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Syria, Iraq, and the Legacy of the Paris Peace Conference

Where do these borders come from? And how were they fixed? The answer is that – as in so many other areas of international relations – the contemporary Middle East was shaped in the aftermath of World War I.

Professor Peter Jackson, Chair of Global Security at the University of Glasgow, and Professor Christian Tams, Chair of International Law at the University of Glasgow, unpack the complicated legacy of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War in a commentary published in The Scotsman, the full text of which is available here.

As well as redrawing the borders of the Ottoman Empire, Jackson and Tams point out, the conference of 1919 set up the mechanics for modern international organisations.

The Peace Conference today is often criticised for having failed in its main task: it did not bring lasting peace to the world. It is true that barely two decades later an altogether more devastating war would erupt. But honourable legacies exist, and as we remember the centenary of a Great War, we should acknowledge them.

Among these honourable legacies are the foundations upon which modern international human rights protections were built.

The peacemakers did not establish our modern system of human rights. That would only emerge after World War II. But the debates of 1919, and the League of Nations’ work during the 1920s, marked at least the ‘prologue’ to modern human rights protection.

Earlier today (8 October 2014), Jackson and Tams participated in a live-streamed discussion of the Treaty of Versailles with The Scotsman’s Stephen McGinty, which you can watch below.

If you want to learn more about the peace that ended the First World War and how it shapes our world today, Professor Tams is offering a free online course in collaboration with the BBC entitled World War I: Paris 1919 – A New World Order?, which reassesses the legacy of the peace conference. The course is open to all and starts on Monday, 13 October 2014. Register online and view a short introductory video on the course website.


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