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30 April 1945


Geneva, April 1945.


Origin -- Principles -- Application

Series of League of Nations Publications
1945. VI.A. 1



Article 22 of the Covenant contains nine paragraphs in which are set out in general terms the fundamental principles of the mandates system, together with the methods and safeguards designed to ensure their application.

The Article runs as follows:

"1. To those colonies and territories which as a consequence of the late war have ceased to be under the sovereignty of the States which formerly governed them and which are inhabited by peoples not yet able to stand by themselves under the strenuous conditions of the modern world, there should be applied the principle that the well-being and development of such peoples form a sacred trust of civilisation and that securities for the performance of this trust should be embodied in this Covenant.

"2. The best method of giving practical effect to this principle is that the tutelage of such peoples should be entrusted to advanced nations who, by reason of their resources, their experience or their geographical position, can best undertake this responsibility, and who are willing to accept it, and that this tutelage should be exercised by them as Mandatories on behalf of the League.

"3. The character of the mandate must differ according to the stage of the development of the people, the geographical situation of the territory, its economic conditions and other similar circumstances.

"4. Certain communities formerly belonging to the Turkish Empire have reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognised subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance by a Mandatory until such time as they are able to stand alone. The wishes of these communities must be a principal consideration in the selection of the Mandatory.

"5. Other peoples, especially those of Central Africa, are at such a stage that the Mandatory must be responsible for the administration of the territory under conditions which will guarantee freedom of conscience and religion, subject only to the maintenance of public order and morals, the prohibition of abuses such as the slave trade, the arms traffic and the liquor traffic, and the prevention of the establishment of fortifications or military and naval bases and of military training of the natives for other than police purposes and the defence of territory, and will also secure equal opportunities for the trade and commerce of other Members of the League.

"6. There are territories, such as South West Africa and certain of the South Pacific Islands, which, owing to the sparseness of their population, or their small size, or their remoteness from the centres of civilisation, or their geographical contiguity to the territory of the Mandatory, and other circumstances, can be best administered under the laws of the Mandatory as integral portions of its territory, subject to the safeguards above mentioned in the interests of the indigenous population.

"7. In every case of mandate, the Mandatory shall render to the Council an annual report in reference to the territory committed to its charge.

"8. The degree of authority, control or administration to be exercised by the Mandatory shall, if not previously agreed upon by the Members of the League, be explicitly defined in each case by the Council.

"9. A permanent Commission shall be constituted to receive and examine the annual reports of the Mandatories and to advise the Council on all matters relating to the observance of the mandates."

The first two and the last three paragraphs of the Article formulate the guiding principles and may be said to constitute the framework of the new institution, the aim of which they clearly define. These provisions are applicable to all territories under mandate.

Without going into controversial questions regarding the legal nature of the mandates, it may be said that the following main principles emerge from these provisions:
The aim of the institution is to ensure the well-being and development of the peoples inhabiting the territories in question.

The method of attaining this aim consists in entrusting the tutelage of these peoples to certain advanced nations. The acceptance by a nation of this mission carries with it certain obligations and responsibilities established by law. Like guardians in civil law, they must exercise their authority in the interests of their wards -- that is to say, of the peoples which are regarded as minors -- and must maintain an entirely disinterested attitude in their dealings with them. The territories with the administration of which they are entrusted must not be exploited by them for their own profit.

Again, the phrase "peoples not yet able to stand by themselves" is used. It follows from this and from the very conception of tutelage that this mission is not, in principle, intended to be prolonged indefinitely, but only until the peoples under tutelage are capable of managing their own affairs.

The nations upon which such powers of guardianship are conferred exercise them "as Mandatories on behalf of the League". In other words, the administration of these territories is delegated to them. This involves an obligation on their part to render account of their administration to the League of Nations.

This is made plain by paragraph 7, which prescribes that the Mandatory is to render to the Council an annual report on the administration of the territory committed to its charge. Finally, the last paragraph (No. 9) of the Article briefly describes the machinery to be established for the international supervision of the mandatory administration.

Such are the main characteristics of the mandates system. But although the principle is uniform, it is applied in a variety of ways. It will be appreciated that the definition "peoples not yet able to stand by themselves" covers a wide range of situations; the degree of civilisation attained by different peoples is extremely varied. Again, the geographical, economic, demographic, etc., conditions of the mandated territories differ very greatly. Accordingly, the Covenant (paragraphs 3 to 6 of Article 22) distinguishes between three categories of mandates, taking into account differences in the stage of development of the population, in the geographical situation of the territory, in the economic conditions prevailing and any other circumstances which may be relevant.

In a first group -- "A" Mandates 1/ (Syria and Lebanon, Palestine and Transjordan, and Iraq) -- the nation is provisionally recognised as independent, but receives the advice and assistance of a Mandatory in its administration until such time as it is able to stand alone.

In the second group -- "B" Mandates (the Cameroons, Togoland, Tanganyika, Ruanda-Urundi) -- as it is impossible to grant autonomy, the Mandatory is "responsible for the administration" under certain specified conditions. These conditions, which are briefly indicated in the Covenant, are designed to prevent certain abuses and to ensure that the Administration has the welfare of the natives constantly in mind. They aim also at securing respect for the rights and interests of other Members of the League of Nations.

Finally, the territories in the third group -- the "C" Mandates (South West Africa and the Islands of the Pacific)-- are "administered under the laws of the Mandatory as integral portions of its territory" and subject to the same safeguards in the interests of the indigenous population as the territories under "B" Mandate.


The various Mandates or "charters" adopted by the Council comprise a collection of provisions defining the manner in which the principles laid down by the Covenant are to be applied. Under the terms of the latter, the degree of authority or control to be exercised by the Mandatory varies according to the character of the territory.

Certain clauses, however, are common to all Mandates: the Mandatory has full power of administration and legislation subject to the terms of the Mandate 2/; he is under an obligation to make to the Council an annual report to the satisfaction of that body, giving full information as to the measures taken to carry out the provisions of the Mandate; he agrees that, if any dispute whatever should arise between him and another Member of the League of Nations relating to the interpretation or application of the Mandate, such dispute, if it cannot be settled by negotiation, shall be submitted to the Permanent Court of International Justice. 3/ Any modification of the terms of the Mandate requires the consent of the Council of the League.

