Professor of Disaster Risk Reduction and Management
Head, Global Disaster Resilience Centre, School of Applied Sciences, The University of Huddersfield, United Kingdom
Dilanthi Amaratunga is a Professor of Disaster Risk Management at the University of Huddersfield, UK. She is an internationally renowned leading expert in disaster resilience, with over 30 years of experience in the higher education sector. Currently, she heads the Global Disaster Resilience Centre at the University of Huddersfield, which is a global leader in interdisciplinary research, education, and advocacy to improve the resilience of nations and communities.
From University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka to University of Huddersfield, UK
Dilanthi obtained her BSc (Quantity Surveying) Degree with First Class Honours from the University of Moratuwa Sri Lanka in 1993. She was the winner of “Sri Lanka Institute of Quantity Surveyors Award” for the best overall performance and “Professor H.P.S. Caldera Memorial Award” for the Best Performance at the final year examination. In October 1997, she was awarded the prestigious Overseas Research Scholarship Award, which enabled her to begin her doctoral studies at the University of Salford, UK. In 2001, she received her PhD and since then, she has continued to develop her research in a manner that demonstrated a commitment to academic excellence, encouraging colleagues and students to fulfil their full potential. Prior to joining the University of Huddersfield in 2014, she was at the University of Salford since 1997, starting out as a PhD research scholar. Within a span of 5 years, she progressed from being a lecturer to a full Professor at the University of Salford in 2006. She is a member of the European Commission and UNDRR’s European Science & Technology Advisory Group representing the UK. She is also a Steering Committee member of the Frontiers of Development programme, a collaborative programme of The Royal Academy of Engineering, The Academy of Medical Sciences, The British Academy and The Royal Society). She is a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), a Fellow and a Chartered Manager of the Chartered Management Institute, UK.
Dilanthi considers herself as a leading thinker and researcher in the field of DRR and management with specific emphasis on early warning systems in preventing and/or minimising the loses due to disasters. Her work recognises that with growing population and interconnected built environments, the world’s exposure to hazards is increasing. The research emphasises that it is crucial and critical to anticipate, plan for and reduce disaster risk in order, to protect people, communities and countries in a more effective manner. Another key area of her research is built around gender-responsive disaster risk reduction. Her research has contributed exponentially to the development of resources to enhance professional practice in the disaster management sector, including post disaster reconstruction programmes, leading the development of new partnerships globally. Together with public and private institutions, local and national authorities, she is playing an active role in advancing the discipline, progress reporting, providing policy recommendations, sharing knowledge and promoting collaborations.
Pioneering in Disaster Risk Reduction
Dilanthi maximises the impact of her research based upon identifying and coordinating powerful research collaborations across Europe, Asia, North America, Africa and Australasia. These collaborative research programmes raise the recognition and reputation of her research and in turn the universities as an international player, while simultaneously enabling her to increase its research capacity and deliver world class research outputs. I She works with other academic groups at leading universities who share their values and desire to deliver applied research and innovation across and outside the built environment disciplines. By working closely with these international partners, she has managed to obtain funding for international research from a wide variety of sources, including the European Union, UK, other national research councils and the Foreign and the Commonwealth Office, UK.
She has project managed to successful completion of many international research projects generating significant research outputs. Furthermore, she has been able to secure a number of significant, high profile grants such as : CORE (sCience & human FactOr for Resilient society); INCLUDE (INCLUsive Disaster Education) ; Embedding COVID-19 preparedness into local disaster risk reduction; Built Environment leArning for Climate adaptatiON (BEACON); Improving COVID-19 and pandemic preparedness and response through the downstream of multi-hazard early warning systems; Integrating epidemic and pandemic preparedness into disaster risk reduction: REGARD (Rebuilding AfteR Displacement); Localising tsunami early warning systems; and ASCENT (Advancing Skill Creation to ENhance Transformation).
Her vision has always been to be an international leader in disaster mitigation and reconstruction, and she has been working towards this goal for several years. The key contributions she has made have been in providing leadership to the international research community, within the university and peers. Her proven strengths in terms of leadership and scholarly wisdom have added value to the university’s repute. Through her national and international leadership roles, she has contributed to relevant strategic aims through collaborative working and has demonstrated true leadership and helped substantially enhance the reputation of the university through her various contributions.
