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Dumbarton Oaks Conference

Dumbarton Oaks Conference

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The Dumbarton Oaks Conference or, more formally, the Washington Conversations on International Peace and Security Organization was an international conference at which the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 was formulated and negotiated among international leaders. The conference was held at Dumbarton Oaks
Dumbarton Oaks
Dumbarton Oaks is the conventional name for the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, situated on a historic property in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. The institution is administered by the Trustees for Harvard University. Its founders, Robert Woods Bliss and his wife...

 from August 21, 1944 through October 7, 1944.


The Dumbarton Oaks Conference constituted the first important step taken to carry out paragraph 4 of the Moscow Declaration of 1943
Moscow Conference (1943)
The Third Moscow Conference between the major Allies of World War II took place from October 18 to November 11, 1943, at the Moscow Kremlin and Spiridonovka Palace....

, which recognized the need for a postwar international organization to succeed the League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

. At the conference, delegations from China, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States deliberated over proposals for the establishment of an organization to maintain peace and security in the world. Among the representatives were the British Permanent Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Sir Alexander Cadogan; Soviet Ambassador to the United States, Andrei Gromyko
Andrei Gromyko
Andrei Andreyevich Gromyko was a Soviet statesman during the Cold War. He served as Minister of Foreign Affairs and as Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet . Gromyko was responsible for many top decisions on Soviet foreign policy until he retired in 1987. In the West he was given the...

 (1909–1989); Wellington Koo
Wellington Koo
Koo Vi Kyuin or Ku Wei-chün , often known by the Western name V.K. Wellington Koo, was a prominent diplomat under the Republic of China, representative to the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, Ambassador to France, Great Britain, and the United States; participant in founding the League of Nations...

 (1887–1985), Chinese Ambassador to the United Kingdom; and U.S. Undersecretary of State Edward Reilly Stettinius, Jr. (1900–1949), each of whom chaired his respective delegation. (When Cadogan was called back to London after the first half of the conference, leadership of the delegation was assumed by E. F. L. Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax
E. F. L. Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax
Edward Frederick Lindley Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax, , known as The Lord Irwin from 1925 until 1934 and as The Viscount Halifax from 1934 until 1944, was one of the most senior British Conservative politicians of the 1930s, during which he held several senior ministerial posts, most notably as...

, the British ambassador in Washington.) The conference itself was chaired by Stettinius, and U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull
Cordell Hull
Cordell Hull was an American politician from the U.S. state of Tennessee. He is best known as the longest-serving Secretary of State, holding the position for 11 years in the administration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during much of World War II...

 (1871–1955) delivered the opening address.

The conversations were held in two phases, since the Soviets were unwilling to meet directly with the Chinese. In the first phase, representatives of the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States convened between August 21 and September 28. In the second, representatives of China, the United Kingdom, and the United States held discussions between September 29 and October 7.

The setting

Robert Woods Bliss (1875–1962), who with his wife, Mildred Barnes Bliss
Mildred Barnes Bliss
Mildred Barnes Bliss was an American art collector, philanthropist, and one of the cofounders of the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection in Washington, D.C....

 (1879–1969), had given Dumbarton Oaks to Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

 in 1940 to establish a scholarly research institute and museum in Byzantine studies, was instrumental in arranging for these meetings. Already in June 1942, on behalf of the director, John S. Thacher, and the Trustees for Harvard University, he had offered to place the facilities of Dumbarton Oaks at the disposal of Secretary Hull. When in June 1944 the State Department found that Dumbarton Oaks could “comfortably accommodate” the delegates and that “the environment [was] ideal," the offer was renewed by James B. Conant, the president of Harvard University, in a letter of June 30, 1944.

Goals and outcomes

The stated purposes of the proposed international organization were:
  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 the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means adjustment or settlement of international disputes which may lead to a breach of the peace;
  2. To develop friendly relations among nations and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace;
  3. To achieve international co-operation in the solution of international economic, social and other humanitarian problems; and
  4. To afford a center for harmonizing the actions of nations in the achievement of these common ends.

On October 7, 1944, the delegates agreed on a tentative set of proposals (Proposals for the Establishment of a General International Organization) to meet these goals. The discussions at the conference regarding the make-up of the United Nations included which states would be invited to become members, the formation of the United Nations Security Council
United Nations Security Council
The United Nations Security Council is one of the principal organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security. Its powers, outlined in the United Nations Charter, include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of...

, and the right of veto that would be given to permanent members of the Security Council. Charles E. Bohlen
Charles E. Bohlen
Charles Eustis “Chip” Bohlen was a United States diplomat from 1929 to 1969 and Soviet expert, serving in Moscow before and during World War II, succeeding George F. Kennan as United States Ambassador to the Soviet Union , then ambassador to the Philippines , and to France...

 writes that the Dumbarton Oaks Conference "settled all but two issues regarding the organization of the United Nations—the voting procedure in the Security Council and the Soviet pressure for the admission of all sixteen of the Soviet republics to the General Assembly. It took the conference at Yalta
Yalta Conference
The Yalta Conference, sometimes called the Crimea Conference and codenamed the Argonaut Conference, held February 4–11, 1945, was the wartime meeting of the heads of government of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union, represented by President Franklin D...

, plus further negotiations with Moscow, before these issues were solved." Also at Yalta, a trusteeship system
United Nations Trust Territories
United Nations trust territories were the successors of the remaining League of Nations mandates and came into being when the League of Nations ceased to exist in 1946. All of the trust territories were administered through the UN Trusteeship Council...

 was proposed to take the place of the League of Nations mandate
League of Nations mandate
A League of Nations mandate was a legal status for certain territories transferred from the control of one country to another following World War I, or the legal instruments that contained the internationally agreed-upon terms for administering the territory on behalf of the League...

 system. At the United Nations Conference on International Organization
United Nations Conference on International Organization
The United Nations Conference on International Organization was a convention of delegates from 50 Allied nations that took place from 25 April 1945 to 26 June 1945 in San Francisco, California. At this convention, the delegates reviewed and rewrote the Dumbarton Oaks agreements...

, also known as the San Francisco Conference, in April–June 1945, the Security Council veto powers were established and the text of the United Nations Charter
United Nations Charter
The Charter of the United Nations is the foundational treaty of the international organization called the United Nations. It was signed at the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center in San Francisco, United States, on 26 June 1945, by 50 of the 51 original member countries...

was finalized.

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