February 2006


Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera yesterday said the candidature of Dr. Jayantha Dhanapala to the United Nations’ top post was a temporary bridge in consensus building in a divided nation. The Minister was speaking at the launch of the Website of Dr. Jayantha Dhanapala, Sri Lanka’s nominee for the post of UN Secretary General at the Sri Lanka Institute of International Relations.

 The Website http://www.jayanthadhanapala.info is for easy access of information about one of Sri Lanka’s formost diplomats and frontrunner for the coveted post in the world body. It was my predecessor late Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar who announced Dr. Dhanapala’s candidature for the post of Secretary General of the UN, Minister Samaraweera said. He said Dhanapala’s candidature not only galvanised bi-patisan support across the political divide, but also that of the private sector and the civil society. The Opposition UNP promptly endorsed the candidature, in a country which often sees division over various issues, Dr. Dhanapala’s candidature is unique in that it has united us all, the Minister added. Explaining why the world body needed the guidance of man of Dhanapala’s calibre, Minister Samaraweera said the UN with all its flaws and shortcomings has nevertheless tried to create a ‘world ruled by the law rather than the rule of the jungle.’

 ‘The UN at 60 is also an institution whose very role is being questioned, and is therefore in need of a strong and experienced leadership to meet the challenges of the ever increasing complexities of the new world order, Samaraweera said. Especially for countries like Sri Lanka, a world without the UN would be a dangerous place’. Dr. Dhanapala who was also the Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament, is possessed of vital consensus building skills, and neutrality, the Minister explained. ‘He has the goodwill to renew the Organization, consolidate its strength and rectify its shortcomings, and has the qualifications to steer the UN through the most challenging era of world affairs.’

 Speaking at the gathering Dhanapala, one of the only two Asian candidates who had their government support said it was way back in 1995 that he candidature for the UN top post was talked of. ‘But it was Africa’s term to be the Secretary General and we decided to respect the rotational scheme,’ he said. Dhanapala who first talked about the need for UN reform, before it became a mantra said it was vital to reform the world body but one should make sure not to throw away the baby with the bath water’.

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Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Foreign Affair is to launch on Monday, 27 February, a website on Jayantha Dahanapala, the Sri Lanka’s official candidate for the prestigious UN Secretary General post. Sri Lankan Government announced the candidacy of Jayantha Dhanapala for the UN Secretary General post and the Opposition parties also agreed that extensive campaign should be carried out in support of Jayantha Dhanapala’s candidacy. Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera will launch this website in Colombo.

Jayantha Dhanapala, nominee of the Sri Lankan government for the post of UN Secretary General, is currently the Senior Advisor to the President of Sri Lanka. Dhanapala was invited to manage the peace process by the government in mid-2004 after a distinguished career as a national and international diplomat, peace-builder, disarmament expert and articulate champion of non-discriminatory global norms, the rule of law, the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and general concerns of developing countries in the collective interest of the international community. He functioned as Secretary General of the Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process till the end of November 2005 when he relinquished duties to devote more time to bid for the post of Secretary General of the United Nations.

Further to his duties in Sri Lanka, Dhanapala continues to be active internationally through his membership of several international groups such as the International Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission; the Governing Board of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI); the International Advisory Group of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC); the United Nations University Council; the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces; the Advisory Council of the Stanford Institute for International Studies; the International Board of the Bonn International Center for Conversion; the International Advisory Board of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Monterey Institute of International Studies; and as Honorary President of the International Peace Bureau.

