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        The League of Nations consisted of an Assembly and a Council both assisted by a Permanent Secretariat, which was the technical organ of the League of Nations. Appointed and headed by the Secretary-General, the Secretariat was set up in Geneva, at the seat of the League of Nations, first in the Palais Wilson and later in the Palais des Nations.

        The Permanent Secretariat represented the civil service of the League of Nations and was, in practice, the only direct producer of archives. These owe their origin to actions taken by the Assembly, the Council, the various commissions, committees and specialized bodies, as well as to the work of the Secretariat. The latter was the servant of these various entities and was itself responsible for administering certain matters.

        The Permanent Secretariat was the executive organ of the League of Nations in charge of:

        • assisting the Assembly and the Council, as well as their committees and commissions, and conferences, in the preparation of their work and the implementation of their decisions, resolutions and all official acts, as well as in the participation of surveys on technical subjects;

        • carrying out administrative and financial work;

        • the registration and publication of the Treaties ratified between Member States;

        • material and technical work, such as translation of speeches, discussions and documents, writing and reproduction of minutes, reports, distribution and mailing of documents;

        • documentation (statistical collection, information documents, studies on various subjects, etc.);

        • dissemination of information: especially to inform the staff through press releases and peoples throughout the world about actions taken by the League of Nations. This was accomplished through the production of books, pamphlets, periodical publications, press and radio broadcasts.

        The staff of the Secretariat:

        The work of the different Sections of the Secretariat was done by international officials, who enjoyed diplomatic privileges and immunities and were expected to remain neutral towards their own governments. In 1920, the staff counted 158 civil servants and in 1931 there were 707 civil servants.

        Administratively, the Secretariat consisted of the offices of the Secretary-general, the Deputy Secretaries-general and Under-Secretaries-general, various sections and administrative services, auxiliary offices in different countries, and a library.

        Three Secretaries-general were successively at the head of the Secretariat:

        • Eric Drummond (1919-1932)
        • Joseph Avenol (1933-1940)
        • Sean Lester (1940-1946).

        The fonds of the Secretariat:

        The fonds of the Secretariat should be considered as a whole. The different sections used in the "Répertoire général" of 1969 were set up to better understand the work of the Secretariat.

        From 1920 to 1939, the classification system of the different sections of the League of Nations Secretariat remained more or less the same. However, a major change occurred in 1939-1940, when the different sections and services of the League of Nations Secretariat were merged into three departments:

        • Department I (or Department of General Affairs) included the former Political Section, Minorities Section, Mandates Section, Disarmament Section and Intellectual Cooperation and International Bureaux Section. The latter section was transferred to Department III in 1940;

        • Department II was composed of the Economic and Financial Section as well as the Transit Section;

        • Department III included the former Health, Social Questions and Opium Traffic Sections and also the Intellectual Cooperation and International Bureaux Section that was transferred, in 1940, from Department I to this Department.

        Each department was headed by a Director.


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