Resource Africa is excited to announce the appointment of Leslé Jansen, our new Chief Executive Officer for Resource Africa Southern Africa. A lawyer specialising in Indigenous Peoples in International Law, Ms. Jansen brings to RA over 15 years' experience working with local communities on resource and related rights as these relate to environmental and social justice across southern Africa. She brings a wealth of experience and insight to RA from her perspective as a South African who identifies as indigenous, as a lawyer skilled at negotiation and policy, and her knowledge of the southern African region in particular, and indigenous and local communities across the African continent.
“It is partly my indigenous identify that drew me to law and specifically to indigenous resource rights. This is where I have spent the last eight years to ensure indigenous peoples get recognition in some form from their knowledge, which was, and in some cases continues to be appropriated,” she says.
A major milestone in her career was, as one of a team of two lawyers, supporting a coalition of around 40 communities in South Africa to lay claim to high value traditional resource species such as Rooibos, and a share of the benefits. This was done in the context of the Nagoya Protocol policy framework on access to genetic resources and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from their utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity.
“Their [indigenous communities’] knowledge contributed to build successful industries. They were never recognised for this,” she says. The result was that key industries were brought into compliance with the Protocol and, as a form of restitution for some, the industry will pay a generational traditional knowledge levy to the communities who will set up community trusts to determine how the benefits will be shared and distributed. This has set a key precedent for other communities across the continent and the world.
Ms Jansen has a strong commitment to Africa and African issues, particularly as they relate to the spiritual, material and cultural meaning of the continent’s resources to its people that the world has benefitted greatly from. She is an indigenous expert member to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights’ special mechanism – the Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities in Africa.
“RA aligns very well with my personal ethos and what I hope to do in the world. I hope to learn in terms of their work with the struggles of communities for their resource rights. I want to add my weight in these struggles. I see it as a way of weaving the tapestry back in a way that communities can benefit from their resources and knowledge that they offer the world,” says Ms Jansen.
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