Jayantha Dhanapala is a former United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs (1998-2003) and a former Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the USA (1995-7) and to the UN Office in Geneva (1984-87). Educated at Trinity College, Kandy where he was awarded the Ryde Gold Medal for the Best all-round student he went on to obtain a B.A.(Hons.) degree from the University of Peradeniya and a M. A. (International Studies) from the American University, Washington D.C.
He served as the 11th President of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs from 2007 to 2017. He is Distinguished Associate Fellow at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) and a member of several other advisory boards of international bodies. As a Sri Lankan diplomat Dhanapala served in London, Beijing, Washington D.C., New Delhi and Geneva and represented Sri Lanka at several international conferences chairing many of them including the historic NPT Review and Extension Conference of 1995. He was Director of the UN Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) from 1987-92. Dhanapala has received many international awards and honorary doctorates, has published five books and several articles in international journals and lectured widely. He speaks Sinhala, English, Chinese and French. He is married and has a daughter and a son. Dhanapala has been active internationally through his membership of several international groups such as the Canberra Commission for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons 1995-6; the International Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission 2003-5; the Governing Board of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) 2005-2010; the International Advisory Group of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) 2003-2007; the United Nations University Council 2003-2010 (Chairman for the year 2007-8); 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 James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Monterey Institute of International Studies; and as Honorary President of the International Peace Bureau (2003-2007). In November 2007 Dhanapala was unanimously elected President of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. He is the eleventh person to hold this position following in the footsteps of founder Bertrand Russell, Dorothy Hodgkin, Sir Joseph Rotblat and Dr.M.S.Swaminathan. From January to April 2008 Dhanapala became the first Simons Visiting Professor in International Law and Human Security in the School of International Studies of the Simon Fraser University. Dhanapala has had a distinguished career spanning the private sector, government, the United Nations and academia. Following a stint in the private sector in Sri Lanka, he ranked first in the competitive examination seeking entry into the Sri Lankan Foreign Service in 1965 and served thereafter in diplomatic postings in London, Beijing, Washington D.C., New Delhi (as Deputy High Commissioner),culminating in Ambassadorial appointments in Geneva (1984-7) accredited to the UN and in Washington D.C. (1995-7). 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.