The League of Nations – Success of International Labour Organisation and Refugee Commission

The Permanent Court of International Justice and International Labour Organisation were two agencies that were as powerful as the League of Nations. Though it was formed after the provisions made for it in the Treaty of Versailles they functioned as independent bodies. There were many commissions and committees formed by the League of which the Refugee Commission was the most effective.

International Labour Organisation

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) had a model to be followed. This was the International Association for Labour Legislation which was founded in 1900. This Legislation was very idealistic with right to decent work and social justice as its main agenda. After the Paris Peace Pact, the ILO wrote its constitution between January and April1919. The provisions made had political and diplomatic compromises and there was a balance between pragmatism and idealism. The ILO had representatives from the member nations, from the working class and from the employers. This facilitated a better understanding of the total picture of labour issues. Some of the provisions made then stand good to this day, and that is the success of the ILO.

  • Regulation in the working hours including the number of days in a week.
  • Regulation of wages, prevention of unemployment and labour supply.
  • Protecting workers from disease, injury and sickness.
  • Protection of women and young men.
  • Protection of the interests of workers working in foreign nations.
  • Provisions made for the injured and during old age.
  • Work of equal value to receive equal wages.
  • Organisations for giving technical and vocational training.

The International Labour Organisation was the only body of the League which continued to function during World War II and then was the first agency to be adapted to the UNO to continue with the good work.

Refugee Commission

The Russian Revolution of 1917 saw many refugees and settling them was a massive job. Added to this in 1920 there were half a million prisoners of war waiting to be repatriated. The task at hand was enormous. The Council of the League of Nations requested Fridtjof Nansen, the famous explorer from Norway, and the High Commission for Refugees to find a solution. The High Commission was established on June 27th, 1921.  In less than two years Nansen managed to repatriate almost 427,000 prisoners of war in to as many as 26 countries.

Initially the High Commission gave material help as well as political and legal protection to the refugees. In 1924 ILO took the responsibility and carried it on five years. After five years the High Commission resumed its role once again. The umbrella of the Refugee Commission spread to Assyro-Chaldeans, Assyrians and Turkish refugees. After the death of Nansen in May 1930, an autonomous body of the League was formed called the Nansen International Office for Refugees, and they gave material assistance.

The work done by the Nansen Office includes the following.

  • Fourteen countries were adopted in 1933.
  • A charter for human rights.
  • Saar refugees settled in Paraguay after 1935.
  • Villages were constructed to house more than 40,000 Armenians in Lebanon and Syria.
  • 10,000 settled in Erivan.
  • All these repatriated refugees got material, financial and legal help.
  • German refugees became acute in 1933 who were settled as well.

The High Commission was dissolved on December 31st 1938 and along with this, the Nansen office was also dissolved. In the span of few years the Refugee Commission had repatriated many thousands of people most effectively.

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