The League of Nations and its work on social issues

The League of Nations and its work on social issues

Blandine Blukacz-Louisfert, UNOG Library and Archives, Geneva / Magaly Rodríguez García, Vrije Universiteit Brussel / Elife Biçer-Deveci and Edith Siegenthaler, SNF-Project: „A Human Rights Turn in International Gender Politics in the Inter-War Period? Human Rights, Women’s Movement and the League of Nations", Universität Bern
United Nations Office
From - Until
31.10.2013 - 01.11.2013
Palmieri, Daniel

This symposium will focus on the League of Nations efforts on social issues, which deserve more scholarly attention in spite of the recent publications on international crime and human trafficking for prostitution. In the post-war historiography, the political failure of the League was predominant but in recent works, its contribution to ‘peacekeeping’, to sovereignty issues and in dealing with social questions have become more visible.

The symposium will go beyond the work of the Social Section of the League and will analyze the organization’s global effort on social issues from two different perspectives: the League’s internal work on social affairs, and the national implementations of its proposals. Papers presented will hence deal with initiatives against sexual trafficking, with the promotion of child welfare, and with other social questions such as health, slavery, refugees, drug trade and intellectual cooperation.

Labour issues will not be included in this symposium as being the competence of the powerful and quasiindependent International Labour Organization (ILO). However, related social issues such as forced labour, overlapping with the work of the ILO, will be included
in the programme.

Papers will enter in one or more of the following sections:

Section I The League’s initiatives around social issues
This section will analyze the League’s work on social issues focusing first on the interactions, conflicts and alliances between the actors involved and their relations with the Assembly, the Council and the Permanent Secretariat. Secondly, it will study the debates and activities of the various bodies of the League working on social issues: the Advisory Committee on the Traffic in Women and Children, the Child Welfare Committee, the Health Organisation, the Advisory Committee on Opium and other Dangerous Drugs, the Slavery Commissions, the Commission for Refugees, and the Committee on Intellectual Cooperation. The ideologies such as humanitarianism, feminism, abolitionism, regulation, prohibitionism, nationalism, class, as well as the gender dynamics between male and female representatives will also receive attention.

Section II The League’s impact within global-local relationships
This section will deal with the implementation of the League’s proposals on social issues in national and/or local settings. Research works will help understand the interplay between state and nonstate actors in the shaping, implementation, or opposition to reforms proposed by supranational institutions. This section will focus on the developments in individual states to gauge the impact of the Geneva-based organization on national and local social policies and vice-versa.

Individual presentations will last 15 minutes and will be followed by general discussions.

Registration People wishing to attend the symposium are requested
to register by e-mail at:

Papers will be available to the symposium participants:


31 October

09:40 – 09:50
Welcoming remarks: Blandine Blukacz-Louisfert (Institutional Memory Section, Library of the United Nations Office at Geneva)

09:50 – 10:15
Introduction: Magaly Rodríguez García (Vrije Universiteit Brussel & Université Libre de Bruxelles)

10:15 – 12:00
Section I: The League’s initiatives around social issues

Panel 1: Interactions and power relations
Chair: Paul Knepper
Martyn Housden (Bradford University): Did the League of Nations fail to protect Europe's national minorities adequately? A discussion of the 1920s
Socrates Litsios (WHO, Baulmes): Medical Education in China - a Contentious LNHO Report
Hussein Alkhazragi (Graduate Institute Geneva): 'The best experts of the world': Social issues in Middle-Eastern countries and the League of Nations
Erik Koenen, Stephanie Seul and Stefanie Averbeck-Lietz (Universität Bremen): Mobilising public support for social issues: the League of Nations and the transnationalisation of journalism

13:30 – 15:00
Section I: The League’s initiatives around social issues
Panel 2: Refugees
Chair: Elife Biçer-Deveci
Hazuki Tate (Graduate Institute Geneva): Le rapatriement des prisonniers de guerre à l'initiative de la SDN: ses premiers efforts humanitaires et les difficultés rencontrés (1920-1922)
Elizabeth White (University of the West of England): A category 'easy to liquidate'? The League of Nations and Russian Refugee Children in Europe in the 1920s
Edita Gzoyan (Genocide Museum Yerevan): Humanitarian Action of the League of Nations to Rescue the Armenian Refugees

15:30 – 17:15
Section I: The League’s initiatives around social issues
Panel 3: Trafficking, health and children
Chair: Magaly Rodríguez García
Paul Knepper (Sheffield, UK): The facts of human trafficking: Social science, legal process and the League of Nations
Edith Siegenthaler (Universität Bern): Mental Deficiency as a Condition of Prostitution?
Tomoko Akami (Australian National University): Humanitarian and imperial at the same time? Welfare liberalism of the League of Nations' public health initiatives in Asia
Joelle Droux (Université de Genève): L'enfance en causes: le Comité de Protection de l'Enfance de la SDN et la fabrication international des politiques publiques de l'enfance (1925-1939)

1 November
Section I: The League’s initiatives around social issues
Panel 4: Culture and women’s issues
Chair: Edith Siegenthaler
Marie Caillot (Université de Genève): The League of Nations and the development of the notion of "educational museums": The International Museums Office (IMO)'s work (1927-1946)
Vittorio Mainetti (University of Geneva): La Société des Nations et la création d'un système de coopération culturelle internationale
Jaci Eisenberg (Graduate Institute Geneva): The status of women and the League of Nations: from the unrealized story of a women's bureau for the League of Nations to the Commission to Study the Legal Status of Women
Gyoung Sun Jang (Worcester, MA): Women and the Interwar Era Global Governance: the League of Nations and the Institutional Turn of "social questions"

11:00 – 12:30
Section II: The League’s impact within global-local relationships
Panel 5: Near and Middle East
Chair: Martyn Housden
Tutku Vardagli (Istanbul Aydin University): Turkish Experience with the League of Nations: Bridging anti-Imperialist and International Discourses over the Refugee Issue
Liat Kozma (Hebrew University, Jerusalem): Regulation of prostitution in the Middle East and North Africa: Between the Advisory Committee on Traffic in Women and the Permanent Mandate Commission
Philippe Bourmaud (Université de Lyon): Conflicting values? Syrian and Lebanese societies and the uprooting of haschisch in the French mandates of the Levant (1925-1939)

14:00 – 15:45 Section II: The League’s impact within global-local relationships
Panel 6: Colonialism and imperialism
Chair: Liat Kozma
Caio Simones Araujo (Graduate Institute Geneva): The League of Nations, Colonialism and the Quest for Racial Equality
Andreas Vourtsis and Sylvia Haralambous (University of Athens): The hidden agenda of biopolitics in interwar Greece: French and American interests on public health issues and the League of Nations Health Organization
Caroline Authaler (Universität Heidelberg): Negotiating social progress: British administrators, German planters and African workers in the British mandated territory of Cameroon, 1925-1941

16:00 – 17:00 General conclusions & discussion: Sandrine Kott (Université de Genève), Moderation: Magaly Rodríguez García

Contact (announcement)

Editors Information
Published on
Temporal Classification
Regional Classification
Additional Informations
Country Event
Language(s) of event
English, French
Language of announcement