Sumudu Atapattu

Global Legal Studies Center, Law School


LL.M., University of Cambridge (U.K.)
Ph.D., University of Cambridge (U.K.)
Attorney-at-Law (Sri Lanka)

Sumudu Anopama Atapattu is a Teaching Professor and Director of the Global Legal Studies Center at UW Law School. She is also the Executive Director of the Human Rights Program at UW-Madison. She teaches in the areas of International Environmental law and climate change and human rights. She is affiliated with UW-Madison’s Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, Global Health Institute, the Center for South Asia, and the 4W Initiative and was a visiting professor at Doshisha University Law School, Japan (2014), Justus Liebig University, Germany (2016, 2022) and Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Tarragona, Spain (2019).

A prolific writer, her books include: “UN Human Rights Institutions and the Environment: Synergies, Challenges, Trajectories” (Routledge, forthcoming, 2023); “Cambridge Handhook of Environmental Justice and Sustainable Development (2021, Cambridge((co-editor): Human Rights and the Environment:Key Issues (Routledge, 2019) (co-author); “Human Rights Approaches to Climate Change: Challenges and Opportunities” (2015, Routledge); “International Environmental Law and the Global South” (2015, Cambridge University Press) (co-editor); and “Emerging Principles of International Environmental Law” (2006, Transnational Publishers, New York).

Dr. Atapattu has received numerous awards and scholarships for academic excellence, including a Cambridge Commonwealth Trust scholarship, a Benefactor Studentship awarded by St. John’s College, Cambridge and a Senior Fulbright scholarship and was affiliated with the New York University Law School and the George Washington University Law School as a visiting scholar. From 2002-2006 she was a visiting scholar at the Institute for Legal Studies at UW Law School and was part of the adjunct faculty during that time.

Before moving to the US, Dr. Atapattu worked as an Associate Professor (equivalent) at the Faculty of Law, University of Colombo, and as a Consultant to the Law & Society Trust, a human rights NGO in Sri Lanka. She serves as affiliated faculty at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute for Human Rights, Sweden, and the Lead Counsel for Human Rights at the Center for International Sustainable Development Law, Canada, and is on the advisory board of several journals including the McGill International Journal of Sustainable Development Law and Policy.

Dr. Atapattu has worked on several projects as an independent consultant, attended several  climate COP meetings, UN experts consultations, and taught blended learning courses on human rights and the environment in Asia organized by the Raoul Wallenberg Institute for Human Rights. Her research examines the link between human rights and the environment, especially climate change, climate migration and small island states.