The remaining clauses vary according to the category to which the Mandate in question belongs.

The "C" Mandates, which are all almost identical, are relatively simple. The Mandatory is authorised to apply his own legislation to the territory, subject to such local modifications as circumstances may require. He must promote to the utmost the material and moral well-being and the social progress of the inhabitants. In particular, he must see that the slave trade is prohibited; that no forced labour is permitted except for essential public works and services and then only for adequate remuneration. The traffic in arms and ammunition must be strictly controlled and the supply of intoxicating spirits and beverages to the natives prohibited.

No military training may be given to the natives save for purposes of internal police and the local defence of the territory. No military or naval bases are to be established or fortifications erected.

Freedom of conscience and the free exercise of all forms of worship are to be guaranteed. Missionaries, nationals of any State Member of the League of Nations, are to be free to prosecute their calling in the territory.

The "B" Mandates go into more detail. They repeat most of the provisions of the "C" Mandates, with certain variations; some clauses are expanded, while a number of important new provisions are added.

As in territories under "C" Mandate, the Mandatory must promote the material and moral well-being and the social progress of the inhabitants; the "B" Mandates further lay down that he is responsible for the peace, order and good government of the territory. He must suppress all forms of slave trade, provide for the emancipation of slaves and for as speedy an elimination of domestic and other slavery as social conditions will allow. Forced labour is only authorised under the same conditions as in the case of "C" Mandates; the Mandatory must protect the natives from measures of fraud and force by the careful supervision of labour contracts and the recruiting of labour. A strict control is to be exercised over the traffic in arms and ammunition and over the sale of spirituous liquors. (The provisions of the "B" Mandates are thus rigid in this respect than those of the "C" Mandates, which "prohibit" the supply of intoxicants to the natives.)

With regard to the holding or transfer of land, the mandatory power, when framing laws, must take into consideration native laws and customs and safeguard native rights and interests. The transfer of land from a native to a non-native and the creation of real rights over native land in favour of a non-native are to be subject to the previous consent of the public authorities. The Mandatory must also enact strict regulations against usury.

The military clauses of the "B" Mandates are almost identical with those of the "C" Mandates. As an exception to the general principle, however, the French mandates for the Cameroons and Togoland provide that native troops raised in the territories may, in the event of general war, be utilised to repel an attack, or, for the defence of the territory outside the boundaries of the latter.

The provisions relating to freedom of conscience and the free exercise of all forms of worship do not differ much from those in the "C" Mandates. The "B" Mandates, however, contain a special provision giving missionaries the right to acquire property in the territory, to erect religious buildings and to open schools. They also expressly recognise the right of the Mandatory in this connection to exercise such control as may be necessary for the maintenance of public order and good government.

The Mandatory is authorised to constitute the territory under his mandate into a Customs, fiscal, or administrative union with the adjacent territories, provided that the measures adopted do not infringe the provisions of the mandate (that is to say, subject in particular to the principle of economic equality).

The "B" Mandates contain detailed provisions for the application of the principle of the "open door" or of economic equality. The Mandatory must secure to all nationals of States Members of the League of Nations 4/ the same rights as are enjoyed in the territory by his own nationals, in respect of entry into and residence in the territory, the protection afforded to their property, the acquisition of property and the exercise of their profession or trade. The Mandatory has to ensure to the nationals of such countries, on the same footing as to his own nationals, freedom of transit and navigation, and complete economic, commercial and industrial equality except in the matter of essential public works and services. Concessions for the development of the natural resources of the territory must be granted without distinction on grounds of nationality. Concessions having the character of a general monopoly must not, however, be granted; but this provision does not affect the right of the Mandatory to create monopolies of a purely fiscal character in the interest of the territory, or to carry out the development of natural resources, either directly by the State or by a controlled agency, provided that no monopoly for the benefit of the Mandatory or his nationals results therefrom either directly or indirectly.

The "A" Mandates differ appreciably from those of the other two categories. In the countries to which they apply, the inhabitants had reached a more advanced stage of development and their independence could, in principle, be recognised by the Covenant itself, subject to the conditions which have been mentioned above. The mission of the Mandatories in these countries has therefore consisted mainly in developing their capacity to govern themselves, and in establishing their economic systems and social and other institutions on a more secure footing in order to fit them to take their position as independent nations.

The "A" Mandates, however, also differ from one another in some important respects, as their terms were drafted so as to take into account the special conditions of the various countries in question. In particular, the mandate for Iraq, which was terminated in 1932, was of a very special character in that, amongst other things, there was no actual charter conferring the mandate.

Let us first consider those provisions of the two mandates for Syria and Lebanon, on the one hand, and Palestine on the other, which are more or less identical.

The external relations of the territory are controlled by the mandatory Power. The latter is responsible for seeing that no part of the territory is ceded to or in any way placed under the control of a foreign Power. The privileges and immunities of foreigners, including the benefits of consular jurisdiction and protection as formerly enjoyed by capitulation or usage, are not applicable in the mandated territories. The judicial system which is to be established under the terms of the mandate must, however, assure to foreigners, as well as to natives, a complete guarantee of their rights.

In the case both of Syria and Lebanon and of Palestine, the mandatory Power must adhere, on behalf of the territory, to any general international conventions already existing or which may be concluded subsequently with the approval of the League of Nations, respecting the slave traffic, the traffic in arms and ammunition, or the traffic in drugs, or relating to commercial equality, freedom of transit and navigation, aerial navigation, and postal, telegraphic and wireless communications, or literary, artistic or industrial property. So far as religious, social and other conditions permit, the Mandatory is to co-operate on behalf of the territory in the execution of measures adopted by the League of Nations for preventing disease, including diseases of plants and animals.

The Mandatory is under an obligation to see that complete freedom of conscience and the free exercise of all forms of worship, subject only to the maintenance of public order and morals, are ensured to all. He must see that there is no discrimination of any kind between the inhabitants on the ground of race, religion or language; respect for the personal status of the various communities and for their religious interests is guaranteed; each community is entitled to maintain its own schools for the education of its members in its own language, provided that it conforms to any educational requirements of a general nature which may be laid down. The supervision exercised by the Mandatory over religious institutions and missions is to be limited to that which is strictly necessary for the maintenance of public order and good government.

