26 Feb

Brief History of First International Organizations

There is a perception that international organizations are a twentieth-century phenomenon. The League of Nations was one of the first such organizations. It was founded in 1919.

However, certain organizations existed even in the nineteenth century. Those organizations mostly dealt with specific issues such as communications. For example, the International Telecommunication Union was created in 1865. The Universal Postal Union was founded in 1874.

Today both of these unions fall under the umbrella of the United Nations system of organizations.

The International Peace Conference was held in the Hague in 1899. The Permanent Court of Arbitration was established during the conference and started its work in 1902. This court was a predecessor for the Court of Justice of the United Nations. The Permanent Court of Arbitration was the first organization that had a goal of settling disputes between countries. World War I showed the drawbacks of this system.

The idea of the League of Nations was introduced by the US President Woodrow Wilson during one of the bloodiest periods in the history of Europe. Almost twenty million people died in Europe between 1914 and 1918, which is one of the reasons why Wilson’s idea has such a wide support. Many people thought that an international organization that could settle disputes before they turned into wars was the answer. In 1919 Wilson was the chair of the commission of the Versailles Peace Conference on the establishment of such an entity.

One of the biggest blows to the organization happened when the United States Senate voted not to ratify the Versailles Treaty. The United States never became a member of the League, which left the organization permanently handicapped.

The League moved its operations to Switzerland in 1920 and operated with a limited success in the 1920s.

France and Great Britain dominated the organization. There were twenty-eight founding countries, mostly from Europe and Latin America.