John L. Washburn has had an extensive career in diplomacy and international governmental and nongovernmental organizations. He was a director in the executive office of the secretary-general of the UN from January 1988 to April 1993. Thereafter, he was a director in the Department of Political Affairs at the UN until March 1994.
Washburn is currently convener of the American Non-Governmental Organizations Coalition for the International Criminal Court (AMICC), co-chair of the Washington working group on the International Criminal Court (WICC), and a past president of the Unitarian Universalist UN office. In association with the international NGO Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC), he attended most of the UN negotiations on the International Criminal Court since 1994, including the 1998 diplomatic conference in Rome. He has published extensively on relations between the UN and the US on the court.
Washburn was a member of the US Foreign Service from 1963 to 1987. His last assignment was as the member of the State Department’s policy planning staff responsible for international organizations and multilateral affairs. Earlier in his Foreign Service career, Washburn was assigned to India, Iran, and Indonesia. In the State Department, Washburn had a variety of assignments in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs. These covered most aspects of the work of international organizations and a variety of multilateral issues. He also conceived, helped to establish and was deputy director of an office in that bureau to further the coordination of American bilateral and multilateral diplomacy. During his service in the bureau, he was a member of US delegations to various sessions of the UN General Assembly, Economic and Social Council, Economic Commission for Asia and the Pacific and Committee for Programme and Coordination.
Washburn was also night-shift chairman of the Iran hostage task force in 1979. He received a special commendation from the secretary of state for his service and has also been awarded the State Department’s Meritorious Honor Award and SuperiorHonor Award. In 1977-1978 he was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association, serving as a senior staff member for Senator William Proxmire of Wisconsin and for Rep. John Cavanaugh of Nebraska.
Washburn is a graduate of Harvard College and the Harvard Law School and a member of the Bar of the District of Columbia and of the bars of the District Court and Circuit Court of Appeals in that jurisdiction. He has worked as a volunteer lawyer in an area office of the Neighborhood Legal Services Program. He belongs to the American Society of International Law and the Council on Foreign Relations and is a founding member of the Academic Council on the UN system.
A new and striking reminder of the importance of the International Criminal Court for women and their special support for it has emerged in the last few months. Fatou Bensouda, a lawyer from Gambia, has become a leading candidate to be elected the court’s prosecutor in December, when Luis Moreno-Ocampo’s term ends. The court’s Assembly of States Parties elects its prosecutors and judges.
At the African Union summit in January, a resolution was passed challenging the International Criminal Court on issues vital to its work and purpose. These included peace and justice, enforcement of its arrest warrants and which cases to prosecute -- all matters that were discussed in the court’s review conference in Uganda last June. In addition, the resolution complained about United Nations Security Council inaction on requests from the African Union about the court.
When the International Criminal Court held its first conference to review the court’s progress this spring, the United States hailed it as a success for American diplomacy. But the achievement was greeted by silence in American media.
Americans told the United Nations in Gallup Poll results released on Feb.19 that the UN must do better. Only 31 percent of the respondents thought that the international body is “doing a good job,” up from 26 percent the previous year, marking the highest approval rating since 2005, when George W. Bush was president.