The Mandatory is entitled to use the roads, railways and ports of the territory for the movement of his armed forces and the carriage of fuel and supplies. In Syria, the Mandatory is entitled to maintain his troops in the territory for its defence; and he may, as a temporary measure, organise such local militia as may be necessary for the defence of the territory and employ it for defence and also for the maintenance of order. Subsequently, this militia is to be under the local authorities, subject to the control of the Mandatory. In Palestine, the local Administration may, subject to the supervision of the Mandatory, organise on a voluntary basis the forces necessary for the preservation of peace and order and also for the defence of the country; except for such purposes, no military, naval, or air forces may be raised or maintained by the Administration.

The Mandatory is to see that there is no discrimination against the nationals of any State Member of the League of Nations 5/ as compared with his own nationals or those of any other State in matters concerning taxation or commerce, the exercise of industries or professions, or navigation, or in the treatment of merchant vessels or civil aircraft. Similarly, there is to be no discrimination against goods originating in or destined for any of these States. Freedom of transit across the mandated territory is to be guaranteed under equitable conditions. Subject to these provisions, the Mandatory or the local Administration may take any steps calculated to promote the development of the natural resources of the territory and to safeguard the interests of the population. Special Customs agreements may be concluded between the territory and neighbouring countries.

The Mandatory must also enact a law concerning antiquities in accordance with certain principles defined in the mandate and ensuring equality of treatment in the matter of excavations and archaeological research to the nationals of all States Members of the League of Nations.5/

As regards the political regime of the territory, both the mandates in question lay down that the Mandatory is to encourage local autonomy, so far as circumstances permit.

Lastly, both the mandates contain a special clause providing that, on the termination of the mandatory regime, it will be incumbent on the Council of the League of Nations to use its influence to ensure that financial obligations legitimately incurred by the Administration of the countries in question during the period of the mandate are henceforward duly honoured.

The Mandate for Syria and Lebanon contains a special provision to the effect that the Mandatory is to frame for these countries an organic law taking into account the rights, interests and wishes of all their populations and that he is to facilitate the progressive development of the two countries as independent States. French and Arabic are the official languages of Syria and Lebanon. The Mandatory is to encourage public education, which is to be given through the medium of the native languages in use in the territories of Syria and Lebanon.

In the Mandate for Syria and Lebanon, the Article establishing the principle of economic equality contains clauses similar to those included in the "B" Mandates (see page 26) with regard to concessions and monopolies.

The Palestine Mandate is of a very special character. While it follows the main lines laid down by the Covenant for "A" Mandates, it also contains a number of provisions designed to apply the policy defined by the "Balfour Declaration" of November 2nd, 1917. By this declaration, the British Government had announced its intention to encourage the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing should be done which might prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country. The Mandate reproduces the Balfour Declaration almost in full in its preamble and states that "recognition has thereby been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country".

Accordingly, under the terms of the Mandate, the Mandatory is to be responsible for placing the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home, and the development of self-governing institutions, and also for safeguarding the civil and religious rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine, irrespective of race and religion. The Mandate also provides for the recognition as a public body of a Jewish agency which is to advise and co-operate with the administration of Palestine in such economic, social and other matters as may affect the establishment of the Jewish national home and the interests of the Jewish population in Palestine, and, subject always to the control of the Administration, to assist and take part in the development of the country. At first and in accordance with the terms of the Mandate, this role was entrusted to the Zionist Organisation; later, however, from 1929 onwards, that organisation was replaced by the "Jewish Agency for Palestine", which includes representatives not only of the Zionist Organisation but also of other Jewish bodies in various countries. In consultation with the Mandatory, this agency takes steps to secure the co-operation of all Jews willing to assist in the establishment of the Jewish national home. While ensuring that the rights and position of other sections of the population are not prejudiced, the Administration, for its part, must facilitate Jewish immigration under suitable conditions and, in co-operation with the Jewish agency, encourage close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes. A nationality law is to be enacted containing provisions framed so as to facilitate the acquisition of Palestinian citizenship by Jews who take up their permanent residence in Palestine.

The Administration is to take all necessary measures to safeguard the interests of the community in connection with the development of the country, and, subject to any international obligations of the Mandatory, to provide for public ownership or control of any of the natural resources of the country, or of public works, services and utilities. The land system must be appropriate to the needs of the country, having regard to the desirability of promoting the close settlement and intensive cultivation of the land. The Administration may arrange with the Jewish agency, provided for by the Mandate, to construct or operate, upon fair and equitable terms, any public works, services and utilities, and to develop any of the natural resources of the country, in so far as these matters are not directly undertaken by the Administration. No profits, however, distributed by the Jewish agency are to exceed a reasonable rate of interest on the capital, and any further profits are to be utilised by it for the benefit of the country in a manner approved by the Administration.

English, Arabic and Hebrew are the official languages of Palestine. Any statement or inscription in Arabic on stamps or money is to be repeated in Hebrew and vice versa. Holy days of the respective communities are legal days of rest for the members of such communities.

All responsibility in connection with the Holy Places and religious buildings or sites in Palestine, including that of preserving existing rights and of securing free access to the Holy Places, religious buildings and sites and the free exercise of worship, while ensuring the requirements of public order and decorum, is assumed by the Mandatory. The latter has no authority to interfere with the fabric or management of purely Moslem sacred shrines, the immunities of which are guaranteed. The Mandate also provides for the appointment by the Mandatory of a special commission to study, define and determine the rights and claims in connection with the Holy Places and those relating to the different religious communities in Palestine. The method of nomination, the composition and the functions of this commission were to be submitted to the Council of the League for its approval.6/ In the event of the termination of the mandate, it is for the Council to make all necessary arrangements for safeguarding in perpetuity, under guarantee of the League, the rights secured by the mandate in respect of the Holy Places.

