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Jessica Vapnek - UC Hastings College of the Law. San Francisco, CA, US

Jessica Vapnek

Lecturer, Global Programs Advisor, and Director of the M.S.L. Program | UC Hastings College of the Law

San Francisco, CA, UNITED STATES

Contacts: vapnekjessica@uchastings.edu


Jessica Vapnek is a Lecturer, Global Programs Advisor, and Director of the M.S.L. Program at UC Hastings. Previously, she was a Regional Technical Director for a consulting firm in San Francisco implementing rule-of-law projects around the world. In that role she managed complex international projects, helped write winning proposals, and published articles on access to justice and dispute resolution. Previously, for almost 15 years, Professor Vapnek served as a Legal Officer with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome, providing policy advice to member countries, drafting legislation on agriculture and natural resources, and writing and editing a number of articles and books. Professor Vapnek has lived in Africa (she was a Peace Corps Volunteer in the former Zaire and a Fulbright Scholar in Ghana) and has worked in or traveled to 91 countries during her career. She speaks French, Spanish, and Italian.

Areas of Expertise (3)

Agriculture and Natural Resource Law

Legislative Drafting

Rule of Law

Accomplishments (3)

Editor in Chief

California Law Review

Fulbright Scholar


Peace Corps Volunteer

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Education (2)

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law: J.D.

Yale University: B.A.

Affiliations (2)

  • State Bar of California : Member
  • Bar Association of the District of Columbia : Member

Languages (3)

  • French
  • Italian
  • Spanish

Selected Articles (20)

Resolving Disputes and Improving Security in Post-Conflict Settings: An Example from Liberia

Arbitration - The International Journal of Arbitration, Mediation and Dispute Management

Jessica Vapnek, Alfred Fofie, & Peter Boaz


Countries emerging from civil conflict in the developing world face numerous challenges that hinder reconstruction and peace building. These hurdles, many of which existed before the war and may have contributed to the civil strife, include poverty, unequal distribution of political and economic power, land disputes, and exploitation or exclusion of groups on social, cultural, tribal, or religious bases. Liberia emerged from 14 years of conflict in 2003 urgently needing to address many of these concerns, in particular the burgeoning number of land disputes and the looming threat they posed to peace, security, and national reconstruction. This article first examines the role of land underpinning disputes in post-conflict settings and then outlines the origins of the Mitigating Local Disputes in Liberia (MLDL) Project. Next, the article provides a snapshot of the dispute resolution and conflict early warning/early response system established and supported by the project and examines the methodology and factors that led to its success. After reviewing selected disputes resolved and security issues addressed, the article concludes by suggesting the features of MLDL’s dispute resolution and early warning model that could be replicated in other post-conflict regions.

Cultural Factors and Ethical Integrity

Hastings International and Comparative Law Review

Jessica Vapnek


The UC Hastings Ethical Integrity Symposium (Professional Ethical Integrity: Cornerstone for Rule of Law Reform Around the Globe) was designed around the assumption that a lack of ethical integrity undermines the rule of law in various countries. Informed by travels and work in more than eighty-five countries, the author's remarks at the symposium offered some perspectives on why ethical behavior is so elusive in many environments. The intention of these refelections is not to use poverty to justify unethical behavior or corruption, but rather to explain the cultural context so as to better understand what may be motivating people to act in ways that those in the developed world would call unethical. To address the issue of ethical integrity, the remarks outline links between law and economic development, list cultural factors that may contribute to ethical lapses in some developing countries, and highlight solutions that have been implemented in various parts of the world.

Improving Access to Justice in Developing and Post-Conflict Countries: Practical Examples from the Field

Duke Forum for Law & Social Change

Jessica Vapnek, Peter Boaz, & Helga Turku


The purpose of many rule-of-law assistance projects is to help make justice systems accessible and worthy of public confidence. This article reviews several donor-funded rule-of-law projects implemented in various parts of the world, offering some empirical insights into how they build trust in the judicial system and facilitate access to courts. Because international donors are in a unique position to shape planned interventions to improve access to justice and the rule of law, they need access to information about initiatives undertaken and lessons learned. This article is intended to share experiences implementing access-to-justice activities in developing countries and countries in transition.

