"Considered by many in the diplomatic community to be the front-runner, the former Under Secretary-General for disarmament knows how to navigate the UN inside out," notes the Foreign Policy Journal.

Dhanapala began as a private sector executive, but became a career diplomat in 1965.

He went on to serve in key capitals such as London, Beijing, Washington, with accreditation to the UN.

He had represented Sri Lanka in most of the major conferences of NAM, Commonwealth, UNCTAD, ILO and WHO among other organisations.

He 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’s UN plans

• Eliminating Terrorism.

• Enhancing international cooperation.

• Creating dialogue among civilisations and promoting compromise and tolerance to enable people to understand and respect each other’s cultural values by ensuring religious freedom.


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 recognised through the receipt of several awards including: Georgetown University, Washington DC, the Monterey Institute of International Studies, the Ploughshares Fund and the School of International Service of American University, Washington DC 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, USA (2001), Doctor of Science in the Social Sciences by the University of Southampton, UK (2003), Doctor of Letters (honoris causa) by the Sabaragamuwa University, Sri Lanka (2003)

Source: Global Order