In the Mandate for Palestine, Transjordan is dealt with separately. Under Article 25 of the Mandate, the Mandatory is entitled, with the consent of the Council of the League of Nations, to postpone or withhold application to this part of the territory of such provisions of the Mandate as he may consider inapplicable to the existing local conditions and to make such provision for its administration as he may consider suitable, subject to the clauses relating to freedom of conscience, non-discrimination between the inhabitants, the supervision of religious institutions, economic equality, etc. On September 16th, 1922 7/ the Council, in accordance with this article, approved a proposal by the mandatory Power to the effect that the provisions of the Mandate respecting the Jewish national home and the Holy Places should not be applied to Transjordan. At the same time, the British Government expressly accepted full responsibility as Mandatory for Transjordan and undertook that such provision as might be made for the administration of that territory should conform to those provisions of the Mandate which had not been declared inapplicable. By a special Agreement concluded on February 20th, 1928, the British Government recognised the existence of an independent Government in Transjordan. It once more declared itself responsible to the Council for the application of the Mandate in that country. On September 1st, 1928, the Council took note of this declaration and recognised that the Agreement in question was in conformity with the principles of the Mandate.8/

As has already been explained,9/ the conditions governing the Mandate for Iraq were never formulated in a special "charter", but were embodied in treaties and subsidiary agreements concluded between the mandatory Power and the Government of Iraq,10/ and approved by the Council of the League of Nations as giving effect to the provisions of Article 22 of the Covenant.11/

Under the first of these treaties, the British Government undertook, at the request of the King of Iraq, to provide the State of Iraq with such advice and assistance as might be required during the period of the treaty, without prejudice to her national sovereignty.

For the period of the treaty, no official of other than Iraq nationality was to be appointed without the concurrence of the British Government.

The King of Iraq undertook to frame an organic law to be put into force after presentation to the Constituent Assembly of Iraq. This law was to take account of the rights, wishes and interests of all populations inhabiting Iraq and to ensure freedom of conscience and the free exercise of all forms of worship, subject only to the maintenance of public order and morals. It was also to provide against discrimination of any kind between the inhabitants on the ground of race, religion or language, and to secure the right of each community to maintain its own schools for the education of its own members in its own language.

The King of Iraq was to consult the British High Commissioner on what was conducive to a sound financial and fiscal policy.

Iraq also had the right of representation in London and in such other capitals and places as might be agreed upon between her and the British Government. Where Iraq was not represented, the protection of Iraq nationals was to be entrusted to the British Government. Exequaturs were to be issued to representatives of foreign Powers in Iraq by the Iraqi Government, after the British Government had agreed to their appointment. The British Government undertook to provide such support and assistance to the armed forces of Iraq as might from time to time be agreed by the two parties.

No territory in Iraq was to be ceded or leased or in any way placed under the control of any foreign Power.

The treaty also contained clauses resembling fairly closely those in the Mandates for Syria and Lebanon and for Palestine concerning judicial matters, the activities of missionaries and non-discrimination between the nationals of States Members of the League of Nations in economic matters, etc.

Lastly, the British Government undertook to use its good offices to secure the admission of Iraq to membership of the League of Nations as soon as possible.

After exhaustive consideration of all aspects of this question by the competent organs of the League of Nations (in 1931 and 1932) and after Iraq had signed a Declaration, the terms of which had been decided by the Council on May 19th, 1932, Iraq was admitted to membership of the League on October 3rd, 1932, and thus the mandatory regime in that country was automatically terminated.



Colonial history affords many examples of the danger which contact with colonising nations involves for the native population. Only too often such contact has had disastrous effects on the natives resulting from the spread of new diseases, to which the constitution of the natives offered but little resistance, the abuse of alcohol, the excessive employment of native labour, etc. Accordingly, among the best criteria for gauging the success of different methods of treating the natives are the rate of increase of the population, the birth, morbidity and death rates.

This point was made by a member of the Mandates Commission (M. Rappard), who said that "it was the first duty of the Commission to look after the welfare of the natives. The best index of the extent to which the welfare of the natives was safeguarded would be found in the mortality and morbidity statistics.... It was the duty of the Commission to protect the native and, if the native races were dying out, it was clear that their moral and material welfare was being sacrificed".12/ On another occasion, the same member of the Commission also pointed out that "population statistics were one of the few ways of keeping a check on a country's true social position".13/

Moreover, the Administration of a colony requires statistics of population in order satisfactorily to deal with important questions such as the regulation of the recruiting of native labour, the allotment of land to non-natives or to native reserves, the organisation of public health services, education, etc.

Accordingly, the questionnaire prepared by the Mandates Commission in 1921 (Article XIII) 14/ asked the mandatory Powers to include in their annual reports statistics concerning births, marriages (polygamy), deaths, emigration and immigration. The new "List of questions which the Commission.... desired should be dealt with in the annual reports of the mandatory Powers", which was drawn up in 1926, contained the following questions:

"116. What is the population of the territory in natives, coloured persons other than natives, Asiatics, Europeans and Americans? Are the figures supplied the result of a census or are they merely an estimate?

"117. Please supply, if possible, quinquennial or decennial comparative statistics of the population.

"118. Is there any considerable emigration from, or immigration into, the territory? If so, what are the causes?

"What are the countries of destination or origin of emigrants and immigrants respectively?"

It is, however, obvious that, in most of the territories in question, all attempts to count the population, to establish a register of births, marriages, and deaths, to register the inhabitants or prepare accurate population statistics, or even approximate estimates, encounter many difficulties. The extent of the territories, the primitive state of the native tribes, illiteracy, the fact that in some cases the population fluctuates (since it comprises nomadic or semi-nomadic tribes), and migratory movements are all obstacles which render the task of the Administration in this respect peculiarly difficult. Then, again, there is the suspicious attitude of the natives, who fear that the object of the counting or census-taking is either to impose taxation upon them or to recruit them for forced labour or for military service. Another obstacle encountered is superstition -- for instance, the belief, fairly common among primitive tribes, that the counting of children brings misfortune upon them.

Nevertheless, the mandatory Powers have applied themselves to overcoming these difficulties. Depending on the special conditions prevailing in different territories, they have sought to attain their object either by counting the inhabitants by villages or by tribes, or by establishing registers of births, deaths and marriages and making it compulsory to notify births and deaths, or again by taking a more or less complete census.

