Bruno Kreisky Foundation

for Human Rights

Coomaraswamy Radhika (Sri Lanka)

Radhika Coomaraswamy was a student at the United Nations International School in New York City, and went on to receive her B.A. from Yale University, her J.D. from Columbia University, an LLM from Harvard University, and has since received honorary PhDs from several institutions Coomaraswamy started out her career at the UN as a Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women. During this time period she was also the Director of the Center for Ethnic Studies in Sri Lanka. When she received the Bruno Kreisky Prize she was working from many different fronts for minority rights in Asia, as well as for women’s rights worldwide.

Upon winning the prize money, she claimed that she would put it towards peace efforts in Sri Lanka. Coomaraswamy cited the largest problem facing Sri Lankan women to be the fact that their society, including the justice system and police department, is largely male dominated. She believes that by engaging more Sri Lankan women in the United Nations, they will be able to overcome this disparity. She herself has been working for the United Nations since 1994. Due to her efforts Coomaraswamy was appointed Chairperson to the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission in May of 2003.

In April of 2006, Coomaraswamy became Under Secretary General, Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict at the UN. When Ban Ki-moon became General Secretary, she was reappointed and held the position until 2012. In general, her job description is to bring awareness to the issues faced by children who have been harmed by armed conflicts. When she came to office she brought with her a set of objectives for combating the issues faced by children as a result of armed conflicts. One of her objectives was to include the care of children in the basic components of peacekeeping missions.

As Special Representative, Coomaraswamy also tries to assist individuals in cases that are brought to her attention. The President of Sri Lanka conferred on her the title of Deshamanya, a prestigious national honour. She has also received the International Law Award of the American Bar Association, the Human Rights Award of the International Human Rights Law Group, the Bruno Kreisky Award of 2000, the Leo Ettinger Human Rights Prize of the University of Oslo, Archbishop Oscar Romero Award of the University of Dayton, the William J. Butler Award from the University of Cincinnati, and the Robert S. Litvack Award from McGill University.