ALUMNI PROFILE Leslé Jansen (LLM ’12)
Shifting resource governance
Leslé Jansen (LLM ’12) works to advance indigenous and environmental rights
Coming from South Africa, a country where the oppressive apartheid system was once considered legal, Leslé Jansen (LLM ’12) understands the importance of ensuring that all people are equal before the law. A South African trained and admitted attorney, Jansen is committed to ensuring that communities are protected in the context of indigenous and environmental rights.
Jansen was a member of the inaugural class of Loyola’s Rule of Law for Development (PROLAW) program in 2011. “PROLAW definitely played a key role in shaping my career,” says Jansen. “It set the path for the work I’ve been involved in since graduation, and acted as a bridge between my legal academic training and practice. It provided me with the set of skills needed to navigate any legal system and context, and the necessary approaches to problem solving in this field.”
Following graduation, Jansen spent over eight years working with Natural Justice, an NGO focused on legal empowerment. She was one of the two lawyers who legally supported over 50 communities in South Africa to negotiate a royalty agreement with the South African rooibos tea industry. The royalties successfully negotiated were for traditional knowledge that was misappropriated over 200 years ago, and the levy was a form of restitution for these communities who continue to live outside the rule of law as it pertains to their cultural identity and related rights. This landmark case against the rooibos tea industry laid the foundation for communities to claim their resource rights as traditional knowledge holders.
“African knowledge systems relating to land and its resources can greatly help address our climate concerns if we support communities that have the knowledge and proven track record in sustainability.”
Under the same rooibos case, Jansen was involved in negotiating industry-wide access and benefit-sharing procedures in the context of the international treaty called Nagoya Protocol (supplementary agreement to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity). This set an important precedent to allow other natural resource industries to become compliant while also influencing pan-African national legal frameworks to comply with treaty obligations under the protocol.
Jansen then moved on to the role of CEO for Resource Africa, advocating on different policy fora for communities involved in conservation efforts, and is now head of indigenous peoples and local communities’ resource rights at Jamma International, a philanthropic organisation with a mission to improve the wellbeing of the planet and its people.
“My goal is to fundamentally shift resource governance to include and recognize the communities’ different historical, cultural, and social relationships,” Jansen says, “and for commercialization to give due recognition to the rights and benefits of these communities.” (March 2023)