The Mandates Commission, for its part, when examining the annual reports, has always studied the chapters or paragraphs devoted to questions concerning the population and has questioned the accredited representatives of the mandatory Powers on demographic problems. In the observations recorded by it at the conclusion of its meetings for the attention of the Council and the mandatory Powers, it has for instance urged that it should be "put in a position to follow closely the demographic movement of the territory",15/ or it has asked for "as precise information as possible concerning the increase or decrease of the population in the various districts of the territory",16/ or, again, for more exact information "concerning the nature of the movements of migration in certain parts of the territory".17/ With a view to stimulating the efforts of the mandatory Administrations in this domain, the Commission has sought to obtain increasingly complete data, representing an ever-closer approximation to the facts, in order to be in a position to form as accurate as possible an idea of the demographic position and of the development of the populations of the various mandated territories.


Under this heading is given a summary of the chief data supplied in the annual reports of the mandatory Powers with regard to the population and demographic conditions prevailing in the various mandated territories. These data are accompanied by some brief
indications regarding the bases of the figures supplied -- a count, estimates, a census, a more or less complete register of births and deaths -- and the progress achieved in this field.

The figures given are very unequal in value. Some of them have been arrived at by pure conjecture (e. g., those concerning the nomads of Transjordan or Syria, or the natives of the interior districts of New Guinea which are "patrolled" but not yet controlled by the Administration). In many other cases, the figures are the results of estimates the basis of which is more or less sound according to the methods employed. Sometimes an estimate is made on the basis of a census taken in one region combined with sometimes rather vague information concerning, or surveys undertaken to gauge, the density of the population in the remainder of the territory. Another method consists in counting the dwellings in native villages and ascertaining in a limited radius the average number of natives per dwelling. The payment of dues and taxes constitutes yet another basis of assessment, the number of natives paying the poll-tax serving as the basis and being supplemented by investigations as to the average proportion of taxpayers. This stage of more or less conjectural estimates is succeeded by that of systematic or progressive counts or again by that of an actual census. Finally, the introduction of the compulsory registration of births, deaths and marriages and more especially the enforcement of such a measure and the creation of registers of births, marriages and deaths, have enabled the Administrations of some mandated territories to prepare demographic statistics as reliable as those in many more advanced countries.

The following study covers the data supplied with regard to the population as a whole (natives and non-natives), the birth rate and the death rate (including the infant death rate).

In the case of the territories of the Near East, information is also given regarding the composition of the population from the point of view of religion (and race), in view of the important part played by the religious communities in the social and political life of these countries, where the personal status of every inhabitant depends on the law of the community to which he belongs.

Territories under "A" Mandate.
Palestine (27.009 square kilometres) and Transjordan (about 90.000 square kilometres).

The population statistics in Palestine assume a special character of their own, as a result more especially of the establishment of the Jewish national home provided for by the Mandate. As is generally known, there has been a large immigration of Jews ever since 1920; at the same time there has also been a certain immigration of Arabs. The data given below show, however, that the natural increase of the Palestinian population -- i. e. the increase resulting from the excess of births over deaths -- has been even greater than that resulting from immigration.

A first census was taken in Palestine on October 23rd, 1922. According to the annual report, "this was probably the first census ever taken in Palestine on a scientific basis".18/ A second census was taken nine years later, on November 18th, 1931, at midnight, under the "Census Ordinance 1931", a measure broadly based on the British Census Act, 1920.19/ This census embraced the whole actual population including nomads (Beduin) and the British armed forces stationed in the country. Although, according to the mandatory Power's report,20/ a large part of the population of Palestine is "traditionally hostile to the taking of a census", it appears that the operation was successfully completed under relatively normal conditions.

The registration of births and deaths was made compulsory in Palestine upon the establishment of the British Administration.21/ Though very incomplete at first, entries seem gradually to have attained a fairly high degree of accuracy except among the nomads. In 1933, the annual report contained the following: "Though there certainly has occurred and probably still occurs omission to register, the degree of precision which has now been obtained in the settled population is very satisfactory and comparable with that obtaining in many European States. For obvious reasons registration is not effective in the nomadic Beduin tribes...".22/ (In point of fact, as will be seen later, the statistics as regards the birth and death rates do not cover the Beduin.)

Furthermore, ever since the outset of the mandate, as strict a check as possible has been maintained on immigration and emigration. Special officials are responsible for this duty, in particular the Immigration Officers under the direction of the Chief Immigration Officer and of the Commissioner for Migration and Statistics. A Department of Migration has been set up. Finally, since 1935 there has been an Office of Statistics.

The data obtained by means of the two censuses, the registration of births and deaths, and the control exercised over immigration and emigration have enabled estimates representing a very close approximation to the facts to be presented annually (as at June 30th of each year). Of course, these estimates cannot be absolutely precise owing more particularly to the somewhat incomplete character of the register of births and deaths (especially as regards the Beduin) and to clandestine immigration which it has not proved possible entirely to prevent. For the years 1922-1931, the estimates have, however, been "adjusted" on the basis of the figures shown by the 1931 census.

Since the outset of the mandate, the classification of the population of Palestine by religions has been recognised as necessary, in view of the fact that the personal status of every inhabitant is dependent on the law of the religious community to which he belongs. Moreover, at the time of the 1931 census, it was also found that a classification by "race" (or nationality) -- i. e., as Arabs, Jews or "others" -- had become a political necessity. Since 1935, the immigration and emigration statistics have been prepared on a racial basis. Of recent years, therefore, the population of Palestine has been classified according to the criteria both of religion and race.

The table given below shows the expansion of the population of Palestine during the period 1922-1938, as established by the census of 1922 and the estimates made (and adjusted) as at June 30th, in each of the succeeding years. These figures include the nomads (Beduin), the number of whom at the 1931 census amounted to 66,553. On the other hand, the members of the British Forces and their families are not included (2,507 persons at the 1931 census).23/

(census of 1922 and annual estimates as at June 30th)
by Religions
(not including members of the British Forces and their families).
1922 . . . .
1923 . . . .
1924 . . . .
1925 . . . .
1926 . . . .
1927 . . . .
1928 . . . .
1929 . . . .
1930 . . . .
1931 a/. . .
1932 . . . .
1933 . . . .
1934 . . . .
1935 . . . .
1936 . . . .
1937 . . . .
1938 . . . .
a/The census taken on November 18th, 1931, gave the following results: Total 1,035,821; Moslems: 759,712 (including 66,553 nomads); Jews: 174,610; Christians: 91,398 (including 2,507 members of the British Forces and their dependants); others: 10,101.

