Indeed, he didn’t win the race to succeed Kofi Annan as the new Secretary-General of the UN… in fact, he ended up at the rear of the field of main contenders, having started as a veritable firm favourite. It was a year of ups and downs, with the ‘Asian flag’ fluttering incessantly – its turn had come, we were told, even before the starter’s orders… but there were many detractors; amongst them, the most powerful nation on earth.

That Jayantha Dhanapala ran a highly-dignified campaign, centred around values of old and with the least possible assistance from his state, is widely accepted. That his state just happened to be a war-torn island being run to the ground by corrupt and inept politicians was also common knowledge not just here, at home, but also amongst those in the know in high-ranking international circles. That his diplomatic network was limited by virtue of his country’s wafer-thin spread of representatives around the world is also known. “We have, perhaps, a third of the number of diplomatic missions that India and South Korea have,” Dhanapala tells Namini Wijedasa, in a no-holds-barred exclusive interview in this month’s Cover Supplement.

But despite the numerous ‘home-made’ impediments, he makes few, if any, excuses for his failure to secure the top post at the UN – a testament to his graciousness in defeat. He is also a unique being in this day and age, in this country, in that he asked not any favours nor pulled any strings… the norm for just about anyone who runs for high office in Sri Lanka today. That he must’ve known early in the piece that this could result in his downfall is a given – another example, perhaps, of where his deep-rooted principles lie.

LMD’s ‘Sri Lankan Of The Year’ for 2006 not only put the nation back on the world stage at a time when its image was taking a beating in the eyes of the international community, but he taught us all a lesson or two about how one can accept defeat with dignity.

We’ve also come to realise that one doesn’t have to win to become a role model for a nation that is desperately searching for one… in short, one doesn’t have to hold high office nor be a world beater to be honoured as a ‘Sri Lankan of the Year’.



Last year’s Sri Lankan contender for the post of UN Secretary-General, Jayantha Dhanapala – in an exclusive interview with Namini Wijedasa – analyses his candidature.

Q: You ran an unsuccessful race for the post of UN Secretary-General. To what would you attribute your failure to secure the job?

A: In a personal statement issued after my withdrawal from the race, I indicated that I didn’t feel the time was right for us to analyse reasons for my defeat. But, perhaps, it can be said that 1995 was the zenith of my career and the opportunity should have been seized during that time to field me as a candidate for a senior position in the UN system.

Today, three years after I had left the UN position as Under-Secretary-General, I did not have the visibility that an incumbent foreign minister like Ban Ki-moon had. Nor did I hold the positions that the other candidates held to be able to actively engage governments and be in the mainstream of diplomacy. That was probably one reason.

The other reason is that in today’s globalised world, economic relations matter much more than ideology. And, if any proof was needed that the Cold War has ended, we saw it in this election for UN Secretary-General – with China actually voting in favour of the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea, despite the mutual security pact that South Korea has with the US, to say nothing of 40,000 American troops on South Korean soil. Times have changed and we have to acknowledge these realities.

I derived great satisfaction from the fact that an Asian was elected Secretary-General, because that had been a fundamental plank in the Sri Lankan campaign and in my own personal set of beliefs. I am also very happy that a national of a country that has acquired nuclear weapons was not elected, because that would have eroded the moral dimension of the Secretary-General’s office.

Q: Could you analyse how the votes were cast at the election?

A: It’s very difficult for us to analyse who voted for us. I believe that the major Asian countries in the UN Security Council voted for my candidature, but they also probably voted for other Asian candidatures. This meant that they were not conferring on me any special favour. The fact is that there were no negative votes against the South Korean and he was able to succeed.

What is disappointing, however, is that the Western countries did not appear to have voted for me. I would attribute that largely to my postures on disarmament issues. I have adopted a very honest position on nuclear disarmament and I have no regrets, whatsoever, on that. The countries that voted to discourage me came from NATO and they must have feared I would take an activist position on nuclear disarmament, had I become Secretary-General. They didn’t realise that, as Secretary-General, I would have had to divorce my personal views from those of the UN.

Another reason attributed to my defeat was my age, but I think that was more a red herring than a real reason – because the President of Latvia was, in fact, older than I. Boutros Boutros-Ghali assumed duties when he was older than both the President of Latvia and myself.

