Sri Lankans in the UN

Andrew James


Andrew James Joseph joined the United Nations in 1958, and served the organisation until his retirement in 1990. He held many senior positions in the United Nations, from Resident Representative at WHO in three countries, to being appointed as Under-Secretary-General and Associate Administrator of UNDP in 1989. Following nearly four decades of service to the United Nations, Mr. Joseph passed away in March 2002. In his message of condolence, former Secretary-General Kofi Annan noted how Mr Joseph insisted on remaining in Kabul, when many other international organisations left Afghanistan, demonstrating not only his courage, but also what many of his peers remember as his most extraordinary gift, his shrewd political foresight.

Sir Claude Stanley


Sir Claude Stanley Corea joined the diplomatic service in 1946 as Ceylon's representative to the United Kingdom. He later became the first Ambassador to the United States of America in 1948. Apart from his distinguished political career in Ceylon as the Minister of Home Affairs, Minister of Labour Industry and Commerce and President of the Ceylon National Congress (1932, 1939 & 1941), Sir Corea was appointed Chairman of the UN Interim Committee on International Commodity Arrangements of GATT at its 10th Session in 1955. He was subsequently appointed as the Permanent Representative to the United Nations in June 1958, and later on in May 1960 he became the President of the United Nations Security Council, the first ever from Sri Lanka.



Rajendra Coomaraswamy was the Assistant Administrator of UNDP and the Director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific in 1961. Until his retirement from the United Nations service in 1977, he guided the Bureau’s activities to uplift the condition of the poor in one of the world’s least developed areas. He pioneered the trend from bilateral to multilateral aid, and laid the foundation for the strategic shift to Human Development. This later became the flagship mission of the United Nations under Amartya Sen and Mahbub al Haq.

Dr Neville


Dr Neville Kanakaratne served the United Nations in several capacities, including the Vice President of the United Nations Trusteeship Council, and as a legal advisor to the United Nations Secretariat. In 1961, Dr Kanakaratne accompanied the then Secretary-General, Dr Dag Hammarskjöld to negotiate a cease-fire agreement in the Congo. However, as high-proficiency in the French language was required to conduct the peace negotiations, Dr Kanakaratne was substituted by a French legal advisor. Providence prevented Dr Kanakaratne from joining the team on the flight to the mission, which unfortunately crashed in Congo, resulting in the death of Dr Dag Hammarskjöld and the team.

Dr Nandasiri


Dr Nandasiri Jasenthuliyana served as the Director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, and as the Deputy Director of the United Nations Office in Vienna. He was an Executive Secretary to the United Nations Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE II) in 1982. Dr Jasentuliyana continued his service after retirement, and was involved in the organising of UNISPACE III.

Hamilton Shirley


Hamilton Shirley Amerasinghe was appointed as Ceylon’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in 1967, a post he held until 1980. In 1976 he was appointed as the first Sri Lankan President of the United Nations General Assembly. In addition, he was the first President of the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, where a comprehensive constitution for the oceans was drafted. Ambassador Amerasinghe was the Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee to study the Peaceful Uses of the Sea-Bed and Ocean Floor from 1967 to 1970 and subsequently, from 1970 to 1973, of the Standing Committee for the Peaceful Uses of the Sea-Bed and Ocean Floor beyond the Limits of National Jurisdiction.



Lakshman Kadirgamar, a renowned diplomat and an international humanitarian, was a consultant to the ILO from 1974 to 1976. His expertise in Intellectual Property Law saw him being appointed the first ever Director of the Asia Pacific Bureau of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in 1983. Mr Kadirgamar also played a pivotal role in revising the Intellectual Property Legislation of Sri Lanka. A lawyer by profession, Mr Kadirgamar, later served as the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka from 1994 to 2001, and again from 2004 to 2005.

Dr Gamani


Dr Gamani Corea was the Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, and Under-Secretary-General to the United Nations from 1974-1985. He was first appointed to this post in 1974 by then Secretary-General, Kurt Waldheim, and served for three additional terms. Dr Corea's service to the United Nations also spans across high-level positions held at the United Nations Committee on Development Planning, the United Nations Conference on Human Environment, and many other high-level panels and missions.

Judge C. G.


Judge C. G. Weeramantry served at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) from 1991 – 2000, and as its Vice President from 1997-2000. Judge Weeramantry’s key rulings at the ICJ and his numerous publications have immensely contributed to the development of international Law. Key judgements he has delivered include the Illegality of Nuclear Weapons (1996), Equity under International Law (1997), and leading judicial decision on Sustainable Development which brought attention to Sri Lanka’s ancient irrigation system (1997). Prior to his illustrious career at ICJ, Judge Weeramantry served the Supreme Court of Ceylon from 1967-1972. His legal career started in 1948, when he was sworn in as an Advocate of the Supreme Court of Ceylon in 1948. His achievements have been recognized through the UNESCO Prize for Peace Education (2006), the Right Livelihood Award (2007) and several higher doctorates from leading universities from various parts of the world.

Dr Jayantha


Dr Jayantha Dhanapala is a national and international diplomat with a distinguished career as a peace builder, disarmament expert and a supporter of non-discriminatory global norms. He is a champion for the achievement of the MDGs, and in highlighting the issues faced by developing nations. Following the United Nations reforms in 1997, Dr Dhanapala was appointed as Under-Secretary- General for Disarmament Affairs by the then United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan. He was widely acclaimed for his Presidency of the 1995 Conference on Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review and Extension; the treaty extension was adopted indefinitely and without a vote.

