Jayantha Dhanapala: Championing a World Free of Nuclear Weapons

“A world free of nuclear weapons can and must be possible in my lifetime." With these words, former United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, Jayantha Dhanapala, received the 2014 Inter Press Service (IPS) International Achievement Award for Nuclear Disarmament at a ceremony at the United Nations headquarters in New York on 17 November 2014.
The prestigious award for championing a world free of nuclear weapons recognizes the work of individuals and organizations and is co-sponsored by the Tokyo-based Soka Gakkai International, which is leading a global campaign for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo congratulating Jayantha Dhanapala (right). Centre: Jonathan Granoff, President of the Global Security Institute.

Dhanapala, who is also a member of the Group of Eminent Persons (GEM), set up in September 2013 to promote the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), is a relentless advocate for a world free of nuclear weapons. During his acceptance speech he enumerated current global challenges and threats such as climate change, terrorism, inequality, explaining that “a nuclear weapon cannot solve any of these.”
In his keynote speech at the award ceremony, Lassina Zerbo, Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), acknowledged that “Throughout his soaring career, as a diplomat and in the UN, Jayantha has worked with persistence and eloquence to rid the world of weapons of mass destruction…the world we live in today would be less safe and less civilized were it not for Jayantha Dhanapala.”

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Opposing the CTBT because it fails to deliver complete disarmament is tantamount to opposing speed limits on roads because they fail to prevent accidents completely.

Zerbo added that “Jayantha Dhanapala’s life story is linked closely to that of nuclear arms control, and in particular to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT)… It is encouraging to see that Jayantha is actively promoting the CTBT especially in his home region of in South Asia, where India is one of the countries that has yet to sign the CTBT. To me, Jayantha formulated the most eloquent rebuttal ever to India’s criticism of the CTBT.”
The discovery of nuclear fission in December 1938 led to the development of the world’s most destructive weapon. But God is fair, he unleashed a force of good at the same time: that very same month, a very special boy was born in Sri Lanka. His name: Jayantha Dhanapala.

Sam Kutesa, President of the UN General Assembly, praised Dhanapala as a man of peace who has dedicated most of his career to nuclear non-proliferation, whose hard work and commitment have contributed to a safer and more peaceful world. Kutesa also referred to the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons on 26 September, and highlighted the essential role of civil society in driving the nuclear disarmament agenda.
Dhanapala is currently the President of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, Deputy Chairman of the Governing Board of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, and a member of several other advisory boards of international bodies.
Previous recipients of the IPS International Achievement Award for their contributions to peace and development include: Brazilian President Lula da Silva (2008), UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan (2006), Global Call to Action Against Poverty (2005), Group of 77 developing countries (2000), UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali (1995), and Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari (1991).