Lars Tray/The Hoya U.S. diplomat and Georgetown Law Professor John acDonald discusses his experience with global conflict resolution on Wednesday evening.

Renowned United States diplomat, international lawyer and Georgetown Law Professor John MacDonald offered tactics for conflict resolution and discussed global ethnic disputes Tuesday night in White Gravenor. MacDonald shared stories ranging from working as a district attorney in Frankfurt, Germany, to serving as the first foreign service officer at the United States Agency for International Development, to working with U.S. resolution teams in Nepal and Bosnia to alleviate ethnic conflict.

A visitor to all 50 U.S. states and over 95 countries, MacDonald commenced his diplomatic career with an early experience in law, when appointed as a district attorney. in Frankfurt by the request of the U.S. government. “At the time, all of my counterparts of experience were being appointed as judges, a position that held prestige,” MacDonald said. “I, on the other hand, became a DA, after having never set foot in a courtroom before.”

MacDonald continued a streak of successive assignments, next serving as the first foreign service officer at USAID, where he formed his first global perspective on the United States’ relationship to the rest of the world. Years later, he expanded his office from four members to over 4,000 as he implemented global projects of development. One of his significant assignments consisted of overseeing a task force in building a railroad in Iran, where he led a crew of U.S. engineers through the Iranian mountains.

“Through this experience came a great lesson for me that I have always remembered. During our expedition we came across a tomb of one of Alexander the Great’s generals, buried in B.C.,” MacDonald said. “After discussing my excitement of our discovery in the mountains, the news headlines the following day referred to me as an American Imperialist, displaying their contempt of my reminding them of their ancient but remembered war defeat. Since then I have always remembered that no people ever forget their defeats, no matter how long ago.”

Following his involvement with USAID, MacDonald worked on the U.N. Bureau for economic and social development, served as the president of IOWA peace center in Grinnell, Iowa and then commenced his work in conflict resolution through U.S. diplomacy. One of his earlier projects involved an invitation by the Soviet Union to bring conflict resolution to Moscow.

“When I arrived in Moscow there was no Russian word for conflict resolution, so we created a new term, `conflict resultology,’ now embedded in the Russian language,” he said. “By creating this awareness and communicating our peace strategies we grasped their attention, advising their representatives that they had at least 70 ethnic conflicts below the surface of their empire.”

MacDonald was next stationed in Bosnia, working with small groups of non-governmental organizations to train a large youth group in resolution strategies. “We took a group of 35 Bosnian youths to a wilderness camp in Canada where they learned basic methods of survival and teamwork tactics . These individuals are now in the fourth stage of training and will graduate from our program soon, emerging as the future leaders of their state,” MacDonald said.

He went on to explain that in addition to teaching the Bosnian youth valuable communication and resolution methods, the U.S. diplomats, in exchange, learned from the people with which they worked. “One young leader wanted to create a kindergarten for her community, but the house she selected turned out to be severely damaged and was in need of repair. Already having received funds from us, she went into the village where a group of German soldiers were stationed and asked the commander for help, whose soldiers in response helped build a playground, set up a wire fence and helped level out the ground,” MacDonald explained.

The German soldiers received certificates of appreciation at the launching ceremony, an instance that MacDonald considers a true testament to peace-building.

While explaining his projects and experiences abroad, MacDonald invited students to contemplate the history of ethnic conflict and significant factors perpetrating divide between peoples living within the same nation.

“A major violation is the act of government officials requiring all of their citizens to speak the same language, which serves as a form of oppression to peoples of differing ethnicities. When Japan invaded Korea in 1910 they immediately took away the Korean language, and the same conflict is occurring in Turkey today,” he said. “Another major cause of conflict is the governments’ denial of the cultural identity of the country – the religion, clothes, dances, music, food and other customs are continuously denied. If you deny language, religion and culture you will have fighting. These violating policies can be changed with the act of a pen, unlike issues such as malnutrition and disease.”

MacDonald concluded his lecture with a few words of personal reflection and hope for future change and improvement. “I don’t see the bureaucracies of the world changing, but there is a small vacuum of NGOs, taking small steps in the peacemaking process . All conflict will gradually be resolved, someday the two sides will sign a peace treaty and when future violence breaks out, these trained people will be able to contain aggression and resolve conflict.”

Delta Phi Epsilon, the university foreign service sorority that sponsored MacDonald’s lecture, plans to continue along the lines of peace and conflict resolution by welcoming another speaker to campus in the near future, Farida Azizi.

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