They made rules about keeping the peace, settling disputes peacefully, and stopping wars from happening.

The Fourteen Points

In January 1918, US President Woodrow Wilson made the Fourteen Points. These points were a good way for countries to do things in peace with no military force.

They were for how the world should be after World War I. He believed that people should work together and not use military force to solve problems. He also wanted each country to choose its own way of life without interference from other countries. 

Woodrow Wilson wanted peace that was effective and lasting. He said his goals for the war in his Fourteen Points speech. 

He also wanted to make sure that the League of Nations was part of the treaty at the Paris Peace Conference. But he wasn’t able to get everything he wanted into the treaty, but it was still important because it would be able to fix some things in the future.

These ideas were influential in the founding of the League of Nations, which was a group that tried to stop future wars by limiting them with rules and agreements between nations.

The League of Nations is born

The League of Nations was created after the First World War to make sure that nothing like that would happen again. It is also called the League of Peace. 

The war was very complicated. The European alliance system played an important role. This system divided Europe into two groups made by treaties that said countries had to go to war when their allies went to war. 

After the war, American and European leaders met in Paris and made changes to how they would do things with other countries so it would not happen again.

US President Wilson wanted a lasting peace. 

Not all people shared Wilson’s opinion or the same priorities. To help make the institution of the League of Nations more popular, he went on a tour to Paris. 

Nevertheless, he didn’t sign the treaty because of the opposition he had at home. That way the US was never part of the League of Nations, though it helped to build it.

The Treaty of Versailles

The Treaty of Versailles was made at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919.

 The first part of the treaty is called the Covenant of the League of Nations.

The Covenant has three main objectives: 

  • to ensure collective security
  • to assure cooperation
  • to execute the mandates of peace treaties. 

The first 26 articles in the treaty were about how the League of Nations should work. For example, Article 10 said that each person who signed the treaty should care for any other person’s independence and territory.

The covenant stated rules for an international organization. There are rules about membership, admission and withdrawal, the nature and power of the Assembly and Council, procedures for appointing the Secretary-General and establishing their budget.

Headquarters

Geneva was a good place to put the headquarters of the League of Nations. This was because it is in between countries that don’t fight each other very often. Switzerland also is a neutral country

President Wilson wanted Geneva as the headquarters because he knew that Switzerland wasn’t involved with wars very often. 

The League of Nations had to move from London to Geneva, and they had meetings there too. They met in an office but also at a building called Palais Wilson.

Thirty-two countries did join the League of Nations. It was set up in 1920. 

The League of Nations met its first Council on January 16th, 1920. It had a General Assembly and an Executive Council. There were four permanent members and four non-permanent members.

But it had problems. Without the U.S., there were equal numbers of Central and Allied votes on its council, so it could not make decisions about disarmament, which was one of the most important parts of this organization.

In March 1926, the Extraordinary Assembly decided to hold an international architectural competition for the design of new buildings for the organization. On 7 September 1929, they laid a foundation stone for this building in Ariana Park.

Peace as a goal

The league had to respect other countries and not use military force to solve disputes. They wanted the use of peaceful ways. 

The league’s goal was to promote peace and security among nations. They did this by making sure countries cooperated, including making treaties for cooperation. 

In its first years, the League was successful in this goal.

One example was the conflict between Iraq and Turkey. The League was able to stop it without fighting. Another example was the dispute between Colombia and Peru. The League was able to help them come together peacefully by negotiating a settlement for their border dispute.

If states in dispute did not listen to the Assembly’s decision, the League could introduce economic sanctions. 

The purpose of this sanction was to make the country do as the League required. The logic was to push an aggressor nation towards bankruptcy so that people in that state would take out their anger on their government and force them to accept the League’s decision.

If the League failed, they could introduce physical sanctions. This means that they would use military force to do what the League wanted. But the League didn’t have a military force, like today’s United Nations does. So if a country defied the League, it was aware of this weakness and could not carry out any threats.

The League fails

One of the most important questions that the League of Nations dealt with was disarmament. The condition was that Germany would be the first country to reduce its weapons by a treaty. 

This became a big problem because they were not able to find an agreement on this question. It was discussed many times, but all their efforts failed in the end.

The League of Nations was made to keep countries safe from other countries. But it couldn’t do anything because members weren’t following what they said. 

For example, Japan and Germany left because they didn’t want the League to have control over them. And then in 1939, the League wasn’t able to stop countries from entering another world war.

The League tried to stop the Second World War from happening, but they couldn’t. They weren’t very powerful and many countries didn’t join them. So the war happened anyway.

But their other goal, to make international cooperation, did work. For example, they had meetings on health and social affairs, transportation and communications, economic and financial affairs as well as intellectual cooperation. 

The League of Nations dissolves

Although the League of Nations was not able to avoid World War II, it was able to achieve many other things. 

For example, there were a lot of conferences and meetings of experts in Geneva. Countries like Germany and Italy did not want to be part of the League anymore so that they could do what they wanted. This is also true for Japan. 

By 1939, more countries stopped being part of the League because they started fighting in WWII.

At the end of the war, many states were still in the League of Nations. But it was not working well. The United Nations agreed to take over all their belongings – like their buildings and grounds. They also took over their library and historical collections.

The United Nations

In 1945, there was a meeting in London to prepare for the United Nations. This was called the San Francisco Conference. 

They met again in 1946 and had their last assembly in Geneva which Lord Robert Cecil closed with a speech about how all their work wasn’t wasted because, without it, we wouldn’t have the United Nations today.

The League of Nations signed its final act on 18 April 1946. On that day, it handed over all of its assets to the United Nations and gave them control of the library and archives. 

All 43 countries in attendance voted unanimously that the League would no longer exist as of April 20, 1946.

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