As far as the Western group was concerned, it could also be that Sri Lanka is not a big investor internationally or a huge market for products. In this globalised world – in the same way that China was influenced to acquiesce vis-à-vis a Korean candidate – many Western candidates were more enticed by economic benefits than by the individual merits of a candidate. Nor did they consider his potential to lift the UN from its present state of ineffectiveness and the bad reputation it has acquired.

Several developing non-aligned countries are non-permanent members of the UN. But there again, the non-aligned ties that Sri Lanka has forged over a long period of time clearly mattered much less during the vote. Here is a sign of the times: that non-alignment and G77 links are less important now than other ties, established more recently, with countries offering benefits in terms of investment and markets.

In summary, I would think the trends of globalisation – and the fact that there was a candidate acceptable to all five permanent members – helped swing the decision in favour of the Korean and against me.

Q: An opinion has been expressed that India fielded a candidate just to cobble your chances. What role did India play in your defeat?

A: At an early stage – when I had accepted the late Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar’s proposal to be a candidate – we did approach our South Asian neighbours and the only lack of enthusiasm we detected was in New Delhi. It was never clearly articulated as to why this was so. Had it been expressed, we could have discussed it with our Indian colleagues.

It was always rumoured that Shashi Tharoor had harboured the ambition and intention of running for the post. I believe that was one of the factors preventing the Indians from endorsing me. It could have been awkward if Tharoor had sought the sponsorship of another country such as the UK where he enjoys, I’m told, nationality.

But the fact that they waited until quite late in the process to announce Tharoor’s candidature was unfortunate and it was certainly seen as a spoiler to my own candidature. Many countries asked us directly, at an early stage, what India’s attitude was to my candidature. We were unable to produce the endorsement that the Thais had from ASEAN in respect of their candidate. If we had a South Asian consensus on my candidature, or on anyone else’s candidature, I think that would have helped the region. South-East Asia had already been represented in this post through what was then Burma and it would have been logical for us to claim that it was South Asia’s turn.

Q: Do you regret vying for the post?

A: I have no regrets whatsoever. When I accepted the government’s offer to run as Sri Lanka’s candidate, I knew it was a gamble. There was as much the prospect of success as there was the spectre of defeat. In a race, you must have the equanimity to accept both. I think I ran a successful race and I was able to present the issues as I wanted them to be presented. I was treated as a serious candidate, with respect; and I am grateful to the government for having given me this opportunity.

Q: Did the prevailing conflict situation in Sri Lanka impact negatively on your candidature?

A: Sri Lanka received considerable adverse international publicity at the time. I have said that I thought it was disproportionate and not commensurate with the situation in other parts of the world. There was, for example, continuing haemorrhaging in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kashmir and other parts of India experiencing Naxalite movements. Sri Lanka, sadly, continues to attract a lot of publicity and I think that also was a negative factor.

Q: Did you receive any direct indication during your campaign that the situation in Sri Lanka might work against you?

A: Nobody asked me directly. However, I heard from the diplomatic missions campaigning for us that this was a factor. Certainly, some of the media reporting indicated that the Sri Lankan conflict was a factor.

Q: It was contended in some quarters that our diplomatic missions did not adequately support your campaign. Would you agree?

A: I think that’s an unfair criticism. If you compare the Sri Lankan diplomatic machine with its Indian and Korean counterparts,, there is no way in which we could have competed. We have, perhaps, one-third the number of diplomatic missions that India and South Korea have. And due to under-resourcing, concurrent accreditation is also restricted to just one visit a year to countries such as Greece, Slovakia and so on.

Secondly, although Sri Lanka is well known internationally and has acquired a reputation – mainly through the successful foreign policy of the late Sirimavo Bandaranaike – we still suffer from the lack of peace and stability. We also don’t have the economic prosperity that must go hand-in-hand with the reputation we have acquired in order to be taken seriously in the chanceries of the world. It’s not surprising, therefore, that wealthier and bigger countries have greater influence, impact and ability to command attention both in the media and the international arena. That’s a fact of life.

Q: How will Ban Ki-moon, the new Secretary-General, influence the manner in which the UN has been conducting itself?

