Sub-Fonds - Communications and Transit Section

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Communications and Transit Section


  • 1919-1946 (Creation)

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The Communications and Transit Section, also called Transit Section was the Secretariat of the "Communications and Transit Organisation" of the League of Nations. Its work was mainly technical not economic. This Organization was better structured and more autonomous than the other technical organizations.

Even before the onset of the First World War, the necessity of instituting a unified communications and transit organization had already been established. The League of Nations was, moreover, explicitly entrusted with a variety of duties in the matter of communications and transit by the Treaties of Peace, such as: international road traffic, rail transport and inland navigation, ports and maritime navigation, unification of road signals and maritime signals, simplification of passports and visa procedures, transmission of electric power across national frontiers, etc.

The "Communications and Transit Organisation" worked through the Advisory and Technical Committee, established by the first General Conference on Communications and Transit held in Barcelona in 1921 and was made up of four components:

  • a) the Committee for Communications and Transit (or Advisory and Technical Committee), which work was to study different communication and transit technical problems, to assist the Assembly and the Council, to ascertain progress made with the ratification of Conventions, to undertake the task of conciliation and enquiry in certain disputes, etc.

  • b) permanent or temporary committees on Air Navigation, Electric Power, Transport by Rail, Inland Navigation, Maritime Ports and Navigation, Road Traffic, legal questions;

  • c) conferences;

  • d) and a permanent secretariat, the Communications and Transit Section, provided by the Secretary-General of the League of Nations.

The Communications and Transit Section's task was, primarily, one of legislation, Article 23 (e) of the Covenant having made it incumbent upon Members of the League of Nations, to "make provision to secure and maintain freedom of communications and transit". On this principle, which was designed to promote intercourse and trade between countries separated from each other by other States, the League of Nations had to build up a body of international law recognized by all States alike, and ruling out all possibility of discrimination against any one of them. This was the work of the first two General Conferences on Communications and Transit, held in Barcelona in 1921 and Geneva in 1923 in order to conclude the Conventions on the International Regime of Maritime Ports and Railways. The purpose of the 1930 Lisbon Conference was to reach agreements on the unification of maritime signals; in 1931, a Convention on the Unification of Road Signals was drawn up.

In addition to this fundamental work of legislation and codification, the Communications and Transit Section did its utmost to simplify administrative formalities, such as passport and visa procedures, in respect of international communications, and to introduce something like order into the heterogeneous mass of regulations more or less empirically introduced by the various countries. This lack of uniformity was a constant source of additional expense and delay in both passenger and goods traffic.

The "Communications and Transit Organisation's" most important constituent body, the Advisory and Technical Committee for Communications and Transit, acted as a mediator between States disagreeing on the interpretation or application of those instruments. Its functions were the same in the case of disputes regarding the interpretation and application of the communications clauses of the Peace Treaties of 1919-1920. States could also of their own accord apply to the Committee for an advisory opinion on any dispute with which it was competent to deal.

In 1939, the Communications and Transit Section was merged into the Economic and Financial Section, that formed Department II, which was transferred for most of its activities to Princeton.

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      Related units of description

      • Secretariat Fonds: Economic and Financial Section, Administrative Commissions Section (about the Danzig port), Political Section (Memel), Legal Section and the general sections of the Registry;

      • External Fonds: commission files of Princeton;

      • Collections of Conventions, Ratifications and other Diplomatic Instruments;

      • Private Fonds: see Loveday's files;

      • In or out of Geneva, see the archives of some specialized international bureaux.

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      Protection period to: 1986-12-31

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          Protection period duration: 40

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