Public Seminar: Beyond Duty: Humanitarian Issues in International Politics and Diplomacy

From Tuesday 13th February until Friday 23rd February 2018, University College Dublin will host the public exhibition: ‘Beyond Duty: An Exhibition on the Diplomats recognized as Righteous Among the Nations’. It will be displayed in the Student Centre. The exhibition is supported by the Embassies of Israel, of Japan, of Lithuania and of The Netherlands. The School of History will hold a Public Seminar to provide interesting and insightful historical context in support of the exhibition.

UCD School of History, Newman Building, Room K114 on Tuesday 20th February

Chair - Ambassador Emeritus John Neary (Adjunct Professor, UCD School of Social Policy, Social Work & Social Justice)


16.00  Address of Welcome
          Prof. Emma Sokell (UCD School of Physics & Acting Chair of UCD Japan Group)
16.10  Humanitarianism and International Politics in the Early 20th Century
          Prof. William Mulligan (UCD School of History)
16.30 The Nazi regime’s attitude towards Jews and their protectors
          Prof. Robert Gerwarth, MRIA (Head of UCD School of History)
16.50  Coffee/Tea Break
17.00  Chiune Sugihara and Jan Zwartendijk, two conscientious consuls in Kaunas, 1940, and awakening memories
           Prof. Giedrius Janauskas (Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas, Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Humanities)
17.20  Observing the Higher Law: Diplomats in Disobedience but ‘Among the Righteous’
          Dr Declan M. Downey, RAH (UCD School of History)
17.40  Humanitarianism and Diplomacy Today: Difficulties for Idealism
           Mr Ronan McNamara (UCD Centre for War Studies, Doctoral Research Fellow)
18.00 Open Forum for General Discussion
18.30 Closure of the Seminar

‘Diplomats must be persons of distinction, quality and excellent taste. They must represent the very best of their state in public and private appearance and in personal behavior and bearing....’, thus Bernard du Rosier, provided the classic definition of what was expected and required in the character of a diplomat in his book, A Short Treatise About Ambassadors (1436). Wisdom, intelligence, prudence, linguistic ability and ‘the art of balancing the interests of the state one represents with the counsel of one’s conscience’, were also listed among the requisite attributes for an effective diplomat. This book is one of the earliest and most influential in the modern canon of literature concerning the art and practice of diplomacy. It is remarkable that what Du Rosier had deemed desirable in a diplomat at the beginning of the 15th century, still holds relevance in our own time.

Throughout the ages, there are a number of instances whereby diplomats as well as other public servants balanced the interests of the state with the demands of their conscience in obedience to what philosophers, theologians and legalists called ‘the Higher Law of Morality’. In some cases their respective state authorities swiftly recognized them for having done the right thing. Others were less fortunate, and it was only much later in their lives, or else posthumously, that they received exoneration, recognition and honours. Though the principle of Humanitarianism was enshrined in the conduct of International Relations and in diplomatic practice during the late 19th century, it has its roots in the principles that were first enunciated in the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. Therefore, Humanitarianism, to a considerable though occasionally varying degree, was very much a part of standard diplomatic practice during the period from the Treaty of Berlin in 1878 (which stipulated legal recognition for non-Christians as full citizens in certain East European states – that would serve as a model for the Minorities System in the League of Nations in 1920), to the signing of the United Nations Charter by 50 countries at San Francisco on 26th June 1945.

This public seminar in support of the public exhibition: ‘Beyond Duty: An Exhibition on the Diplomats recognized as Righteous Among the Nations’, will provide an historical context for understanding the circumstances in which those diplomats who had taken serious personal as well as professional risks to save the lives of a persecuted people during that horrific period in World History from 1933 to 1945. In particular, it will highlight the respective cases of the Japanese and of the Dutch Consuls in Kaunas, Lithuania, in Summer 1940, Chiune Sugihara and Jan Zwartendijk.

Admission to this Public Seminar is free, but as space is limited please contact Dr. Declan M. Downey, the Seminar Organiser,
to reserve a seat. His contact details are: Telephone: (01) 716 8633; E-mail: