Prof. Nelum Deepika Udagama— is currently the Chair Professor of Law and Head, Department of Law, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka.
She is an academic specialized in International Human Rights Law. She received her legal education at the Faculty of Law, University of Colombo (LL.B. (Hons.) and LL.M. Degrees) and School of Law, University of California at Berkeley, USA (LL.M. and Doctor of Juridical Science (JSD) Degrees in international human rights law).
In 1991 she founded the Centre for the Study of Human Rights (CSHR) at the University of Colombo through which she did pioneering work on human rights education within the public university system and for the larger community. She also played a key role in the establishment of the Department of Law at the University of Peradeniya (2009) and in the formulation of a unique inter-disciplinary curriculum for its LL.B. Degree Program with a focus on social justice.
Until recently she served as the Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (October, 2015 – August, 2020). Under her stewardship the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka was promoted to ‘A’ status accreditation by the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) in 2018. Previously, she had served as a member of the Human Rights Commission (2003-2006) and the Law Commission of Sri Lanka (2004-2009).
Her human rights advocacy work has seen her actively involved in local and regional civil society organizations as well as appointment to UN human rights bodies. She was appointed by the UN Secretary-General as member (2008-2013) and Chair (2012) of the Board of Trustees of the UN Voluntary Fund for Technical Cooperation in the field of human rights (VFTC) and was also elected as Alternate Member of Sri Lanka to the then UN Sub-Commission on the Protection of Human Rights (1998-2001). She was elected by the UN Sub-Commission as Co-Special Rapporteur (with Prof. Joe Oloka-Onyango of Uganda) on the theme ‘Globalization and its Impact on the Full Enjoyment of Human Rights’, resulting in an often-cited pioneering study on the theme (1999-2001).
She is the recipient of several academic awards including a Senior Fulbright Scholar Award with a placement at the Harvard Human Rights Center (1997-98). She has taught at the UN University in Tokyo, Faculty of Law, Hong Kong University and the National Law University Delhi. She has also served on editorial boards of international and national academic law journals including the Netherlands Quarterly on Human Rights. The main focus of her research is the intersection between international and constitutional protection of human rights.