USIP mourns the passing of Ambassador John McDonald, a longtime American diplomat and international development and peacebuilding expert. A nominee for the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize, McDonald founded the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy (IMTD) and helped lead efforts to establish the Pakistan-India Kartarpur Peace Corridor.
“Ambassador McDonald was already legendary when I first encountered him 25 years ago,” said USIP President Nancy Lindborg. “He was both remarkably kind and a remarkable visionary, and his lasting influence will continue to contribute to a more peaceful world.”
In a career that spanned six decades, Ambassador McDonald worked tirelessly to develop better strategies for mediation through his innovative vision and commitment to cooperative, multilateral diplomacy.
“The ambassador reminded us every day that peace can only be achieved when all actors simultaneously work in the same direction,” said USIP Senior Expert Juan Diaz-Prinz. “His work inspired me to look at the whole environment in which conflict takes place and not just the powerful actors involved. His spirit continues in all my work.”
Ambassador McDonald was a loyal supporter and friend of USIP. Serving as the director or co-director on several USIP grant projects, Ambassador McDonald partnered with the Institute to establish a comprehensive set of resources and analysis regarding multi-track diplomatic networks, as well as train grassroots and community leaders in Kashmir in community peacebuilding techniques.
McDonald received his first diplomatic posting to Berlin in 1946 and eventually held positions throughout Western Europe and the Middle East. In 1974, McDonald was appointed deputy director general of the U.N.’s International Labor Organization, where he managed the ILO’s Secretariat of 3,200 staff.
After his time at the U.N., McDonald was appointed an ambassador on four occasions—twice by President Carter and twice by President Reagan—to lead multilateral diplomatic efforts around the world. He then joined the State Department’s Center for the Study of Foreign Affairs as the coordinator for Multilateral Affairs.
He retired from the Foreign Service in 1987 after 40 years and subsequently became a professor of law at George Washington University.
Since 1992, Ambassador McDonald served as chairman and co-founder of IMTD—an organization dedicated to a systems-based approach for transforming deep-rooted conflict. With more than 1,300 members in 31 countries, McDonald led IMTD’s efforts to bring multi-track diplomacy to various conflicts around the world, including the creation of the Kartarpur Peace Corridor, which gave Sikhs peaceful access to three of their religion’s holy shrines.
The Institute sends our deepest condolences to his wife Christel, his children, and grandchildren.