Prof Savitri


Emeritus Professor of Law, Savitri Goonesekere was the first female Vice Chancellor of the University of Colombo. She has made notable research contributions towards advancing children’s rights, women’s rights, human rights law and, development of legal education. Prof Goonesekera served on the Committee for the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), from 1999 to 2002. More recently, she was a member of the Panel on Integration of Gender in the work of the Human Rights Council at its 18th Session. She served as a member of the United Nations Trust Fund for Victims of Torture, from 2005 to 2011.



Prasad Kariyawasam is a Sri Lankan diplomat who joined the Foreign Service in 1981. In 2005, he was appointed as a Permanent Representative to the United Nations. During his time at the United Nations, he chaired several important committees such as the Ad-Hoc Committee on the Indian Ocean, the Ad-Hoc Committee on Terrorism and the Third Inter-Committee Meeting and Sixteenth Meeting of Chairpersons of the Human Rights Treaty Bodies. He was elected as the first Chairman of the Committee on Migrant Workers (CMW) in 2003. He was re-elected to the CMW as its Chairman, to serve a four-year term until the end of 2017. He is currently the Ambassador to the United States.

Dr Radhika


Dr Radhika Coomaraswamy, a lawyer by training and formerly the Chairperson of the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission, is an internationally known human rights advocate who has done outstanding work as a Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, during her tenure from 1994 to 2003. She was appointed by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan as the Under-Secretary-General, Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict in April 2006. She was re-appointed for the same by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in February 2007, a position she held up to 2012. In this capacity, she served as an ethical and independent advocate to build awareness and give prominence to the rights and protection of children affected by armed conflict.

Prof Mohan


Prof Mohan Munasinghe has been involved with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) since its inception in 1998. He was the Vice-Chair of the IPCC when it shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with the former Vice-President of the United States Al Gore, for creating awareness and knowledge on man-made climate change. In his 40 years of distinguished service, he was an expert adviser/consultant to many United Nations agencies and continues to do so today.

Dr Rohan


Dr Rohan Perera is currently the Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in New York. During a career spanning over thirty years, Dr Perera served as the Legal Adviser to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, negotiating on behalf of the Government of Sri Lanka a range of bilateral and multilateral treaties covering diverse subjects such as foreign trade and investment, maritime boundary regimes, mutual legal assistance, and extradition. He chairs the United Nations Ad-hoc Committee on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism. He has previously served as a member of the International Law Commission from 2007 to 2011.



Kanni Wignaraja currently serves as the Director of the United Nations Development Operations Coordination Office. She was previously the Director of the Capacity Development Group in UNDP’s Bureau for Development Policy. She has served the UNDP for over 15 years, both at the Headquarters and in other countries. She was the Deputy Resident Representative in Viet Nam and Indonesia, the Resident Representative in Zambia and the Chief of Regional Programmes in the Bureau for Asia- Pacific, in New York. In recognition of her role on development and legal reforms in Viet Nam, Ms Wignaraja was presented with a National Medal of Recognition.

Dr Hiranthi


Dr Hiranthi Wijemanne was one of nine members elected to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2010. Dr Wijemanne is a physician by profession and has served at the Sri Lanka Peace Secretariat and to the Department of Probation and Child Care. Her previous roles included being Chairperson of the National Child Protection Authority and a National Professional Official with UNICEF where she handled health, nutrition, early childhood development, primary education, child protection and children affected by the country's conflict. She has also undertaken consultancies for ILO and UNFPA. Dr Wijemanne has worked on children's rights and women's rights for over four decades.



Grace Asirwatham was the Deputy Director General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Ms Asirwatham has had a long career in the Sri Lankan diplomatic service, during which she has held several positions in Colombo, and presently as Director-General Economic Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She has served overseas as a diplomat in Pakistan and Germany and as Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Nepal and The Netherlands.

Dr Deepika


Dr Deepika Udagama served as a member (2008-2013) and Chairperson (2012) of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Technical Cooperation in the Field of Human Rights. Previously, she was appointed as Sri Lanka's alternate member to the United Nations Sub- Commission on the promotion and protection of Human Rights (now the UN Human Rights Advisory Committee) (1998 - 2001), and the UN Sub-Commission's Co-Special Reporter on Globalisation and its impact on Human Rights (1999 -2001). She is currently the Head of Department of Law at the University of Peradeniya. She is a Bureau Member of South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR).



Aruni Wijewardana has served as a diplomat with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 1988. She was the former Ambassador of Sri Lanka to Austria, Malaysia and the Philippines as well as the Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva. In 2013, she was appointed as the Secretary of the Board of Governors of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency. She was also the Permanent Representative to the Comprehensive Nuclear- Test-Ban Treaty Organization and was a former member of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Panel of Government Experts on Verification.

A. L. A


A. L. A. Azeez has served as a diplomat with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 1992. Mr Azeez currently serves as the Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations and other International Organisations in Vienna, Austria. He is the Chairman of the Multilateral Diplomatic Committee and Working Group A of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear- Test-Ban Treaty Organization and Acting President of the Industrial Development Board of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization. In 2014, the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Authority elected Mr Azeez as the President of its 58th General Conference and he was also appointed as Chairman of the Group of 77 (G-77) Vienna Chapter.