By Thalif Deen
Dhanapala “contributed enormously to building a solid foundation on which the world community will one day fulfill this great ambition,” said Randy Rydell, until recently a senior official for Political Affairs at the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs. The awardee was short on dismantling nuclear devices with his bare hands, Rydell joked. Since 2007, the also former ambassador of Sri Lanka has presided over the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, Nobel Peace Prize 1995. It was precisely that year Dhanapala played a crucial role in the Conference of the States Parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). .
The IPS award is co-sponsored by the Tokyo-based Buddhist non-governmental organization Soka Gakkai International, which is leading a global campaign to abolish atomic weapons. It will be presented on the 17th of this month in an official ceremony at the UN. The event, which will be attended by senior officials of the world forum, ambassadors and representatives of the media and civil society, is organized by the UN Correspondents Association (UNCA).
"When the Non-Proliferation Treaty was extended indefinitely in 1995, the person most responsible for making nuclear disarmament a permanent legal obligation was Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala," said Douglas Roche, former Canadian senator and ambassador for disarmament issues, as well as professor visitor at the University of Alberta, in dialogue with IPS.
According to Roche, Dhanapala's "masterful diplomacy" - which established a link between the powerful nuclear states and the non-nuclear world - was responsible for outlining three specific promises. First, the systematic and progressive efforts towards the elimination of atomic weapons. Second, a Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1996.
And third, a first conclusion of the negotiations for a ban on fissile materials. "Jayantha raised the global standard and created global awareness that nuclear weapons are incompatible with the full implementation of human rights," said Roche is founding chair of the Middle Powers Initiative and was chair of the UN Disarmament Committee in the 43rd General Assembly of the world forum, in 1988. Jonathan Granoff, president of the Global Security Institute (GSI), told IPS that “no one has done more to preserve and strengthen the international legal system that restricts the spread of nuclear weapons and fixes clearly the benchmark for the universal elimination of nuclear weapons than Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala ”. "His leadership in the UN Department for Disarmament Affairs and as chair of the 1995 Extension and Review Conference had its roots in a point of view that clearly guides his life," he added.
When he was a young student, during the Missile Crisis in Cuba, he wondered “how could the two superpowers of the moment place millions of innocent citizens, in non-nuclear and non-aligned states, in the face of the danger of explosion, radiation, climatic effects and genetics of such a weapons exchange, ”Granoff recalled.
Dhanapala tirelessly dedicated himself to raising awareness among nations, organizations and individuals, as well as empowering them to act on the notion that between nuclear weapons and civilization there is only one option: one or the other, he noted. "His work in the international arena has exemplified the fusion of idealistic aspirations based on universal values and practical politics informed by the limitations of political realities and power," said Granoff, who is also a senior adviser to the Committee on Arms Control and National Security from the American Bar Association.
It was also crucial in reviving the UN's interest in the “disarmament and development” issue, at a time when military spending was increasing again, in the post-Cold War era, while social and economic needs remained unsatisfied. in vast sectors of the world. Dhanapala served as director of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (1987-1992), whose financial base he successfully expanded, as did his areas of study, to include non-military challenges to security. He was also a member of two of the most influential international commissions to promote nuclear disarmament: the Canberra Commission (1996) and the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, or Blix Commission (2006).
He then received a grant from the MacArthur Foundation that allowed him to publish his book "Multilateral Diplomacy and the NPT: An Insider’s Account."
Among the various institutions whose advisory councils he has served are the Stockholm International Institute for Peace Research and the Geneva Center for the Democratic Control of the Armed Forces. He was also honorary president of the International Office for Peace.
In all of the positions he held during his career, Rydell said, Dhanapala inspired his colleagues to persistently fight for the interests of the world community, even as great obstacles had to be faced.
"One day, nuclear disarmament will finally be achieved this way," he added. Roche told IPS: "If the nuclear states had met the standards set by Ambassador Dhanapala, today the world would be a safer place." Previous recipients of the IPS International Achievement Award for their contributions to peace and development include former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2008), former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan (2006), the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (2005), the Group of 77 (G-77) developing countries (2000), the former UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali (1995) and the former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari (1991).
Edited by Kitty Stapp
Inter Press Service - IPS Venezuela