A: I am confident in his wisdom. He has an Asian approach to international affairs – which, I think, brings with it qualities of patience, tolerance and prudence. For example, he knows the situation in East Asia very well, where we have the North Korean nuclear issue to deal with. I do not think it was a coincidence that the nuclear test of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea occurred immediately after the decision was taken to elect Ban Ki-moon as Secretary-General.

One can only hope, therefore, that his deep knowledge of the issue will help resolve it, although China will remain key in the resolution of this problem. I also feel it’s fundamentally a problem between the US and North Korea, and much depends on the attitude of Washington.

Q: What are your future plans?

A: Now that I have been defeated in my quest for the UN Secretary-General’s job, my preference is not to undertake anything full-time, but to concentrate on my existing international commitments. These give me a lot of satisfaction. I also would like to spend some time writing. I have, in the past, written mostly on international affairs. I would like to reflect on the UN in the next book I write.

I’m also thinking of relocating to Kandy, where my wife and I grew up. I continue to be a Senior Adviser to the President, but that’s an honorary position. I’m very much on the periphery. I furnish advice and opinions, as and when necessary, on an ad-hoc basis.

Q: We still have a shell of a peace process left, but there is no change in the status quo. How can this situation be reversed, so that we see some forward movement?

A: First, one must welcome the Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) between the SLFP and the UNP. The President must be given credit for securing a southern consensus. It is left to be seen how this MOU is translated into action, in terms of practical benefits to the country. Nevertheless, it’s a promising development. For the first time in the history of post-independent Sri Lanka, there’s the possibility of a consensus on the part of the southern polity.

I would like to see this emerge now as a practical proposal from the All Party Representatives Committee, a tangible constitutional arrangement in terms of a devolution package within a united Sri Lanka. While that process is going on, it’s difficult to expect the peace talks to reach any finality. These are interdependent processes.

I would also like to see a similar process on the part of the Tamil and Muslim communities. There is no doubt that there are divisions within the Tamil and Muslim communities. I would like to see the non-LTTE Tamil forces establish a coalition and provide the country with a clear idea of what an emerging consensus could be. For instance, Veerasingham Anandasangaree has mentioned the Indian model. Douglas Devananda has also endorsed it from time to time, while sometimes alluding to regional councils.

The Muslim Peace Secretariat was, unfortunately, confined to just two parties: the NUA and the SLMC. It should be more broad-based. I hope that these two parties will try to reorganise the Muslim Peace Secretariat and make it a forum to uphold Muslim interests, to produce a common platform. The Muslims are an important minority in the country. They have traditionally played a significant role, from ancient times. Now, in the making of modern Sri Lanka as a multi-ethnic pluralist society, the Muslims have a vital role to play.

Once we have these three groups producing their own ideas, it will be much easier for us to have some sense of what can be done. In that context, the LTTE will have to formulate its own response to a democratic solution – one that will respect the human rights of everybody.

Q: Are you suggesting this as a road map?

A: They are building blocks towards a solution. What I admire about the Rajapakse approach is that he is building up these blocks before attempting a solution. You might come up with a very good plan, but if spoilers in the political process can prevent it from being implemented, you will find it blowing up in your face.

It is, therefore, much better to make sure that all Muslim opinion is integrated into a platform and that all Tamil opinion – outside the LTTE, because we know it is not in the democratic mainstream – is integrated into a platform.

If all this can then be accommodated in the solution that is being negotiated by the government, it would be a lot easier for us to arrive at a national solution which is acceptable to all.

I personally find that this process of negotiating peace in the glare of publicity – in Geneva or wherever else – is not necessarily the best way forward. I’m not proposing that talks be held secretly, but I think it’s a task for the technocrats to undertake – under the guidance, of course, of their political masters.

As with all international negotiations and other negotiations which have been successful in the past, technicians must start working outside the glare of publicity. They may then report back to the political leadership, whether it be the government or the LTTE. You can’t expect automatic solutions at a two-day meeting in Geneva or Oslo. I think there’s something very wrong in the modality that the Norwegians have proposed and I hope they move away from it.

Q: Isn’t it ominous that talks between the LTTE and the government keep failing?

A: I’m not overly pessimistic that bilateral peace talks between the LTTE and the government are not showing progress right now. What I am concerned about is the lack of peace in the country. The absence of a settlement, agreed upon between the LTTE and government in the short term, is not as important as the restoration of a complete ceasefire and a respect for human rights. In this regard, there has been a sharp deterioration in 2006.