Dhanapala has had a distinguished career spanning the private sector, government, the United Nations and academia from 1962–2004 interacting with different levels of society including Heads of State and Government and a wide diversity of nationalities. Following a stint in the private sector in Sri Lanka, he ranked first in seeking entry into the Sri Lankan Foreign Service in 1965 and served thereafter in diplomatic postings in London, Beijing, Washington D.C., New Delhi and Geneva, culminating in Ambassadorial appointments in Geneva (1984–87) accredited to the UN and in Washington D.C. (1995–97). During his diplomatic career he engaged pro-actively and innovatively in political, disarmament, economic, trade, human rights and cultural matters in both bilateral and multilateral contexts. He represented Sri Lanka and chaired groups in the Non-aligned Movement and SAARC Conferences, Commonwealth meetings, the Conference on Disarmament and disarmament treaty related meetings, UNCTAD, the Commission on Human Rights and other human rights bodies, ILO, WHO, WIPO, and WMO amongst others. Dhanapala was widely acclaimed for his Presidency of the 1995 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review and Extension Conference, a landmark event in disarmament history, because of his crafting of a package of decisions balancing the twin objectives of nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament and the concerns of the nuclear weapon states and the non-nuclear weapon states which was adopted without a vote. He was later invited by the Australian government to serve as a member of the Canberra Commission together with a Group of 17 eminent international personalities publishing an influential report on nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation in 1996.

Schooled and experienced in corporate management, Dhanapala has integrated these skills and experiences into successful governmental, diplomatic mission and international organizational administration. He has an in-depth knowledge of the United Nations, gained from ten years of exposure in working in a senior management capacity in the United Nations. As an efficient and effective senior manager he gained valuable experience in human resource and budgetary management working smoothly with staff representatives and delegations of member states. First, he served as Director (D2) of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) in Geneva (1987–92) directing policy oriented research in an autonomous think-tank broadening the financial base through fund-raising with a wider group of countries and foundations. He acted to expand the area of research to include non-military threats to security, handbooks to assist delegations to the Conference on Disarmament, providing opportunities for training of researchers from developing countries, networking of research institutes in regions and increasing the volume and impact of UNIDIR publications.

Later, Dhanapala was hand picked by Kofi Annan to take on the challenging job of Under Secretary General to re-establish the Department of Disarmament after the UN reforms of 1997 (1998–2003). During his tenure he piloted the UN role in arresting the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, anti-personnel landmines, conventional weapons, and weapons of mass destruction while reinforcing existing norms and norm-building in other areas. He also broke new ground both in-house in taking managerial initiatives in gender mainstreaming and in work-life issues, as well as in the disarmament field by innovating the exchange of weapons for a development programme in Albania and other areas, and also in the cross-sectoral linking of disarmament with development, the environment and peace education programmes.

Dhanapala has had a solid liberal education obtaining a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree from the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka and a Master of Arts (International Studies) degree from the American University of Washington D.C. in the USA. He studied Chinese at the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London. He has also had work-experience in academia as Diplomat-in-Residence in 1997 with the Centre for Non-proliferation Studies of the Monterey Institute of International Studies in the USA researching and writing on a non-discriminatory global approach to disarmament. He has published four books and several articles in international journals, and has lectured in many countries. He was awarded a MacArthur Foundation grant to research and write his book on "Multilateral Diplomacy and the NPT: An Insider’s account" published by UNIDIR, Geneva in 2005. His contributions towards the international community are widely recognized through the receipt of several awards including: Georgetown University, Washington D.C., the Monterey Institute of International Studies, the Ploughshares Fund and the School of International Service of American University, Washington D.C. for his work in diplomacy and disarmament, and was the Global Security Institute’s first recipient of the Alan Cranston Peace Award in 2002. Dhanapala has also received several honorary degrees including Doctor of Letters (honoris causa) by the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka (2000), Doctor of Humane Letters Honoris Causa by the Monterey Institute of International Studies, U.S.A. (2001), Doctor of Science in the Social Sciences by the University of Southampton, U.K. (2003), Doctor of Letters (honoris causa) by the Sabaragamuwa University, Sri Lanka (2003).

As an effective and eloquent communicator to a wide variety of audiences, Dhanapala has been invited to deliver several keynote lectures that include the Olof Palme Memorial lecture at SIPRI in1999 and the Dorothy Hodgkin Memorial Lecture to Pugwash in 2003. He has also published op-ed articles in international newspapers such as the International Herald Tribune and the UK Financial Times.

Jayantha Dhanapala was born on 30 December 1938 and is married with two children. He speaks fluent Sinhala and English, and is proficient in both French and Chinese.