To this table should be appended the estimate of the Palestinian population as at December 31st, 1938: total 1,435,341 divided as follows between the religious communities:


At the same time a rough estimate of the main groups of the population from the standpoint of race gave the following results:


Almost all the Moslems are Arabs. At the 1931 census, of the 759,712 Moslems, only 2,739 did not announce themselves as Arabs; most of these 2,739 persons claimed to be Turks or Egyptians. As regards the Christians, of a total of 91,398, 73,281 (or 80.2%) were Arabs, 19.8% being Europeans of various nationalities or Armenians. With regard to the heading "Others" (i. e., other than Moslem, Jew or Christian) of 10,101 in 1931, 9,116 announced themselves as Arabs. As regards religion, these 10,101 were classified as follows: Druzes: 9,148; Bahais: 350; Samaritans: 182; no religion: 421.

During the period of sixteen years from the census of 1922 to the end of 1938, the total population of Palestine has thus increased by 683,293, or approximately 91% (average annual increase: 5.7%).

The number of Moslems has increased by 311,079.
The number of Jews has increased by 327,473.
The number of Christians has increased by 40,519.

This increase was partly due to immigration and partly to the excess of births over deaths. It may be of some interest to note the extent to which these two factors have respectively contributed to the total increase:

All religions
Total increase of the population...
Increase by immigration a/...
Excess of the number of births
over deaths ...
a/ The figures for immigration include about 10,000 persons inhabiting districts which were incorporated in Palestine in 1923, as a result of a modification of the frontier between Syria and Palestine. Of this number, about 300 were Jews and the remainder Moslems.

It is particularly interesting to note that the increase in the Moslem population due to the excess of births over deaths considerably exceeded the increase in the Jewish population due to immigration, and that the total increase in the Moslem population was not far short of that of the Jewish population.

In order to obtain a clearer idea of the expansion of the population of Palestine, the figures for the birth and death rates should be studied. The following table gives the number of births per 1,000 inhabitants, for the whole settled population and by communities, during the period 1922-1938.

Birth Rates.

All communities
1922-1925 (average rate)
1926-1930 (average rate)
1931-1935 (average rate)
1936-1938 (average rate)
1938 ..........

Though the birth rate has decreased by about 14% for the whole population (but only by 6% in the case of Moslems), it still remains very high (especially among Moslems) and it is considerably higher than in any European country. Thus, whereas, in 1938, the birth rate in Palestine was 39.9, it varied in European countries between a minimum of 14.1 (Austria) and a maximum of 34.2 (Albania). During the five-year period 1931-1935, the Moslem population of Palestine rose by natural increase at an average rate of 18.000 inhabitants per annum, that is to say by 2.5% annually.

Let us now consider the statistics for deaths. The following table shows the number of deaths per 1,000 inhabitants, for the total population and by communities, during the period 1922-1938:

Death Rates.
All communities
1922-1925 (average rate)
1926-1930 (average rate)
1931-1935 (average rate)
1936-1938 (average rate)
1938 ..........

During this period of sixteen years, the death rate in Palestine has therefore decreased by about 37%.

In this connection, the statistics for infant mortality are particularly striking and satisfactory. The following table shows the number of deaths of infants less than 1 year old per 1,000 live births:
Infant Mortality.
All communities
1922-1925 (average rate)
1926-1930 (average rate)
1931-1935 (average rate)
1936-1938 (average rate)
1938 ..........

For the whole of the Palestinian population, the infant mortality rate has thus decreased by 37% in the course of the sixteen years 1922-1938. The infant mortality rate in Palestine for 1938, 112 per 1,000, was lower than that for Egypt, a neighbouring country (163 per 1,000), and than those of ten European countries: Malta (243), Roumania (183), Bulgaria (144), Yugoslavia (144), Poland (140), Portugal (137), Hungary (131), Czechoslovakia (121), Spain (120) and Lithuania (113).

As regards Transjordan, no census has ever been taken and in 1935 the mandatory Power stated that "any attempt to estimate the number of the inhabitants" could "only be approximate".24/ Below are given the figures -- based on estimates made -- supplied in the annual reports for the total population:

1924 . . . . . 200,0001930 . . . . . 305,584
1928 . . . . . short of 250,0001935 . . . . . 300,000 to 320,000
1929 . . . . . 300,0001938 . . . . . 300,214

This last figure is the result of a "close survey... made by District administrative authorities» and includes nomads and semi-nomads in addition to the settled population.25/

The population of this territory (where, of a total of 90,000 square kilometres, only 4,600 are capable of cultivation) includes, according to the 1929 report (page 138), about 130,000 settled inhabitants, 120,000 semi-nomads and 50,000 nomads.

As regards the composition of the population from the standpoint of race and religion, we find 24/ that the great majority of the inhabitants are Arabs of the Moslem Sunnite community. There are, however, about 20,000 Christian Arabs (1935). Furthermore, there are about 7,000 Circassians (from the Caucasus), who were settled in Transjordan by the Turkish authorities in 1864 and 1878. Finally, since 1927, there would appear to be about 250 families of Druzes.

The number of foreigners in 1936 26/ was 1,900, of whom 855 were Syrians, 63 Lebanese, 515 Palestinians, 142 Sa'udi-Arabs, 135 Turks and 56 British (excluding members of the British armed forces).

Since the creation, in 1926, of a Department of Public Health, the registration of births and deaths has become compulsory in Transjordan for all inhabitants, including nomads. It is not surprising, as the mandatory Power states, that, during the first three or four years, registrations should have been very incomplete. Even in 1935, "a number of births and deaths.... especially among the Beduin tribes" were "not notified".27/ In 1936, however, the mandatory Power noted that the "notifications at present are fairly satisfactory, except from those Beduin who spend most of the year in the desert and in adjacent foreign territories.28/ It would seem, therefore, that registration is gradually becoming more complete.

The table given below shows the number of births and deaths notified in each of the years 1926 to 1938 and the excess of births over deaths. The figures in brackets indicate the birth and death rates based on the figures recorded; it is, however, clear that only a very relative value can be attached to these rates, in view, first, of the absence of reliable and accurate figures for the total population, and, secondly, of the incompleteness of the notifications. It is therefore impossible to make accurate inferences with regard to the rate of increase, etc. All that can be said is that the margin between the births and deaths recorded is indicative of a satisfactory expansion of the population. Apart from this, the figures are of interest mainly as showing the progress made in securing notifications.