We must return to a better implementation of the 2002 ceasefire, despite all the flaws in the agreement. You can also buttress the ceasefire with parallel human-rights monitoring.

There must be a way in which the Karuna group is given some role, so that it is brought within the discipline of the ceasefire. How that can be done must be discussed, but its members can’t be allowed to get away with violations of the ceasefire simply because they are anti-LTTE.

No violations of law and order can be tolerated by an elected government in a democratic country which holds the rule of law and human rights as fundamental foundations of the nation.

Q: Do you have practical suggestions for a better implementation of the ceasefire agreement?

A: I deplored the decision of the EU members of the SLMM to leave. That was a retrograde step. They could very well have relocated to Colombo and worked here in a reconfiguration of the SLMM. I hope they come back, even at this stage. We need to expand the number of monitors and they should be able to function smoothly. There have been numerous occasions when the LTTE has not permitted them, for example, to go to the airfield that it is suspected to be building. That should not have been tolerated.

As I have said, the ceasefire agreement of 2002 is deeply flawed. But we have to live with the flaws now, because renegotiating such a ceasefire agreement is a huge task. The LTTE will certainly not cooperate, because the current ceasefire agreement is in its favour.

What we can do is to build a parallel human-rights monitoring mechanism. The international community can insist that the LTTE and the government accept that mechanism. The government itself has subscribed to international agreements on human rights. We also have constitutional guarantees of human rights. All these should be a framework for human-rights monitoring that could take place with our own people and with international observers. That will help buttress the existing ceasefire agreement.

Q: How has concern over human rights had an impact on how we are currently viewed by the world?

A: From an understanding that we are victims of terrorism, there is now also a deep concern over two things. One is our failure to produce a concrete proposal to solve the minority problems in this country. The forging of the UNP-SLFP agreement has, to some extent, helped reduce that problem. But the other issue is that there have been a number of human-rights violations and breaches of the ceasefire, where suspicion points to the government. And there has not been sufficient action taken by the state to remove that suspicion or to determine who the culprits are. I think that has resulted in a very serious credibility problem for Sri Lanka, internationally. More seriously, we are losing the moral high ground.

While nobody is looking upon the LTTE as freedom fighters, our own credibility in fighting terrorism is being seriously eroded because of these human-rights violations that are perceived to have been committed by the government. If that perception is wrong, it’s up to us to prove that they’re wrong.


The countries that voted to discourage me came from NATO and they must have feared I would take an activist position on nuclear disarmament, had I become Secretary-General. They didn’t realise that, as Secretary-General, I would have had to divorce my personal views from those of the UN…


We also don’t have the economic prosperity that must go hand-in-hand with the reputation we have acquired in order to be taken seriously in the chanceries of the world. It’s not surprising, therefore, that wealthier and bigger countries have greater influence…


I personally find that this process of negotiating peace in the glare of publicity – in Geneva or wherever else – is not necessarily the best way forward. I’m not proposing that talks be held secretly,

but I think it’s a task for the technocrats to undertake – under the guidance, of course, of their political masters…



Career diplomat and retired UN mandarin Jayantha Dhanapala is home to roost. Savithri Rodrigo discovers that there’s still something of a globetrotter in him…

Jayantha Dhanapala returned late last year from the UN Secretary-General’s race – one he did not win. It was a contest, however, with some victories. “It was a race well run, even though it did not end in the success we all hoped for. I believe it brought some credit to Sri Lanka – because of the dignity and the principles with which we pursued the campaign – and it gave the country some positive publicity,” Dhanapala affirms.

Having harboured hopes of settling down in Kandy on retiring from the UN, about three years ago, he now asserts: “I think it’s important to live in one’s own country, because we draw nourishment from our roots. This is not something we gain only in our formative years; rather, it is a continuous process, with cultural values constantly being imbibed.”

Now back in his role as Senior Adviser to the President – having also functioned as the head of the Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process – Dhanapala feels he is making a modest contribution to the country from which he has derived so many benefits.

His nomination as Sri Lanka’s candidate for the UN’s – if not the world’s – most influential office – was not unexpected. After all, he had been ‘our man in the UN’. There was once some speculation about the matter, however, following his widely-acclaimed success in presiding over the 1995 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review and Extensions Conference.

