Harshadeva Amaratunge

“APS created a path to expose to a diverse world, it is the best place in the world to accept and learn about diversity”

Harsha Amarathunga, cohort 08

Harsha has witnessed the damage a war can bring to a community during his childhood having born and grown up in a village so far from the capital of Sri Lanka, called Giriulla in 1984 which is the kick off time of the riots between Tamils and Sinhalese. His childhood memories of wounded soldiers coming to his village from the battlefield had left him with two choices to contribute to prevent what was going on in his country. Harsha has thereby chosen his path to become a peace builder leaving the other choice of becoming a soldier.  The peak of Harsha’s teenage also was the peak of the 30 years prolonged civil war in Sri Lanka, the time from 1992 to 1997 where Harsha has experienced one brutal side of the war seeing wounded soldiers of the Sri Lankan army of the government, struggles of Sinhalese war widows and sufferings and fear of civilians across the country.  

Impetus for being a bridge builder has been the thought that has been spinning in his head where he has felt that as a responsible citizen of this country, he has a duty to serve his community to become a messenger of peace. This instinct has led Harsha to pursue his Bachelor’s degree in Peace and Conflict Resolution in the University of Kelaniya. He was an undergraduate of the first ever academic degree progamme on Peace and Conflict studies in Sri Lankan history. He had also played a role as a student leader during his university time in many student groups and clubs which were established to promote unity and social cohesion. Stepping into the career Harsh has started his journey in Center for PeaceBuilding and Reconciliation in 2007 which is one of the pioneering peace building organizations in Sri Lanka. Harsha is a member of a relatively small community of young peacebuilders in Sri Lanka who aimed to gain international exposure in academic and practical spheres of the peace building sector. 

Subsequently, he has joined to obtain a Master’s degree in International Law and Human Rights from the Sant’ Anna School of Advanced Studies in Italy. He has also undergone an internship in a local organization in Asylum seekers Island in Australia, researching on violations of convention of torture – article 14.  Returning to Sri Lanka afterwards, he has worked as a lecturer in Peace and Conflict Resolution in the same university where he obtained his Bachelor’s degree.

Moving on to a vast scope of academic knowledge on peace building, Harsha joined Asian Peacebuilding Scholarship (APS) as a peace building practitioner and an academic from Sri Lanka. He obtained the M.A. degree in Political Science-Global Politics at the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) and the M.A in International Peace Studies from University for Peace (UPEACE). 

Harsha’s 13-year journey with experience in and outside of Sri Lanka as a peace builder, researcher and a humanitarian worker, has become more outstanding with the experience he gained joining APS. He values the unique and priceless space that was created within APS academic environment to share best practices and lessons learnt of peace building contexts in the region of South East Asia with likeminded fellows across the region. Harsha also sees both UPEACE and ADMU experiences as places where he could expose to a vast level of diversity which disclosed cultural values and norms of approximately around 90 nationalities. He says being a member of APS is the best place to learn cultural diversity, to discuss and produce knowledge on numerous issues related to peace building and to gain a vast subject knowledge on peace building. Harsha remembers APS journey as one of the most significant and unprecedented memories of his life.

Harsha joined the United Nations Mission in South Sudan as a civil affairs officer after the APS avenue.  He is now engaged in supporting conflicting communities by providing solutions through community driven approaches such as mediation, negotiation and dialogue to promote social cohesion. Amid the massive level of health, economic and social issues in South Sudan, Harsha continues his mission to serve waring communities not only in Sri Lanka but also internationally. Joining APS had been a major milestone in Harsha’s journey where he became an academically sound professional to work in the international peace building arena.