Her first major role with the government of Canada was as Canadian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and the Maldives in 1983. In 1985, she participated in the World Conference on Women. In 1993, McAskie began working at the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). She served as Vice-President for African and the Middle Eastern programs, as well as Vice-President for CIDA's multilateral programs.
As of 2018, McAskie is a senior fellow at the University of Ottawa's Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. She was also a director for CANADEM, and a director of Pearson Peacekeeping Centre.
McAskie has been a part of multiple delegations to the United Nations. She was appointed deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator in 1999. She replaced Sérgio Vieira de Mello and became the interim Emergency Relief Coordinator from 1999–2004 due to De Mello's mission in Timor-Leste. She has assisted in several relief efforts in Africa over her term. As coordinator, she visited Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Kenya on 10 July 2000, to examine the effects of the drought and to organize relief efforts. McAskie visited the Democratic Republic of the Congo in May 2003 to assess renewed fighting in Ituri.
From 2004 to April 2006, McAskie was the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the United Nations mission (ONUB) to Burundi, and led ceasefire talks in the Burundian Civil War. She was the first Canadian to lead a UN peacekeeping mission following the United Nations' switch to complex missions.
On 16 May 2006, McAskie was named assistant secretary-general for peacebuilding support.
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- "SECRETARY-GENERAL APPOINTS CAROLYN MCASKIE OF CANADA AS ASSISTANT SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR PEACEBUILDING SUPPORT". United Nations. New York. 16 May 2006. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
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