What was the role of the League’s Commissions?

Background Information

Overall the League was very successful at improving people’s lives and jobs during the 1920s.

These activities tended to be carried out by the League’s Commissions, showing that this area of the structure worked particularly well. The work of the League which successfully highlighted social problems on a global scale and made positive steps towards eradicating diseases such as leprosy and their work in relocating refugees had never been achieved before by any organisation.

What was the role of the League’s Commissions?, figure 1

This is a photograph of the Malaria Commission, as part of the broader Health Commission. It was a group of top scientists, researchers, and politicians to help combat the problem of malaria.

The Main Commissions

  1. International Labour Organisation (ILO)
  2. The Commission for Refugees
  3. The Slavery Commission
  4. The Economic and Financial Commission
  5. The Permanent Central Opium Board
  6. The Organisation for Communications and Transport
  7. The Health Committee

You should learn three in detail – here are four to choose from.

The International Labour Organisation

Aims

To bring workers, employers and governments together to improve working conditions.

What was the role of the League’s Commissions?, figure 1

Factories in the 1920s often had poor working conditions, with very few countries having laws to regulate work and pay. The ILO aimed to fix that, and continues to work on these issues today.

Successes:

  1. 1922 – recommended banning the use of white lead in paint as it was poisonous
  2. 1930__ – __helped Greece set up social insurance, that would help people if they were unable to work due to an illness.
  3. 1928 – 77 countries agreed to set up a minimum wage.
  4. In Tanganyika, Africa, slave labour was being used to build a new railway, but conditions were so bad that 50% of workers died. The League challenged this and reduced the death rate to 4%.

Failures:

  1. 1919__ __– tried to stop children under the age of 14 from working; however, this suggestion was not adopted by most members as they worried it would cost too much money.
  2. 1935 – tried to get the working day limited to eight hours; however, only four of the entire Assembly voted for this to pass. Again, members were worried that it would cost too much.

The Permanent Central Opium Board

Aims

  1. To control and eventually stop the growing and manufacturing of opium (a serious and highly addictive drug at the time).

What was the role of the League’s Commissions?, figure 1

Many opioids are drawn from the flower of the poppy, shown above. Opioids have been a problem through much of modern history, causing wars in many areas of the world. They remain a significant challenge today, but many of the worst abuse was brought under control by the League’s Commissions.

Successes:

  1. Made the system for companies handling opium products stricter, allowing for more control and less abuse.
  2. Blacklisted and greatly restricted four large companies which were involved in opium manufacturing or distribution.
  3. Was so successful with opioids, that the Board was expanded to also handle other types of drugs in 1925.

Failures:

  1. Some member states of the League prevented the Board from having full access within their countries, as they made a lot of money from the opioid trade.

The Commission for Refugees

Aims

  1. To get prisoners of war home, and support refugees by improving their living conditions.

What was the role of the League’s Commissions?, figure 1

This map shows the changes and movement in Greek territory, which you can see was highly unstable. This resulted in a conflict in the early 1920s, which created large numbers of refugees for the Commission for Refugees to rehouse.

Successes:

  1. 1921 – the League freed over 400’000 out of 500’000 prisoners of war still captive from the First World War, and got them home.
  2. 1921 – helped 1.5 million refugees from the Russian Revolution resettle in Europe.
  3. 1922 __helped 600’000 Greek refugees fleeing from Turkey after a clash in __1922. Set up cleaner camps and provided doctors to deal with significant cholera outbreaks.

Failures:

  1. 1933 – the League was unable to appoint a High Commissioner for Refugees, mainly Jewish, fleeing from Germany. Germany blocked this with their veto on the Council.

An Overview

  1. The League did use its special commissions successfully to tackle economic and social issues
  2. International Labour Organisation was able to persuade members to introduce a minimum wage and limits on working hours. It also helped Greece set up social insurance to help unemployed, ill people. However, it didn’t manage to stop children under the age of 14 from working
  3. The Commission for Refugees helped to resettle millions of refugees who had fled their homes during WW1 and sent over 500,000 prisoners of war back home.
  4. The Slavery Commission although unable to ban slavery completely, did manage to set 200,000 slaves in Sierra Leone free
  5. The Health Committee__ __worked to combat the spread of serious diseases such as malaria, leprosy and plague. This committee was renamed the World Health Organisation which still exists today

The Health Committee

Aims

  1. To improve the health of people around the world, along with their healthcare systems, and eliminate the spread of deadly diseases.

Successes:

  1. Made significant progress in killing a breed of mosquito which spread yellow fever and malaria, almost eliminating it from Europe by the 1930s.
  2. Helped the Russian government radically reduce typhoid, and educate the Russian people about it.
  3. Coordinated with the refugee committee to provide the doctors for camps in the Greek-Turkey clash.
  4. Was so successful that it was the first U.N. agency founded, renamed as the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Failures:

  1. Due to cooperation issues, and the priorities of the council, focussed more on European diseases.

Define the following terms:

ILO
Your answer should include: International Labour Organisation / working / conditions
Commission for Refugees
Your answer should include: war prisoners / home / support / refugees
The Permanent Central Opium Board
Your answer should include: control / stop / growing / manufacturing / opium
The Health Committee
Your answer should include: improve / healthcare / eliminate / deadly diseases