A commitment to international cooperation as an essential path to world peace is deeply rooted in League history. Founded just after World War I, the League rejected a policy of isolationism as “neither wise nor possible for this nation.” The League’s commitment has taken many forms. Action to support free trade began during the Depression and support for aid to developing countries in the 1950s. As World War II ended, the League launched a nationwide campaign to build public understanding of the agreements setting up the United Nations and was proud to be one of the nongovernmental organizations first affiliated with the UN, a relationship that continues to this day.
In the 1960s, the League played an important role in educating citizens and creating the climate for normalization of U.S. relations with the People’s Republic of China. Also in the 1960s, after a reappraisal of trade policy, the League took action to reduce trade barriers while supporting assistance for economic adjustment in the United States. Throughout the 1970s, the League was active on trade issues, working for the history-making multilateral process that built a new structure for international trade.
In the 1980s, positions on Arms Control and on Military Policy and Defense Spending added new dimensions to the League’s international relations efforts. With these positions, the League supported international negotiations and agreements to reduce the risk of war and prevent the development and deployment of nuclear weapons, and worked against the costly, technologically suspect and destabilizing national missile defense program.
Adoption of a U.S. Relations with Developing Countries position in 1986 provided further definition to the League’s efforts to promote peace, with special emphasis on human rights, sound management of natural resources and economic development.
In the 1990s, the League launched training and education projects to build political participation in emerging democracies. Beginning in nations from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union and extending to Africa and the Americas, the League experience has proved invaluable in developing the potential for citizen participation and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in democratic systems, especially for women leaders.
In the 2000s, the League expanded its “global democracy” program and updated its positions on the United Nations and International Trade. The League continued its strong support for the United Nations, added its support for the International Criminal Court and endorsed enhanced peace operations. The League reiterated its support for measures to expand international trade, while recognizing the importance of protecting environmental, labor and political values.