MOSCOW. JULY 7. PIR PRESS. “A member of PIR Center Advisory Board, our longtime friend for 30 years, Jayanta Dhanapala, has passed away. Wise Sri Lankan diplomat, whose contribution to the indefinite extension of the NPT was decisive. A supporter of nuclear disarmament, who at the same time understood, subtly felt all the difficulties associated with the implementation of Article 6 of the NPT. The hero of public diplomacy, who promoted not dogmas, but the voice of reason. A charming person with whom I have always been interested in conversations, wherever life brings us together: in Moscow, in Geneva, in New York, in Luang Prabang… In recent years, he has sought solitude from the idle bustle in his house somewhere then in the depths of Sri Lanka. Blessed memory”, — Dr. Vladimir Orlov, PIR Center Founding Director.
Today marks 40 days since Dr. Jayanta Dhanapala, Honored Research Fellow at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), member of the Supervisory Board of the International Luxembourg Forum, PIR Center Advisory Board member since 2004, passed away.
Since 1965, Dr. Jayanta Dhanapala was in the diplomatic service, devoted many years to work in the United Nations, playing a decisive role in holding the 1995 NPT Review Conference. He also conducted active research work.
Dr. Jayanta Danapala was deeply respected by his colleagues, representatives of the diplomatic and scientific community of different states and was remembered by the world as an active and energetic expert, sincerely committed to the ideas of nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament.
Friends and colleagues of the deceased expressed their condolences, and also shared some memories:
A member of PIR Center Advisory Board, our longtime friend for 30 years, Jayanta Dhanapala, has passed away. Wise Sri Lankan diplomat, whose contribution to the indefinite extension of the NPT was decisive. A supporter of nuclear disarmament, who at the same time understood, subtly felt all the difficulties associated with the implementation of Article 6 of the NPT. The hero of public diplomacy, who promoted not dogmas, but the voice of reason. A charming person with whom I have always been interested in conversations, wherever life brings us together: in Moscow, in Geneva, in New York, in Luang Prabang… In recent years, he has sought solitude from the idle bustle in his house somewhere then in the depths of Sri Lanka. Blessed memory.
Dr. Vladimir Orlov,
PIR Center Founding Director
It is with great sadness that we mourn the passing of Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala on May 27, 2023. He was a giant figure in the nonproliferation and disarmament community, who devoted his long career in government, the United Nations, and the non-governmental sector to promoting international peace through multilateral diplomacy.
I had the great fortune to know Jayantha during many phases of his career — first in the 1980s when he served as Director of the UN Institute of Disarmament Research in Geneva, next during his presidency of the historic 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference in New York, then as Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the United States, an all too short stint in 1997 as Diplomat-in-Residence at CNS in Monterey, and then as Under-Secretary General for Disarmament Affairs at the United Nations.
Perhaps indicative of the remarkable career Jayantha Dhanapala would pursue was a photo he proudly displayed in his living room. It pictured a 17-year old Sri Lankan student shaking hands with Senator John F. Kennedy — an opportunity afforded Jayantha when he won a contest with an essay titled “The World We Want”.
Jayantha was a masterful diplomat and an eloquent speaker, who worked his magic in almost everything he undertook. This included pulling a package of three decisions and one resolution out of the hat at the NPT Review and Extension Conference. As Under-Secretary, he also played a significant but underappreciated role in jumpstarting the negotiation of the Central Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty.
Notwithstanding his impressive list of diplomatic accomplishments for which he received many accolades (including a Doctor of Humane Letters Honorsis causa from the Monterey Institute of International Studies in 2001), Jayantha was perhaps most unusual for his unfailing honesty, deep respect for all individuals regardless of nation or creed, and unwavering belief in mankind’s potential for peace and justice.
Jayantha Dhanapala was an extraordinary global citizen, who will be sorely missed by all.
CNS Founder & Director,
PIR Center Advisory Board Member
During my diplomatic career I had many interactions with Ambassador Jayatha Dhanapala. I always admired his personal integrity and wisdom, as well as his knowledge, dedication and competence as a diplomat. I met him for the first time in the 1980’s, at the Conference on Disarmamemt in Geneva, where I was Alternate Representative of Brazil and he was the Head of the Sri Lankan delegation.
Several years later I was Ambassador of Brazil to Canada and Dhanapala was Ambassador for his country in Washington D.C. At that time I learned that as a high-scoool student he had won a competition to represent Sri Lanka at a Forum for High School Students sponsored by the New York newspaper Herald Tribune. Three years before him I had been the Brazilian high school student chosen to represent Brazil at the 1953 edition of the same Forum. I visited him in Washngton together with other former Forum participants from other countries. Later he was appointed Undersecretary General for Disarmament Affairs at the United Nations in New York by Kofi Anan. In 2007 I was chosen by Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to be the Undersecretary for Disarmament Affairs, with the title of High Representative.
Ambassador Dhanapala took up the post of President of Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, of which I became a member. We worked together in a number of Pugwash activities and in the Pugwash biennial Conferences at Istambul, Nagasaki and Astana. In 2017 I succeeded him as President of that organization. His passing is a great loss for the cause of peace and disarmament.
Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs President,
PIR Center Advisory Board Member