Among several leadership roles, she is the Co-Editor of International Journal of Disaster Resilience in the Built Environment, a SCOPUS indexed journal to promote research and scholarly activity that examines the role of building and construction to anticipate and respond to unexpected events that damage or destroy the built environment. She is the Chair of the United Nations Working Group on Words into action on Accountability and Governance, and also acts as a member of the European Commission and UNIDR’s European Science & Technology Advisory Group representing the UK. She led the international peer review panel of the UN Global Assessment Report in 2015. In 2018 and in 2020, she was appointed as an International Observer, Exercise Indian Ocean Wave 2020: An Indian Ocean-wide Tsunami Warning and Communications, UNESCO IOTWMS. In 2017, she was appointed by Royal Academy of Engineering as the Chair of RCUK GCRF funded Inclusive Prosperity and Wellbeing in the Context of Mass Displacement International Frontiers of Development Symposium held in Kigali, Rwanda. She has demonstrated a commitment to academic excellence, encouraging colleagues and students to fulfil their potential, and promoting the university as a significant and important institution within the subject discipline of the built environment.
Including the chair of the United Nations Working Group on Words into action on Accountability and Governance
Dilanthi at ASCENT Festival
Footprint in Research
Her impact worldwide, for the upcoming generations to follow
Her international research profile is evidenced by the number of invitations she has received to deliver a large number of keynote speeches (over 75) and presentations at international conferences, events and visits. These invitations recognise numerous key notes and plenary addresses she has delivered which, further confirms her position as a global leader in her chosen area of expertise and as a catalyst for positive change, both within the built and human environment and at its many interfaces. These opportunities provide the means to disseminate her research to international policy makers, industrialists, and academics, thus enabling her to play a leading role in shaping the built and human environment links to disaster mitigation and reconstruction, incorporating inclusiveness and social responsibility.
She is also frequently invited to provide expert advice on disaster risk reduction and management by national and local governments and international agencies. She has shared her know how and presented her academic findings widely at international conferences, has led international disaster management workshops and seminars, and is working actively with the United Nations.
The highest standards of research integrity are an essential element of quality. Building on recent progress, she develops and implements communication and procedures to ensure that research ethics and all other dimensions of integrity are part of the values of her staff and govern their behaviour. She plays a leading role in her profession and has representations on many of the distinguished and influential international networks and committees. These appointments demonstrate the high standing of her work among peers and major stakeholders. They also position her to engage globally with key development agencies; local, regional, and central government; universities, other higher education, and further education bodies; employers, industry, and professional bodies. In doing so, she is of the view that she is able to direct and influence future policy and the research agenda. These appointments acknowledge her global standing, while also providing her the opportunity to strengthen partnerships and discover best practices. She continues to make an impact through her involvement in national and international strategic advisory bodies.
Knowledge sharing and dissemination
Dilanthi has led and chaired many international conferences. These events demonstrate her role, as a leader in the disaster mitigation and reconstruction field and as a conduit for international collaboration and engagement. Many of these conferences have brought together major international networks to address global challenges and advance research agendas. She firmly believes that a Conference Chair makes a big difference in each delegates’ experience and for Dilanthi, well-run conferences are fun, memorable, streamlined, and purposeful.
Dilanthi at ASCENT Festival
Networks and Partnerships
In the case of research, “Internationalisation at the national, sector, and institutional levels is defined as the process of integrating an international, intercultural, or global dimension into the purpose, functions or delivery of postsecondary education”. Global brand penetration is not just about being acknowledged as “global” by international academic peers and by national policy makers, but also by the public. Dilanthi’s research projects, presentations and partnerships are testimony to a vibrant and ever-developing web of research and innovation. These opportunities provide the means to disseminate her research to international policy makers, industrialists, and academics. They generate impact and enable her to play a leading role in shaping the built and human environment towards green and sustainable futures, incorporating high quality living and social responsibility. This is what she is trying to achieve: global brand recognition which is not just about being acknowledged as “global” by international academic peers and by national policy makers, but also by the public. She currently enjoys many strategically important international, partnerships with over 100 international universities and institutions. These partnerships are with organisations that share her mission and vision to play a leading role in shaping the built and human environment and its links to disaster mitigation and reconstruction. They also demonstrate the global reach, spanning institutions in Asia, Africa, North America, Europe,and Australia.