Neshan Gunasekera has recently moved to Lund in order to take up the position of Research Fellow at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute where he hopes to focus on the Human Rights aspect of Environmental Law, build partnerships with colleagues and expand on some of his prior work through research.
Neshan was born in Sri Lanka and spent most of his childhood there, apart from his 9th year which he spent in Nottingham, UK, where his mother was doing her post-graduate studies in law at the time. Growing up, he was very involved in sports and played tennis on a rather serious level, even representing the country at some point. He recalls that it was tough keeping a balance between school and sports, but that he was very determined and inspired by individuals like Pete Sampras and Steffi Graf, who were top tennis players at the time. Even his parents, who were involved in cricket and athletics, were a huge source of inspiration for him.
Initially, he studied biosciences but decided later on to pursue law at the Sri Lanka Law College. Looking back, he realizes that he was more involved in extra-curricular activities than academic elements but that this “paved the way to participating in things like moot courts and mock trials, which is equally important as the academic work”.
“I had very little idea that it would define what I would do later on in life, to have this kind of balance between academia and application in the practical world.”
While in law school, he got selected to represent Sri Lanka in the Jessup Moot Court Competition, being the world’s largest competition of this kind.
Judge Christopher Weeramantry
During his time as a student, Neshan also had the opportunity to meet Judge Christopher Weeramantry, an outstanding legal scholar from Sri Lanka and former Vice-President of the International Court of Justice, The Hague. This introduced him to the world of International Law, research and paved the way for future collaboration with this gentleman. Later on, he namely became the director of an institution set up by Judge Weeramantry, the International Centre for Peace Education and Research. Here, he worked on expanding some of Weeramantry’s earlier work through various projects and programmes.
“That was a really privileged time in my professional life. Not to say that what followed was less important, but it was really a privilege that I worked with this gentleman and those who he associated with. In fact, it links very much to Raoul Wallenberg and his legacy and what he’s left behind, the work being carried out by you all at this Institute and that’s why it’s a great honor to be here.”
Apart from this, Neshan has also worked for the Political and Development Office of the British High Commission and at the United Nations working on various programmes on peace building and governance, his last position being with the United Nations Development Programme.
What he finds most inspiring about his work is when he sees professionals stick to ethics and principles even in the most challenging situations. According to him, stories of such individuals are “critically important to our story today”, and we should learn from them.
“That not only inspires me, but I want to learn more about them, how they went about using tactics and tools to stay above the day-to-day challenges that we would face, especially in the world of human rights, activism and protection. And for me, I think those stories need to be retold and learned, possibly through experiential learning.”
Read more about Neshan’s work here.