From League of Nations to United Nations – Transition

At the end of the war, 43 States were still Members of the League of Nations, though for all intents and purposes it had ceased to exist. However, the formal termination of the organization was necessary. A final and official disposition had to be taken concerning the transfer of the League of Nations’ properties to the United Nations: its concrete assets in the form of its buildings and grounds, its Library, and last but certainly not least, its archives and historical collections.

The Preparatory Commission set up at the San Francisco UNCIO conference, met in London with the Supervisory Commission of the League of Nations in order to do this. At the initiative of the British Foreign Office, the last Assembly of the League (the twenty-first) was held in Geneva on 8 Apr 1946. In his final speech, Lord Robert Cecil, one of the League of Nations’ founders, proclaimed that the efforts of those who had established the League of Nations were not lost, because without them the new international organization, the United Nations, could not exist. Lord Cecil closed the Assembly with the words: “The League is dead, long live the United Nations!”

The final act of transfer was signed in Geneva on 18 Apr 1946 by Sean Lester, the last Secretary-General of the League of Nations, and Wlodzimierz Moderow, the representative of the United Nations.

Thus, having handed over all of its assets to the United Nations, and having granted the new UN Secretariat full control of the League’s Library and archives, the 43 Members attending this last Assembly declared by unanimous vote that as of 20 Apr 1946, the League of Nations would cease to exist.

Ratification of the UN Charter

Under Article 110, the Charter of the United Nations, together with the Statute of the International Court of Justice, was to come into force upon the deposit with the Government of the United States of ratifications by China, France, the U.S.S.R., the United Kingdom, the United States, and by a majority of the other signatory States.On October 24, 1945, the Charter came into force when the five permanent members of the Security Council and 24 other signatory States had deposited their ratifications with the Government of the United States. On that data the United States Secretary of State, James F. Byrnes, signed a Protocol of Deposit of Ratifications.

Signing of the UN Charter

At the final plenary session of the San Francisco Conference on June 25, 1945, the Charter of the United Nations was unanimously approved, the heads of the 50 delegations standing to mark their vote in favor. President Harry S. Truman attended this final session in person and addressed the Conference on the conclusion of its historic task. He congratulated the delegates of all 50 nations upon having produced a solid structure on which could be built a better world.On the following day the signing ceremony took place in the Veterans War Memorial Building at San Francisco. China, in recognition of its long-standing fight against aggression, was accorded the honor of being the first to sign. It was arranged that the signatures of the U.S.S.R., the United Kingdom and France should follow, and then, in alphabetical order, the remaining nations, with the United States, as host country, signing last. As each delegation came forward to sign, its chairman made an official speech to commemorate his country’s participation in the work of the Conference.  The Charter and Statute of the International Court of Justice (in all official languages with signature pages).

Preparatory Commission of the United Nations

On June 26, 1945, when the delegates to the San Francisco Conference signed the Charter of the United Nations, they affixed their signatures at the same time to an agreement on Interim Arrangements. This agreement established a Preparatory Commission of the United Nations for the purpose of making provisional arrangements for the first sessions of the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council and the Trusteeship Council, for the establishment of the Secretariat, and for the convening of the International Court of Justice. 

United Nations Conference on International Organization

The United Nations Conference on International Organization (UNCIO) was a convention of delegates from 50 Allied nations of World War II that took place from April 25 through June 26, 1945 in San Francisco. It was at this conference that the delegates reviewed and rewrote the Dumbarton Oaks agreements resulting in the creation of the United Nations Charter which was opened for signature on June 26.

Documents from the Conference