Dr. Sonali Senaratna Sellamuttu joined in August 2021 as GGGI’s Country Representative to Sri Lanka, responsible for building a cohesive, effective, and fully-fledged country program. She was appointed Team Lead for the National Adaptation Plan (NAP) Readiness Support Project and is responsible for providing directives and technical guidance to the NAP Readiness multidisciplinary team and overseeing effective delivery of results. This USD 2.975 million initiative financed through the Green Climate Fund (GCF), aims to support the Sri Lankan Government by building the resilience of the most vulnerable sectors and communities in Sri Lanka to the adverse effects of climate change.
Sonali brings 20+years of strategic leadership, management, partnership development and resource mobilization experience in the international research and development sector. Her area of expertise is natural resource management with an emphasis on building livelihoods resilience, particularly linked to aquatic resources and ecosystems. She has over 50 articles, book chapters, technical reports and policy briefs published on these topics.
Sonali has a proven track record at the international science-policy interphase:
- Appointed as Co-Chair of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Asia-Pacific Regional Assessment (2015-2018). In this role, she provided scientific oversight and leadership and coordinated a team of 120 experts from 27 countries over a 3-year period to produce the Asia Pacific Regional Assessment Report and Summary for Policy Makers (SPM). Both were approved by 129 IPBES member countries in March 2018.
- Served as the IWMI Representative on the Ramsar Convention’s Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP) for 2013-2015 and led the Working Group on Wetlands and Poverty Eradication, where she made significant contributions to the Ramsar Resolutions on wetlands and poverty eradiation.
- Served as a Contributing Author to the Water Chapter of the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (2019-2021), released in February 2022.
Prior to joining GGGI, Sonali was based at the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), a Research Center of CGIAR – the world’s largest global agricultural innovation network. Sonali was part of the IWMI leadership team, serving as the IWMI Regional Representative for Southeast Asia and the Country Representative Myanmar, providing strategic leadership to IWMI’s overall program in Southeast Asia and managing the Myanmar office. Sonali was based in Laos and Myanmar between 2010 -2021. She was responsible for leading IWMI’s first engagement in Myanmar in 2012/2013. She engaged in the One CGIAR reform and transition process in 2020/2021, serving as a member of several One CG transition working groups and co-leading a One CGIAR initiative, working with a team of over 60 experts. During her time at IWMI Sonali has led and managed several interdisciplinary research for development projects and multi-cultural teams in Southeast and East Asia (Myanmar, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Vietnam and China), South Asia (Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh) and Africa (Kenya, Malawi and Mali).
Before IWMI, Sonali worked for IUCN – the International Union for Conservation of Nature, in both Sri Lanka and USA. In Sri Lanka, she was the Head of their National Marine & Coastal Program which she helped set up and was responsible for developing an overall strategic plan for the Program and for overseeing its implementation. In the USA, Sonali worked for IUCN’s Sustainable Use Initiative (SUI). She was awarded a one-year Ford Foundation/SUI Policy Fellowship to conduct research on community participation in coastal resource management and governance.
Sonali has a multidisciplinary background with a BSc (Honours) in Biology, an MSc in ‘Ecosystems Analysis and Governance’ – both from the University of Warwick (UK) and a PhD from Imperial College London (UK). Her PhD was supported by several grants, including a British Chevening Scholarship.