Dr.Vinya Ariyaratne is the General Secretary of the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement, Sri Lanka’s largest non-governmental grass roots development organization. Following a unique model based on Buddhism, Sarvodaya Movement serves over 15,000 village communities across ethnic and religious divides through an integrated approach to development, peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka. Dr. Ariyaratne is a physician by training and specialized in Public Health. He obtained his Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) Degree from the De La Salle University in the Philippines in 1989 and his Master of Public Health (M.P.H.) degree from the Johns Hopkins University U.S.A. in 1990. He also holds the Degrees of Master of Science M.Sc. (1996) and Doctor of Medicine (MD) in Community Medicine (2003) from the Post-Graduate Institute of Medicine of the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka. He was a Visiting Fellow at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, U.K. (1992) and a Chevening Fellow at the Nuffield Institute of the Faculty of Medicine and Health of the University of Leeds, U.K. where he obtained with Distinction the Postgraduate Certificate in Health Management, Planning and Policy (2006).
Dr. Ariyaratne has had experience in the government health sector and academia before joining the Sarvodaya Movement as its Executive Director in 2000. As the Executive Director of Sarvodaya, Dr. Ariyaratne was responsible for the implementation of the island-wide integrated community health, development and peace building programs of Sarvodaya through a network of over 50 district centers and training institutions with a full time staff of over 800. He has been extensively involved in health and development programs related to the war affected communities in Sri Lanka. After the Tsunami disaster in 2004, Dr. Ariyaratne was responsible for the overall coordination of the Sarvodaya’s emergency response and later the entire reconstruction program, which is one of the largest Tsunami recovery programs in the country with a portfolio of projects worth over 15 million US dollars.
In recognition of his dedication to humanitarian causes and peace initiatives, in February 2007, Dr. Ariyaratne was awarded the Degree of Civil Law (DCL) honoris causa by the University of Durham, U.K. When the large displacement from the Northern Province took place in early and mid-2009, Dr. Ariyaratne was coordinating the humanitarian relief efforts of Sarvodaya to assist the Health Ministry, the UN agencies and humanitarian organizations to provide services to the large numbers of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). Dr. Ariyaratne has also given leadership to civil society peace, interfaith and reconciliation initiatives in Sri Lanka. He has been trained as a professional facilitator for peace dialogues and he engages in teaching assignments related to peace building, conflict resolution and reconciliation. He serves as the independent Lead Facilitator for the Sri Lanka One Text Initiative (OTI), a back channel multi-party political dialogue which aims at building consensus amongst key political stakeholders towards meeting the aspirations of all communities living in Sri Lanka. In 2014, Dr. Ariyaratne was awarded the “Outstanding Social Entrepreneur” by the Schwab Foundation/World Economic Forum.