Achinthi Vithanage

  • Associate Director of Environmental Law Programs
  • Adjunct Law Professor


Bachelor of Laws / Bachelor of International Studies, University of News South Wales (Sydney Australia)
LLM in Environmental Law (Global), Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University (New York)
SJD Candidate '24, George Washington University Law School (Washington D.C.)

Prior to joining Haub Law as the Associate Director of Environmental Law Programs, Professor Vithanage was a Visiting Associate Professor of Law and the first Environmental and Energy Law Fellow with an international law background at the George Washington University Law School. She is an admitted solicitor of the state of New South Wales (NSW) in Australia and immediately prior to joining GW Law, was a merit scholarship recipient at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University. She was born in Sri Lanka, lived in the United Arab Emirates, practiced as an attorney in Australia, and undertook tertiary studies in Australia, Japan, China, Spain, and the United States, providing her a unique international perspective. Professor Vithanage has also been the Co-Chair of the American Bar Association's Section on Environment energy & Resources' (SEER) International Environmental & Resources Law (IERL) Committee since 2020 and is an originating member of the International Association of Energy Law, a global network of early career energy law professors. Most recently, she was recognized in LawDragon’s 500 Leading Environmental and Energy Lawyers 2021 Guide.

Her interest in international environmental law and energy law and policy began early in her tertiary studies, through employment at the NSW Energy & Water Ombudsman, a government-approved industry-based independent body which monitors the state's water and energy industries. She also spent an exchange year at Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan, under a Japan Student Services Organization scholarship, completing interdisciplinary courses on environmental science and global environmental politics and policies. She completed her undergraduate combined degree of Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of International Studies at the University of NSW, Sydney. Her article "Marine Protected Areas: The Chagos Case and The Need to Marry International Environmental Law with Indigenous Rights," which she wrote during her undergraduate degree, was subsequently published in the 2012 edition of Brill's Yearbook of Polar Law. Following her admission, Achinthi practiced mostly in the commercial and property law fields for almost five years. She joined the Law Society of NSW Young Lawyers in 2012, and was elected Chair of the International Law Committee in 2015. During her two-year tenure, she endeavored to bring issues of international environmental law into the spotlight.

Professor Vithanage has acquired a wealth of environmental law experience since her arrival in the United States. She worked at the Sri Lankan Permanent Mission to the United Nations; published articles in the American Bar Association Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources' Natural Resources & Environment; presented on "Utilizing Marine Protected Areas to Facilitate Climate Change Adaptation: Tales from the Pacific," at the Pacific Climate Change conference in New Zealand; presented at the International Union for Conservation of Nature Colloquium in Glasgow, Scotland; and was invited as a panelist to Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University's Energy Water & Food Nexus International summit, presenting on climate change adaptation-based food security policy in the Pacific Islands, and to a side event to the United Nations High Level Political Forum on SDG 7 Energy. She is frequently called on to speak on panels, moderate conversations, write op-eds and feature articles, and comment on various environmental & energy law issues for news sources.

Professor Vithanage graduated summa cum laude from the Elisabeth Haub School of Law's LLM program following completion of her 180 page thesis on ex situ high seas biodiversity conservation under international environmental law. Her article, "A Deep Dive into the High Seas: Harmonizing Regional Frameworks for Marine Protected Areas with the UNCLOS Convention on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biological Diversity in Areas beyond National Jurisdiction," was published by Oxford University Press in 2019 in the Yearbook of International Environmental Law. She co-authored "The Transformation of Environmental Law and Governance: Risk, Innovation and Resilience," in the Edward Elgar publication stemming from the 2018 International Union for Conservation of Nature Academy for Environmental Law Colloquium, with Haub Law's Dean Emeritus Richard Ottinger. She recently published a chapter, which she co-authored with GW Law Associate Dean for Environmental Studies LeRoy Paddock, on "Collaborating with Underserved Communities to Contribute to Decarbonization" in the International Bar Association's section on Energy, Environment, Natural Resources and Infrastructure Law Academic Advisory Group's book on energy justice as well as chapter on Sustainable Energy Democracy. She has a forthcoming chapter in a Brill publication on the international legal instrument on biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction, a treaty presently being negotiated at the United Nations.

At GW Law, Professor Vithanage taught International Environmental Law, Global & Comparative Environmental Law, Environmental Lawyering, and coached students in international environmental law moot court competitions. She also taught Introduction to Environmental Law at GWU's Trachtenberg School of Public Policy & Public Administration and Introduction to Sustainability, an interdisciplinary course based on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, at GWU. She teaches a similar range of courses at Haub Law.

Professor Vithanage is concurrently pursuing a Doctorate degree at the George Washington University Law School as the Shaw Graduate Fellow in Administrative Law.