Read this article to learn about the meetings and conferences taken place during second World War by the allied powers!
A number of meetings and conferences took place during the war to discuss common strategies for pursuing the war and to arrive at agreements on the aims for which they were fighting the war.
Some of these meetings and conferences were attended by many countries.
However, the most important decisions were taken by the leaders of the three main Allied Powers—Churchill of Britain, Stalin of the Soviet Union and Roosevelt (till his death on 12 April 1945 and subsequently his successor Truman) of the United States.
The Atlantic Charter issued by Churchill and Roosevelt in August 1941 has already been mentioned. The Soviet Union became a party to this Charter soon after it was issued. On 1 January 1942, representatives of 26 countries issued the Declaration of the United Nations. With this declaration, the antifascist Allied Coalition, which had already come into being, was formally constituted.
The signatories to this declaration pledged themselves to make every effort to defeat the common enemy and cooperate with one another for the purpose. They also agreed not to hold separate talks with the enemy countries or conclude separate truce or peace treaties with them.
A major development took place in January 1943 when Roosevelt and Churchill met at Casablanca on the Atlantic coast of Morocco. There had been some differences within Britain and the US and between the two countries regarding the terms of armistice to be offered to the fascist powers.
Roosevelt put an end to these controversies by demanding “unconditional surrender” by the fascist powers. This became the standpoint of all Allied nations, or what were now called the United Nations.
The anti-fascist coalition was further consolidated at the meeting of the foreign ministers of Britain, the Soviet Union and USA held in Moscow from 19 to 30 October 1943. The main purpose of the meeting was to prepare for the forthcoming summit meeting.
At this meeting, the question of opening the Second Front was discussed and declarations were adopted on Italy and Austria. It was decided to set up Advisory Councils to discuss various questions relating to European states, including the terms of surrender of the fascist states and their allies.
The meeting also issued a Four Nation Declaration (the fourth nation being China) which called for the establishment “at the earliest possible date” of “a general international organization, based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all nations, and open to membership by all nations, large and small, for the maintenance of international peace and security”. This Declaration may be said to mark the beginning of the United Nations Charter.
On 1 December 1943, the Cairo Declaration signed by the representatives of Britain, USA and China was issued. This Declaration was mainly concerned with Japan and the countries occupied by her.
It called for Japan’s unconditional surrender and return by her of all conquests made after 1894. Surprisingly, this Declaration made no reference to the principle of self-determination by the peoples of European colonies in Asia which had come under Japanese occupation.
The first summit meeting of the three Allied powers was held at Teheran, in Iran, from 28 November to 2 December 1943. The meeting was attended by Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt. By this time, the Soviet Union had emerged as the decisive factor in the war in Europe.
At this meeting, Churchill and Roosevelt agreed to the landing of a million Anglo-American troops in France in May 1944— the long-awaited Second Front. The Soviet Union agreed to join the war against Japan once Germany was defeated.
The question of Poland’s post-war frontiers was also discussed at this meeting. When the Polish government in London did not agree to the terms on which there was broad consensus at the Teheran meeting, a Polish National Council dominated by communists was set up with the support of the Soviet government. This marked a split in the Polish Resistance and a rift between the Soviet Union and Poland’s government-in- exile in London.
Dumbarton Oaks Conference:
From 21 August to 28 September 1944, representatives of Britain, the Soviet Union and the US held a conference at Dumbarton Oaks, near Washington in USA, to discuss the formation of the United Nations Organisation.
The conference was also attended later by a representative of China. This was a major step in the formation of the United Nations Organisation. It was also decided to hold a meeting of the United Nations at San Francisco in May—June 1945 to draft the United Nations Charter.
By early 1945, when the defeat of Germany was in sight, Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt held a conference at Yalta, in the Soviet Union, from 4 to 11 February 1945. A number of important decisions were taken at this conference.
The securing of Germany’s unconditional surrender was declared the common aim of the three countries. Agreement was reached on various steps regarding the future of Germany after her surrender. The meeting declared that the “inflexible purpose” of the three Allied countries was “to destroy German militarism and Nazism and to ensure that Germany will never again be able to disturb the peace of the world”.