Number of births registered
(birth rate)
Number of deaths registered
(death rate)
Excess of births registered over deaths registered
Infant mortality
(number of deaths of infants under one year of age per 1000 registered births

The falling-off in the number of deaths recorded during recent years should be noted.

As regards the relatively high infant mortality, the annual report for 1933 (page 267) explains that one of the causes is that "the notification of deaths is undoubtedly more accurate than the notification of births as there is a superstition that the notification of birth may bring harm to the child".

Syria and Lebanon (202,500 square kilometres).

On taking up the mandate, the mandatory Power was confronted with a situation in which, as regards demographic data, it had to start from the very beginning and under peculiarly unfavourable conditions: the population was suspicious, was made up of dissimilar races and belonged to antagonistic creeds; there were political and religious disturbances, vast areas to control, a part of the population was not settled (nomads and semi-nomads), etc. The task was, however, undertaken and a good deal of progress made, though, in 1938, no precise statistics for the country as a whole were yet available.
Efforts have been made to ascertain the number of inhabitants and civil-status registers have been established. These began to function and considerable progress was made. Similarly, the civil status services made great efforts gradually to extend their sphere of action as regards births, deaths, causes of death (compulsorily notifiable diseases), and marriages, despite the obstacles mentioned above.

It has never been possible to take a real census of the population in the strict sense of the term, as conditions were unfavourable. The figures given in the mandatory Power's annual reports are arrived at either by means of a partial census or by estimation, or again on the basis of the civil status records. There is, however, in these figures a wide margin of error and uncertainty due to the same causes which have rendered the taking of an accurate census impossible. They can therefore only be regarded as indications which have no definite value either as regards their significance or for purposes of comparison. Moreover, the figures published in the annual reports are not presented in a regular and systematic manner and are not comparable from one year to another.

A first attempt to take a census of the populations of Syria and Lebanon was made as early as 1921/22, with a view more particularly to enabling the elections to the representative bodies, which were to be created in these countries (and in the autonomous territories), to be held. The thoroughness with which the "census" was conducted varied in different districts. Thus it was, for instance, impossible to observe the same degree of accuracy in the mountains as in the plains. It was impossible to apply the measure to the Beduin. Moreover, a number of persons absented themselves either to avoid paying for their census card or because they suspected that the measure had some fiscal or military purpose. It would, in fact, appear that the inhabitants -- quite groundlessly -- feared the introduction of compulsory military service. Lastly, no account was taken of refugees from Turkey, who subsequently were gradually absorbed into the Syrian and Lebanese populations.

Nevertheless, figures were obtained which have proved useful for purposes of guidance, particularly as regards the relative size of the various communities.

With particular regard to Syria, the report for 1924 mentions for the first time compulsory civil status registration which was to come into force as from January 1st, 1925, but no positive results were achieved. It was not until October 15th, 1931, that Order (ArrĂȘtĂ©) No. 3633 provided for the establishment of civil status registers and fixed penalties for failure to register. This Order also inaugurated compulsory family record booklets and identity cards for male nationals over 14 years of age. Since that time, the civil status offices have recorded entries, but have not always specified their nature, so that it is sometimes difficult to know whether, for instance, an entry represents the belated notification of a birth which had occurred previously or an application by a national for an identity card. The successive reports, after referring to "encouraging results", mention defects in the civil status services which have not shown the anticipated improvement as regards the number of entries. Nor is it stated whether Order No. 3633 applied also to the autonomous territories of the Alaouites and the Jebel Druse; the section of the report relating to these territories makes no mention of it and furnishes no particulars similar to those given in regard to Syria proper, concerning registrations of births, deaths, etc.

In brief, the particulars furnished in these reports and presented in a variety of vague and incomplete forms do not make it possible to determine with accuracy the exact numbers of the population nor, consequently, any increase that has taken place.

It should be noted that, after the early reports, which were indicative of an attempt to furnish figures regarding the population and number of deaths, the authorities would seem to have adopted a more prudent attitude and, instead of continuing to hazard estimates which were more or less guesswork, appear to have concentrated on perfecting their civil-status register services. The first concrete efforts made in this direction probably showed more clearly the imperfect and hazardous nature of such estimates.

The civil status registration may nevertheless be regarded as constituting a means for the progressive numbering of the population.

The case of the Beduin must be considered separately. Information in regard to them is somewhat indefinite. It is not specified what this denomination covers -- whether it applies exclusively to nomad tribes, or whether it also comprises semi-settled groups. Moreover, owing, probably, to their frequent removals, it is not always stated, in regard to the rough estimates made concerning them, whether these estimates cover all the Beduin in Syria, or the Beduin in Syria proper, excluding the autonomous territories. The estimates vary considerably: Syria: 1923, 250.000; 1926, 250,000; 1927, 200,000; the Jebel Druse: 1938, 15,000. The conclusion seems to be that this nomad race eludes, and will probably continue for some time yet to elude, every attempt to enforce registration upon them.

The foregoing observations relate more particularly to Syria proper and to the autonomous Syrian territories, but they apply also in some degree to Lebanon. As regards the latter, however, certain further remarks should be made.

In Lebanon, as in Syria, the 1921 census was conducted under unsatisfactory conditions and not very strictly applied, with the result that a considerable proportion of the inhabitants were able to avoid it, chiefly on account of a fear of conscription. A Law, however, dated November 24th, 1931 (supplemented by a provision dated December 13th, 1931), decreed a fresh general census of the Lebanese population, which was carried out in twenty-four hours, on January 31st, 1932. The figures arrived at by means of this new census are, according to the annual report, "much closer to the facts" than those of 1921. Whereas in 1921 the number of inhabitants present (or temporarily absent) was recorded as 559,529, the number in 1932 was 793,396.