Dhanapala then became the focus of the international media as a likely candidate for the Secretary-General’s post. But his nomination to another UN post was not endorsed by the then government – for reasons with which Dhanapala disagreed. This led to his premature retirement from the foreign service, in April 1997.

Now out of the UN system, Dhanapala reflects on the modalities of the election of the Secretary-General. “The Security Council first decides on the nomination and submits one name to the General Assembly, which then formally appoints that person. The responsibility for the appointment lies with the General Assembly, but – de facto – the choice is made by the Security Council, where 15 countries have the power to select. Obviously, there has to be concurrence among the five permanent members and at least four others, a majority of nine, with none of the permanent five voting against,” he explains. And Dhanapala says of the now incumbent UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: “He is an exceptionally capable and highly-qualified individual who would definitely do justice to the office.”

The late entry of a large number of candidates meant that they had not been exposed to the critical scrutiny of the international community, which those who had declared their candidature earlier had undergone. Dhanapala concedes, however, that all were highly professional, well qualified and deeply passionate about the UN and its ideals. But he disagrees with those who claim that the decision of the African and Asian groups to sponsor an Asian candidate limited the field. “Asia – the most populous continent in the world – is rich in human resources. We are also the cradle of many great civilisations and cultures that have enriched world history. There was no need for any affirmative action to put an Asian in the seat. But I am appalled at the double standards of the West, because they do not utter any protest when organisations such as the IMF and The World Bank always have a Westerner as their respective heads. However, when we suggest regional rotation to achieve a level playing field to prevent this monopolisation, we are accused of restricting the field,” he points out.

Once would-be Secretaries-General declare their candidature, the race is on in earnest.

“Personal interaction is crucial, particularly for an office which is considered the premier diplomatic posting in the world. Governments must be able to assess the candidate’s ability to articulate issues and the general public gets to know the candidate through the media. So, while we talk to governments, we also look for opinion makers who may have input into the decision-making process in those countries. Because of my long career in international affairs, I’ve been fortunate to have a network of friends throughout the world who also worked on my behalf. A little-known fact that I’m very grateful for is a voluntary letter of support written to US Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice by a group of former US ambassadors and diplomats to Sri Lanka.”

Dhanapala presented himself personally to the governments of all 15 UN permanent members, in addition to visiting Germany and the head of the EU in Brussels. Within the UN itself, he called on its Permanent Representatives, while also accompanying Sri Lankan delegations to the UN General Assembly, the Commonwealth and the Non-Aligned Movement.

“But I need to face reality. The Sri Lankan diplomatic machine is much weaker than, say, that of the Republic of Korea or India, whose diplomatic representation spans over 150 countries, while we have just 55. Having a resident mission that’s constantly interacting with the respective government is of tremendous importance. Ghana, Congo and Tanzania – the three African countries on the Security Council – do not have a resident Sri Lankan mission; neither does Latin America’s Peru, nor Argentina. Sri Lanka, with its limited potential, cannot offer huge benefits in terms of economic relationships or strategic partnerships,” Dhanapala explains. He grants, though, that he was always considered a qualified candidate and treated with respect. “Which is why the first straw poll was surprising. In hindsight, the only major drawback was the Indian government’s failure to endorse my candidature,” he declares.

Now, although the UN race is behind him, Dhanapala’s schedule hasn’t slackened. He continues to be active internationally with the International Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the UN University Council, the ICRC, the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces, the Stanford Institute for International Studies, the Center for Nonproliferation Studies and the Monterey Institute of International Studies; also, as Honorary President of the International Peace Bureau.

But this globetrotter retains his passion for idyllic Kandy and, despite the extra time residing in the hills entails vis-à-vis commuting to the airport, he looks forward to retiring to their mutual hometown with wife Maureen.

DATE OF BIRTH: 30 December 1938.

FAMILY BACKGROUND: Ninth child in a family of 11; married, with a son and a daughter.

ALMA MATER: Trinity College, Kandy.

MOST MEMORABLE EXPERIENCES: Representing Sri Lanka at the World Youth Forum at the age of 18 and meeting US President John F. Kennedy, who ultimately influenced his choice of career; studying at the University of Peradeniya, where he learnt about the challenges of being a developing country – as well as interacting with his fellow citizens, which honed his diplomatic skills.

