University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > International Relations & History Working Group > "Leveraging 'Publicness' at the League of Nations: The Minority Question and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom"

"Leveraging 'Publicness' at the League of Nations: The Minority Question and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom"

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The larger research project and monograph of which this paper is a part traces advocacy conducted by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom [WILPF] at the League of Nations from 1919-1937 and develops a conceptual framework, ‘international publics’, as a means to illuminate alternative forms of power than those conventionally studied in International Relations. A critical issue of international concern following on from the Paris peace settlement was League oversight of the Minorities Treaties signed by the succession states of Central and Eastern Europe. A study of WILPF ’s transnational advocacy on the minorities question elucidates relationships between publicness, power and legitimacy in international relations as well as possibility within the League of Nations for opening out roles for women in the affairs of states on the cusp of women’s enfranchisement. This paper examines how WILPF , a marginalized actor as a woman’s international peace organization, leveraged power and influenced policy outcomes through holding the League of Nations to account on the principle of publicness it professed for its management of international relations. In the rhetoric and action of WILPF , publicness was shaped into a radical form of democratic intent that challenged this new organization of sovereign states to make matters of international concern, the League of Nations’ purview, into ones of human concern.

The paper takes an historical approach and will define the conceptual tools of international publics and publicness used to frame the empirical evidence discussed. The structure and aims of WILPF as an organization, its activity to influence the League Council, Assembly and Secretariat will be assessed, as will its own programmatic activity to fill gaps in League minorities policy identified by the WILPF , which it believed itself to be uniquely positioned to act upon. Conclusions will be drawn as to the nature and effectiveness of WILPF as a transnational actor, identifying what influence, if any, WILPF ’s trading in the norm of publicness garnered in either the talk forum of the League, in the lobbying of national governments or working with like-minded private international organization in relation to the complex interwar minorities issues across Europe.

This talk is part of the International Relations & History Working Group series.

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