It was decided that after Germany surrendered, she would be divided into four zones, one each under Britain, the Soviet Union,-the US and France. Agreement was reached on the frontiers of Poland, to include non- communist Poles from London in the Polish provisional government which had been set up and to hold free elections there as soon as possible.
Through a “Declaration on Liberated Europe”, the three countries pledged themselves to assist the countries of Europe in establishing democratic institutions. The Soviet Union agreed to enter the war against Japan, within three months of Germany’s defeat.
Important decisions were also taken regarding the setting up of the United Nations. On 1 March 1945, it was decided to open to all the states at war with Germany the membership of the United Nations, so that they could attend the San Francisco meeting to draft the Charter.
The meeting was fixed for 25 April 1945. Agreement was also reached on the structure of the Security Council of the United Nations, on the Permanent Members of the Security Council and the principle of unanimity of these members regarding decisions affecting peace and security.
The United Nations Charter:
As decided at the Yalta meeting, a conference of the United Nations was held at San Francisco from 25 April to 26 June 1945. The conference started discussions on the United Nations Charter even before the surrender of Germany.
The Charter was signed by fifty participating nations on 26 June, before even Japan surrendered. The United Nations Charter became effective on 24 October 1945. The Charter defines the purposes and structure of the United Nations. It begins with the following words.
We the peoples of the united nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
And For These Ends:
to practise tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and to ensure by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples,
Have Resolved to Combine our Efforts to Accomplish these Aims:
Accordingly, our respective Governments … have agreed to the present Charter of the United Nations and do hereby establish an international organisation to be known as the United Nations.
The purposes of the United Nations were defined in Article 1 of the Charter as:
1. To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace;
2. To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace;
3. To achieve international cooperation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion; and
4. To be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends.
The charter also defined the structure and the principal organs of the United Nations. The principal organs are: (1) a General Assembly composed of representatives of all the member states; (2) a Security Council composed of representatives of the United States, Britain, USSR, China and France as permanent members, and of six other states chosen by the General Assembly for a term of two years (their number was subsequently raised to ten and, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia became one of the permanent members); (3) an Economic and Social Council composed of 18 members elected by the General Assembly (their number was subsequently raised to 27); (4) a Trusteeship Council with members drawn, in equal number, from those administering trust territories and others; (5) an International Court of Justice, and (6) a Secretariat.
The Charter also included a “Declaration Regarding Non-Self-Governing Territories” which recognized “the principle that the interests of the inhabitants of these territories are paramount” and the obligation “to develop self-government, to take due account of the political aspirations of the peoples, and to assist them in the progressive development of their free political institutions”.
The Charter also envisaged commissions and specialized agencies and institutions. Two important specialized agencies under the jurisdiction of the Economic and Social Council are the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The creation of the United Nations was a significant and lasting achievement of the countries which had taken part in the war against the fascist countries.
The Potsdam Conference:
After the surrender of Germany, the three leading Allied powers held a conference at Potsdam, in Germany. The conference was held from 17 July to 2 August 1945 and was attended by Churchill, Stalin, and Harry S. Truman (who had become the US President after Roosevelt’s death).
From 28 July, the conference was attended, in place of Churchill, by Clement Attlee who had become Prime Minister of Britain when the Labour Party came to power. The main subject of discussion at the Potsdam Conference was Germany. The Declaration issued by the Conference said that
German militarism and Nazism will be extirpated, and the Allies will take in agreement together, now and in the future, the other measures necessary to assure that Germany never again will threaten her neighbours or the peace of the world.
At this Conference agreement was reached on Poland’s western border and the transfer of the northern part of East Prussia to the Soviet Union and the southern part to Poland.
Agreement was also reached on the banning of fascist organizations, destruction of the military power of Germany, reorganization of German economy by abolishing cartels and controlling industries used for production of armaments, payment of reparations by Germany, and division of Germany into four occupation zones. It was also decided to bring the Nazi war criminals to trial.
The trials took place subsequently at Nuremberg, in Germany, and lasted for about one year. Twelve of the accused were sentenced to death. Others, including some German industrialists, were sentenced to imprisonment.
The Second World War was the most destructive war in human history. It had taken a toll of more than fifty million human lives. The total cost of the war has been estimated to be about 14 million million dollars. The statistics of destruction cannot really convey the terrible catastrophe that it caused.