GREATEST ACHIEVEMENTS: Working towards a better understanding of the country’s conflict while being Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Geneva; also his work in global disarmament.

ROLE MODEL: Nelson Mandela – for his non-racial and democratic stance in leading his country out of apartheid, his forgiving nature and his work on HIV/AIDS.

MOST ADMIRED LEADERS: Nelson Mandela and Lady Margaret Thatcher.

MOST ADMIRED DIPLOMAT: Ambassador Shirley Amarasinghe – for his flair, panache, ability and skills in multi-lateral diplomacy.

MOST INFLUENCED BY: Parents, teachers and lecturers – for inculcating the importance of education, values and integrity, and the love of books; Lord Buddha, in terms of larger values; Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela.



Deshamanya Dr. Radhika Coomaraswamy is a voice of the voiceless. Rochelle Jansen compiles a status report on the activities of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict.

Some six million children injured in the last decade due to war; two million child deaths; 13 million internally-displaced children; 300,000 child soldiers; 10,000 child victims of landmines every year; 10 million child refugees. These are the voiceless whom Deshamanya Dr. Radhika Coomaraswamy has been mandated to protect, having been appointed by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan as UN Under-Secretary-General and a UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, in April 2006. In this capacity, she has been serving throughout most of the past year as an independent advocate for the voiceless, to build awareness of and give prominence to the rights of children affected by armed conflict.

During her tenure, she has also been mandated to promote the protection, rights and well-being of children embroiled in every phase of conflict: pre-emptively, before conflict erupts; in the midst of conflict; and in post-conflict situations. As a public advocate on behalf of children who are being abused and brutalised in situations of armed conflict and its aftermath, she has hence been working to build greater awareness and mobilise the international community into action.

“I have also promoted the application of both international norms and traditional local values that provide for the protection of children in times of conflict. I undertake political and humanitarian diplomacy and propose concrete initiatives to protect children in the midst of war. By the time my mandate expires, I hope to have succeeded in creating broad-based awareness of the fate of children affected by armed conflict and that global outrage at these continuing abominations will, in turn, have led to a worldwide movement of repudiation,” she proclaims, via the website of the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.

Coomaraswamy has championed several new initiatives vis-à-vis protecting children affected by war. For instance, she welcomed the conclusions of the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict following the examination of the report of the UN Secretary-General on the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, presented in June 2006. “This was an important landmark in the fight against impunity for those who commit grave violations against children during armed conflict. The Security Council Working Group is now taking concrete actions against violators,” she stated in a media release, on 7 September 2006.

To address children-and-conflict-related issues in Sri Lanka, she established a task force for monitoring and reporting on the violations of children’s rights, within the framework of Security Council resolution 1612 of 2005. The inaugural meeting of the task force was held on 26 July last year.

Then, in November 2006, Allan Rock – the Special Advisor to the United Nations Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict on Sri Lanka – concluded his 10-day mission to the country. His findings revealed that the LTTE has not complied with its commitments under the action plan to stop child recruitment and release all children within the group’s ranks. Rock also revealed that the Karuna faction continues to abduct children in government-controlled areas of the east. The mission also discovered a disturbing facet of the Karuna group’s abductions – namely, that certain elements of the government’s security forces were allegedly supporting and sometimes reportedly participating in the abductions and forced recruitment of children by the faction.

In October last year, the UN Secretary-General’s comprehensive Report on Children and Armed Conflict – delivered at the Security Council’s 61st General Assembly – provided further information on compliance in ending the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict in violation of applicable international law and other violations being committed against children affected by armed conflict. In this report, Annan urged: “I recommend that the Security Council consider expanding its focus and give equal care and attention to children affected by armed conflict in all situations of concern; and to give equal weight to all categories of grave violations beyond the recruitment and use of child soldiers – to include the killing and maiming of children, rape and other grave sexual violence, abductions, attacks against schools or hospitals and denial of humanitarian access for children.”

The crucial role of driving this vision is Coomaraswamy’s. She has proved her mettle in 2006 and one is safe in asserting that conflict-victimised children the world over have, at least, hope in 2007 because of her. On 20 November – the Universal Day of the Child – Coomaraswamy underscored: “Children deserve protection. Violations of children’s rights must stop, impunity must end … For the sake of the children and the future generations, all parties in conflict must take their responsibilities seriously and ensure that the appropriate action is taken to restore a protective environment for children.”


