Radhika Coomaraswamy (born 1953) was the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict until 13 July 2012. Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed her to the position in April 2006.
Ms. Coomaraswamy, a lawyer by training and formerly the Chairperson of the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission, is an internationally known human rights advocate who has worked as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women (1994-2003).
In her reports to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, she has written on violence in the family, violence in the community, violence against women during armed conflict and the problem of international trafficking. A strong advocate on women's rights, she has intervened on behalf of women throughout the world seeking clarification from governments in cases involving violence against women. She also compiled a report on "comfort women", citing Seiji Yoshida's remark, and has conducted field visits to Japan and Korea on the problem of "comfort women", Rwanda, Colombia, Haiti and Indonesia with regard to violence against women in war time, Poland, India, Bangladesh and Nepal on the issue of trafficking, the United States on women in prisons, Brazil on domestic violence, and Cuba on violence against women generally.
Ms. Coomaraswamy was appointed Chairperson of the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission in May 2003. She has served as a member of the Global Faculty of the New York University School of Law. She also taught a summer course at New College, Oxford, every year on the International Human Rights of Women from 1996-2006. She has published widely, including two books on constitutional law and numerous articles on ethnic studies and the status of women.
In 2014, Ms. Coomaraswamy was appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon as lead author on a Global Study on the implementation of UNSC resolution 1325, on women, peace and security. The Global Study will be presented to the Secretary-General and to the public in October, 2015, when the Security Council will conduct a High-level Review to assess progress at the global, regional and national levels in implementing resolution 1325 (2000).
In January 2008, the United Nations requested that Coomaraswamy, as special representative for children in armed conflict, be allowed to observe the American military tribunal of child soldier Omar Khadr, but she was denied entrance.
In May 2011, Coomaraswamy gave a lecture entitled "Children and Armed Conflict: The International Response" at the University of San Diego's Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice Distinguished Lecture Series.
In November 2011, Coomaraswamy gave a lectured entitled “Human Rights: Impact of Armed Conflict on Children” through Monmouth University's Institute for Global Understanding's United Nations Academic Impact Lecture Series.
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. In November 2005, in recognition of her service to the country and the world.
She is a graduate of the United Nations International School in New York City. She received her B.A. from Yale University, her J.D. from Columbia University, an LLM from Harvard University and honorary PhDs from Amherst College, the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, the University of Edinburgh, the University of Essex and the CUNY School of Law.
- Lecture transcript and video of Coomaraswamy's speech at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice at the University of San Diego, May 2011