Elizabethtown College welcomed David Donoghue, the U.N. Ambassador to Ireland, on Monday, Oct. 16 at 7 p.m.
Donoghue gave a lecture titled “The U.N. in a World of Crisis” in Gibble Auditorium, which was full of students, faculty, staff and community members. The College’s Center for Global Understanding and Peacemaking (CGUP) sponsored the lecture.
Donoghue discussed various issues facing the U.N. and his role in the organization. “There is no doubt that we have no shortage of crises in the world today,” he said. “The U.N. has a full agenda.” He just finished co-facilitating a global summit on the migration and refugee crisis.
Professor of English, German and international studies Dr. Mark Harman introduced Donoghue. Harman and Donoghue studied modern languages together at University College Dublin. “[Donoghue] has a wealth of knowledge about all kinds of issues that people our students’ age will have to deal with,” Harman said.
One such issue is Brexit. Donoghue described the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union (EU), and the effect it will have both on the nations involved and on the citizens of those nations. According to Donoghue, people could study abroad or get jobs in any of the EU’s member countries with few to no obstacles before Brexit. That may not be possible once Brexit is fully implemented.
Donoghue also described implications Brexit has within the United Kingdom. Both Harman and Donoghue mentioned that the people behind Brexit mostly thought about England when making their decision and that Scotland actually voted against leaving the EU. Harman said that these differing opinions on Brexit could turn those nations into a “disunited Kingdom.”
Donoghue and Harman both mentioned that Brexit has huge implications for Ireland’s future. “There’s an invisible border now between Northern Ireland and the rest of the country thanks to the GFA,” Harman said. “The fear with Brexit is that it could turn into a militarized border. It’s a worrisome development for Irish foreign policy and the future of the island itself.”
One of Donoghue’s biggest projects at the U.N. so far was negotiating and writing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in September 2015.
For important negotiations like this one, one representative from a developed country and one representative from an undeveloped country are chosen to negotiate an agreement. Together, Donoghue and the ambassador to Kenya drafted 17 main goals and over 100 secondary goals, all of which deal with sustainability, for countries to reach by 2030.
“If every nation can improve by 2030, the world will be a different place,” Donoghue said. “I know that sounds utopian, but we need to set ambitious goals in order to make progress.
“Still, goals like these mean nothing unless we act on each one of them ourselves and help other countries do so.”
Donoghue also described how the U.N. functions. Sophomore Rebecca Young said she found this information useful because while she has a friend who works for the U.N., she did not know how the U.N. functioned until she attended Donoghue’s lecture for her Peace, War and Nonviolence class.
The U.N. has two main branches. The first, called the Executive Branch or Security Council, has five permanent member countries and 10 temporary member countries that rotate on and off the Council. “Almost every problem in the world becomes the burden of the Security Council, but that’s where the trouble begins because even just among those five nations getting consensus is difficult,” Donoghue said.
The other main U.N. branch Donoghue discussed is the General Assembly. In the General Assembly, all of the U.N.’s member nations receive equal representation. Donoghue said that the Security Council has recently started doing a better job of taking the opinions of the General Assembly into account when negotiating.
“It surprised me that [Donoghue] was so open about the problems that the U.N. has,” sophomore Emily Wieder said. “I just figured he’d talk about how great it is. The fact that he admitted that there are issues and that people don’t always get along was awesome to hear.”
Donoghue described how different world issues can overlap and how it can be difficult to fix one without affecting another. He used poverty as an example, saying it is impossible to eradicate poverty without taking the environment and the economy into account.
Before becoming the U.N.’s Ambassador to Ireland, Donoghue studied German and French at the National University of Ireland and University College Dublin. From there, Donoghue joined the Irish Foreign Service, served as Irish Ambassador in Russia and Germany and was Political Director of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Dublin.
“It’s a lot of work to get people to agree and work toward peace, but it’s worth it in the end,” Wieder said. “If you can get solid legislation that people actually agree on and want to work for it’ll be better in the end because, if you’re actually getting something out of it, then you’ll put more effort in.”
“In the U.N. you have to put up with a lot of frustration because consensus is so hard to achieve,” Donoghue said. “But if you reach a happy moment where there is consensus, it’s a happy feeling. Most of the time we don’t reach consensus, but I’ve been fortunate to get major agreements through in my few years there.”