Deshamanya Justice Dr. Christie Weeramantry was lauded in 2006 by no less than UNESCO, for his efforts to promote peace. Chittaranjan de Silva scans his dossier.

The UNESCO prize for Peace Education (2006), awarded to Deshamanya Justice Dr. Christopher Gregory Weeramantry, brought great honour to Sri Lanka. UNESCO awarded the prize to the internationally-reputed judge in September 2006 “in recognition of his ongoing commitment and concrete work, in support of the concept and culture of peace, throughout his long and fruitful career”.

The accolade is significant in the present context because it was awarded to an eminent son of Sri Lanka, at a time when the country’s international reputation had been tarnished due not only to the escalating violence of the protracted conflict, but also the increasing incidence of human-rights violations.

Weeramantry, speaking to LMD, says: “The lack of peace education in schools is a cause for concern. Peace education has to be introduced into the school curriculum in Sri Lanka and should be taught in all schools as a first step. The UNESCO award has encouraged me to continue my work.”

According to UNESCO, its ‘Peace Prize’ plays a significant role in shaping public opinion and mobilising the conscience of humanity in the cause of peace. The organisation is of the view that “the promotion of peace is contingent upon the respect of cultural and religious differences, and the recognition that these differences reflect the rich diversity of humankind. It, therefore, requires a commitment to dialogue, mutual knowledge and understanding between civilisations, cultures and peoples. To achieve a culture of peace, the principles of diversity and dialogue must be deeply embedded within each and every one of us.”

In this regard – as the Chairman of the Weeramantry International Centre for Peace Education and Research (WICPER), which he founded in 2001 – the erudite judge has contributed “to the promotion of peace education, human rights, intercultural education, social integration, inter-faith understanding, environmental protection, international law, disarmament and sustainable development,” UNESCO has said in a statement.

Weeramantry – born in 1926, in Colombo – is an eminent law scholar who holds multiple degrees from the University of Colombo, the University of London, Australia’s Monash University and the National Law School of India.

He is the first Sri Lankan to be appointed as a judge – and later, as the Vice-President – of the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

His illustrious career in the judicial service is marked by significant milestones, and the distinguished positions he has held are many. Weeramantry served as a justice of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka from 1967 to 1972. He also served the international community as a judge of the International Court of Justice from 1991 to 2000, where he was Vice-President from 1997 to 2000.

Weeramantry has been on the editorial and academic boards of publications such as the Sri Lankan Journal Of International Law; Universal Human Rights – Johns Hopkins University, New York; Interdisciplinary Peace Research – La Trobe University, Melbourne; China Law Reports; Asia Pacific Journal Of International Law; and many more.

He has authored more than 18 books of international repute and essayed numerous other learned treatises. Armageddon Or Brave New World? Reflections On The Hostilities In Iraq, 2003; The World Court, Its Conception, Constitution And Contribution, 2002; Justice Without Frontiers: Protecting Human Rights In The Age Of Technology, Vol 2 – Kluwer Law International, 1999; Nuclear Weapons And Scientific Responsibility – Longwood Academic, New Hampshire, 1987 (also in Japanese, published by Chuo University Press, Tokyo); Law: The Threatened Peripheries – Lake House, Colombo, 1984; Apartheid: The Closing Phases? – Lantana, Melbourne, 1980; and Human Rights In Japan – Lantana, Melbourne, 1979 are only some of his outstanding works.

The prestigious institutions where he has held visiting professorships include Harvard University (2000), University of Hong Kong (1989), University of Florida (1984), University of Colombo (1981), University of Papua New Guinea (1981), University of Stellenbosch, Cape Town (1979) and the University of Tokyo, Japan (1978). In addition, Weeramantry has also been a visiting lecturer at universities and learned assemblies in over 50 countries.

UNESCO is of the view that quality education is needed to develop a fuller understanding of other civilisations, as well as to respect and appreciate global cultural and religious differences.

The organisation has also recognised that educators are crucial allies in its quest for peace and has thus bestowed this award on Weeramantry. The prize is certain to further enhance his valuable work, which will help make the world a better place.