At the 1921 census, apart from the Lebanese present, two categories of emigrants were also counted -- namely, those who still possessed property in the Lebanon, paid taxes and seemed to have the intention to return, and those who were not taxpayers. French nationals and other foreigners living in Lebanon were also counted separately. Similarly, the 1932 census reckoned two categories of emigrants: (1) Lebanese who had emigrated before August 30th, 1924, had not opted for Lebanese nationality and could not therefore legally be regarded as Lebanese nationals; (2) Lebanese who had emigrated after August 30th, 1924, or optants -- i. e., emigrants, who retained Lebanese nationality.


In view of the predominant part played by the religious (and racial) communities in the social and political life of Syria and Lebanon, it seems desirable at this point to give the most recent data furnished in the annual reports regarding the numbers of persons belonging to these various communities. So far as concerns the accuracy of these data, the same reservations as in the case of the data set out above concerning the population in general must, of course, be made. Furthermore, as the figures for Syria and Lebanon respectively do not relate to the same year, they are not, strictly speaking, comparable. They afford, however, probably a fairly correct idea regarding the distribution of the population as between these various groups in each of the political units of Syria and Lebanon. The result shows a veritable mosaic of creeds and races.

As regards Syria proper, the Government of Latakia and the Jebel Druse, the figures relate to the year 1938; in the case of the Sanjak of Alexandretta, they are taken from the official statistics of the local authorities in October 1936; as regards Lebanon, they are based on the 1932 census.

Religious Communities in Syria and Lebanon.

Syria (1938)
not including autonomous States or territories
Sanjak of Alexandretta
Government of Latakia (State of the Alaouites)
Jebel Druse
Sunnites . . . . . . . . .
Shiites (Metoualis). . . .
Alaouites. . . . . . . . .
Druses . . . . . . . . . .
Ishmaelians. . . . . . . .
Greek Orthodox (Melkites).
Greek Catholics. . . . . .
Armenian Orthodox
(Gregorians) . . . . . .
Armenian Catholics . . . .
Protestants. . . . . . . .
Maronites. . . . . . . . .
Latins . . . . . . . . . .
Syrian Catholics (Syriacs)
Syrian Orthodox (Jacobites)
Orthodox and Catholic
Chaldeans. . . . . . . .
Jews . . . . . . . . . . .
Yazidis. . . . . . . . . .
Various. . . . . . . . . .


} 5,526
a/ In Lebanon, this category includes, more particularly, Alaouites and Latins.

Sufficiently complete data are not available to give an idea of the birth and death rates among the population of Syria and Lebanon. The figures for births and deaths given--in a rather indefinite form--in the early annual reports are naturally very incomplete and probably relate to the best-administered districts, the Order regarding civil-status registration being still ineffective throughout wide areas of the territory.

The very incomplete character of the figures furnished in these early reports is, in fact, proved by their smallness. For example, the figures for Syria proper are as follows:

1/ The high figures are due to the great number of notifications in respect of previous years. The 1932 report (page 74) states that the notifications in respect of that actual year amounted to 34,000 births and 15,100 deaths.

Assuming the population of Syria (excluding autonomous States or governments) to be about 2 millions, the death rate for the early years would be from 3 to 4 per 1,000, whereas that for the neighbouring country of Palestine varied at this period between 20 and 25 per 1,000. That is to say that scarcely one-seventh the number of deaths were notified at that time. It will be seen that the figures available for recent years are appreciably higher (25,000 as compared with about 7,000). Distinct progress has thus been made with registration, though it still only covers perhaps nearly half of the deaths. For, supposing for the sake of convenience that the probable mortality rate is 30 per 1,000, with a population of 2,000,000 inhabitants, there would be from 50,000 to 60,000 deaths. This figure is purely hypothetical and given only by way of indication. With regard to births, there has also certainly been a great improvement in their notification, but this improvement is rendered difficult to observe owing to belated notifications which have caused the sudden inflation in some of the figures (those for 1932, for instance).



1/ The different classes of mandates were first designated as "A", "B" and "C" Mandates by the "Milner Commission", see page 20.

2/ A provision to this effect appears in all the mandates except that relating to Syria and Lebanon.

3/ The Mandate for Tanganyika Territory, differing on this point from the other mandates, expressly provides that States Members of the League of Nations may likewise bring before the Court for decision any claims on behalf of their nationals for infractions of their rights under the mandate.

4/ By the treaties which she has concluded with the various mandatory Powers, the
United States has secured, for her citizens, the same rights as those guaranteed to the
nationals of States Members of the League of Nations.

5/ See footnote, page 26.

6/ As a result of various complications, this commission was never appointed.

7/ Minutes of the Twenty-first Session of the Council, page 1188.

8/ Minutes of the Fifty-first Session of the Council, page 1453.

9/ See page 21.

10/ Treaty of Alliance of October 10th, 1922, Protocol of April 30th, 1923, Agreement concerning British Officials of March 25th, 1924, Military Agreement of March 25th, 1924, Judicial Agreement of March 25th, 1924, Financial Agreement of March 25th, 1924, and Treaty of January 13th, 1926. League of Nations document C.216.M.77.1926.VI.

11/ Decisions of the Council of September 27th, 1924 (Minutes of the Thirtieth Session of the Council, pages 1345-1347) and of March 11th, 1926 (Minutes of the Thirty-ninth Session of the Council, page 502).

12/ Minutes of the Sixth Session of the Permanent Mandates Commission (1925), pages 48 and 50. For the discussion which took place on this subject in the Commission, see op. cit., pages 48-50.

13/ Minutes of the Nineteenth Session of the Permanent Mandates Commission (1930), page 35.

14/ See pages 53-54.

15/ Observation on the Cameroons under French Mandate, fifteenth session of the Commission, 1929.

16/ Observation on the Cameroons under British Mandate, fourteenth session of the Commission, 1928.

17/ Observation on Togoland under French Mandate, fifteenth session of the Commission, 1929.

18/ Annual Report for 1922, page 5.

19/ A description of this census and a summary of its results were given in the Report for 1931 pages 135-140. For further details see also: Census of Palestine 1931, Jerusalem 1932.

20/ Report for 1931, page 135.

21/ Palestine Public Health Ordinance, 1918.

22/ Annual Report for 1933, page 135.

23/ Ibid., page 136.

24/ Annual Report for 1935, page 274.

25/ Annual Report for 1938, pages 369-370.

26/ Annual Report for 1936, page 324.

27/ Annual Report for 1935, page 322.

28/ Annual Report for 1936, page 366.

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