Ambassador John W. McDonald

McDonaldU.S. Ambassador (ret.) John W. McDonald is a lawyer, diplomat, former international civil servant, development expert and peacebuilder, concerned about world social, economic and ethnic problems. He spent twenty years of his diplomatic career in Western Europe and the Middle East and worked for sixteen years on United Nations economic and social affairs. He is currently Chairman and co-founder (1992) of the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy, in Rossyln, Virginia, which focuses on national and international ethnic conflicts, including the Millennium goals of clean drinking water and sanitation. He also is UNEP’s North American Representative to the International Environmental Governance Advisory Group.

McDonald retired from the U.S. Foreign Service in 1987, after a 40 year diplomatic career.

In 1987-88, he became a Professor of Law at The George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C. He was Senior Advisor to George Mason University’s Center for Conflict Analysis and Resolution and taught and lectured at the Foreign Service Institute and the Center for the Study of Foreign Affairs. From December, 1988, to January, 1992, McDonald was President of the Iowa Peace Institute in Grinnell, Iowa and was a Professor of Political Science at Grinnell College. In February, 1992, he was named Distinguished Visiting Professor at George Mason University’s Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, in Fairfax, Virginia.

Before his retirement from the State Department in 1987, McDonald joined in 1983 the State Department’s newly formed Center for the Study of Foreign Affairs as its Coordinator for Multilateral Affairs, and lectured and organized symposia on the art of negotiation, multilateral diplomacy and international organizations.

From 1978-83, he carried out a wide variety of assignments for the State Department in the area of multilateral diplomacy. He was President of the INTELSAT World Conference called to draft a treaty on privileges and immunities; leader of the U.S. Delegation to the UN World Conference on Technical Cooperation Among Developing Countries, in Buenos Aires in 1978; Secretary General of the 27th Colombo Plan Ministerial Meeting; head of the U.S. Delegation which negotiated a UN Treaty Against the Taking of Hostages; U.S. Coordinator for the UN Decade on Drinking Water and Sanitation; head of the U.S. Delegation to UNIDO III in New Delhi in 1980; Chairman of the Federal Inter-Agency Committee for the UN’s International Year of Disabled Persons, 1981; U.S. Coordinator and head of the U.S. Delegation for the UN’s World Assembly on Aging, in Vienna, in 1982.

From 1974-78, he was Deputy Director General of the International Labor Organization (ILO) in Geneva, Switzerland, a UN Agency, with responsibility for managing that agency’s 3,200 person Secretariat, coming from 102 countries, with programs in 120 member nations, and an annual budget of $135 million. From 1947-1974, Ambassador McDonald held various State Department assignments in Berlin, Frankfurt, Bonn, Paris, Washington D.C., Ankara, Tehran, Karachi, and Cairo.

Ambassador McDonald holds both a B.A. and a J.D. degree from the University of Illinois, and graduated from the National War College in 1967. He has written and co-edited ten books and numerous articles on negotiation and conflict resolution, and makes more than 100 speeches a year. He was appointed Ambassador twice by President Carter and twice by President Reagan to represent the United States at various UN World Conferences.

Awards and Recognitions

2006 The University of Illinois (Champaign-Urbana) Alumni Association Award Alum of the Year

2004  College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Alumni Association of the University of Illinois (Champaign-Urbana) awarded the LAS Alumni Achievement Award

2002 The Alumni Club of the University of Illinois, Washington, D.C. award: ALUMNI of the Year

1994 Nominee for Nobel Peace Prize

1986 The Foreign Service Institute of the U.S. Department of State – Certificate of Appreciation
On the occasion of his completion of forty years of service with the United States Government. Ambassador McDonald has served his country well on assignments to international organizations. He single-handedly has focused the attention of the Department of State on the importance of training Foreign Service Officers in multi-lateral negotiations, writing a book on and teaching courses in this subject. Ambassador McDonald is a valued and respected colleague. Signed, Stephen Low, 1986.

1984 Presidential Meritorious Award, State Department
For sustained superior accomplishments in the conduct of the foreign policy of the US Government and for noteworthy achievements of quality and efficiency in public service. Signed, Ronald Reagan, 1984.

1983 Certificate of Recognition of Distinguished Service to the National Cryptologic School of the National Security Agency
Signed by the Commandant, 1983.

1981 Government of the District of Columbia
Meritorious Public Service Award presented as Official Commendation “in recognition of his outstanding interest, public spirit and untiring devotion to the welfare of our communities and to the government of the United States while serving as the Coordinator for the United Nations Drinking Water and Sanitation Decade. His generous contributions of time, exceptional ability and excellent advice in the deliberations of these matters are deeply appreciated. Signed, Mayor Marion Barry, 1981.

1972 Department of State Superior Honor Award
In recognition of your outstanding contribution to international environmental activities, particularly those relating to the preparations for and participation at the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment. You played a vital role in developing the US position on an institutional framework within the United Nations to effectively coordinate and carry out future environmental activities, and through intensive negotiations successfully carried this basic position forward until it was unanimously adopted by the 114 nations present at the Stockholm Conference.

1967 Diploma from The National War College, Washington, D.C.
Signed, Vice-Admiral U.S. Navy, Commandant, 1967.


2007. St. John’s University, Minnesota
“Honorary JD”

1993. Salisbury State University (Salisbury U.)
“Doctor of Humane Letters”

1991. Teykyo Marycrest University
“Doctor of Humane Letters”

1990. Mount St. Clare. College, Iowa
“Poverello Award for Distinguished Service to Society”

1989. Mount Mercy College, Iowa
“Honorary Degree Doctor of Humanities”