International Administrative Unions

International Administrative Unions

 

the term used until the middle of the 20th century for special-purpose governmental associations set up in the second half of the 19th century. The purposes of these unions were the international regulation of postal services, railroad transportation, telegraph communications, and radio and the international protection of copyright in science, technology, literature, art, public health, and other fields. One of the first international administrative unions was the International Telegraph Union, which was set up as the result of the first International Telegraph Convention of 1865 and which later became the International Telecommunications Union. The General Union of Posts was organized in Bern in 1874; it was superseded by the Universal Postal Union in 1878. The International Bureau of Weights and Measures was set up in Paris in 1875. The Bern Convention of 1886, which specified standard gauge for railroad tracks and standards for rolling stock, served as the basis for the formation of the International Union of Railroad Transport. The International Union for the Protection of Industrial Property was founded in Bern in 1883; in 1886 it joined the International Union for the Protection of Artistic and Literary Works. The International Union for the Publication of Customs Tariffs was established in Brussels in 1890. All the international administrative unions shared several features. They were based on multilateral conventions, treaties, or agreements having the usual permanent character—that is, intended for a considerable length of operation—and they all had permanent bodies (bureaus or commissions). The functions of the bureaus were as a rule limited to purely informational tasks—to collect and to publish appropriate materials, to provide references, and also to serve as intermediaries between member states. The bureau of the International Union of Railroad Transport was an exception; it could, on the expressed wish of one of the parties, settle misunderstandings between international railroad administrations.

In the 20th century, the number of international administrative unions has increased greatly. When the League of Nations was set up, the imperialistic circles which held leading positions in the league attempted to use the international administrative unions to dominate international relations. But these attempts were strongly resisted by many participants in the international administrative unions, because a great number of them were not members of the league. The majority of international administrative unions of that period remained independent organizations and merely exchanged information with the Secretariat of the League of Nations.

The term “international administrative unions” went out of use in the middle of the 20th century. The present-day international organizations with similar roles (there are more than 200 of them) are called international organizations on special questions, and some of them are specialized institutions of the UN.

E. S. PCHELINTSEV

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