21 Cost-Saving Measures for the Judiciary

International Journal for Court Administration

Jessica Vapnek


Courts around the world are increasingly facing budget cuts and funding shortfalls. Budget problems are particularly acute in developing countries, where courts need to increase efficiency and access to justice while also managing resource limitations. This paper outlines 21 measures that courts can implement to reduce costs. Specific examples from developing countries are presented wherever possible, with additional examples drawn from the United States and Europe. Although the paper is intended mainly for audiences in developing countries, the issues facing those courts are similar to issues addressed through court reforms in the United States over the past 50 years. For this reason, examples of cost-saving measures from developed countries such as the United States may be directly applicable or could be used as starting points to spur further cost-savings innovation in the developing world.

Legislative and Regulatory Options for Animal Welfare

FAO Legislative Study Series

Jessica Vapnek & Megan Chapman


Animal welfare is not a new subject for regulation in most developed countries, owing to a sophisticated consumer base and exposure to animal welfare issues. Growing international trade is generating more interest in animal welfare elsewhere in the world, in particular in countries seeking to increase trade with Europe. To date, countries wishing to update their existing veterinary legislative frameworks have had little comprehensive guidance on the options for regulating animal welfare. Against the backdrop of international developments, this text reviews national options for the regulation of animal welfare, summarizing the main elements of animal welfare legislation and the regulatory choices available to law-makers.

Law for Water Management: A Guide to Concepts and Approaches

FAO Legislative Study Series

Jessica Vapnek, Bruce Aylward, Jamie Bartram, & Christie Popp, editors


Effective water management relies on a wide range of institutions and actors playing distinct but interconnected roles. Coordination and cooperation are essential to ensure effective water management, health protection, and sustainable development. Good water policies implemented by nationally tailored water legislation and other tools can facilitate coordination and help governments achieve their water management objectives. But close cooperation will be needed between those with technical water expertise and those with expertise in legislation and regulation. The legal profession has a suite of tools that may provide a better or worse “fit” to a specific water management issue. The community of water managers, for its part, has a suite of technical tools that it uses to respond to regulatory challenges. Although communication between these two groups is vital in order to assess potential design and implementation issues, it is often constrained by different perspectives and vocabularies. A common lack of understanding can impede innovation and identification of the most effective solutions to water management problems. This text was conceived by staff of the UN's agriculture and health agencies as a resource to bridge the gap between these disparate groups.

Legislatively Establishing a Health Certification Programme for Citrus

FAO Legal Papers Online

Jessica Vapnek


This paper is designed as a resource for national or sub-national governments that are interested in designing and implementing a citrus certification program. The paper first provides a background to the diseases and transmission vectors to which citrus species are susceptible. It then outlines examples of certification programs, voluntary and mandatory, and provides a detailed description of the specific elements of a certification program and the legislation needed to put it in place.

Regulatory Measures Against Outbreaks of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza

FAO Legal Papers Online

Jessica Vapnek


There are measures that can be taken both before and after the appearance of an outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) that can drastically reduce its scope and limit the harm it causes. This paper outlines the major legal and institutional elements that governments should consider in preparing for and reacting to such an outbreak. The information contained in this paper can serve as a checklist for planners interested in improving their ability to plan for and to respond rapidly and effectively to an outbreak of HPAI. Although the text outlines measures that are specific to HPAI, some may be useful for governments dealing with other diseases. Policy-makers may find the need to address the HPAI threat an opportune moment to carry out a broader re-examination of their general animal health policies and planning processes.

Designing National Pesticide Legislation

FAO Legislative Study Series

Jessica Vapnek, Isabella Pagotto, & Margaret Kwoka


At national level, pesticides are regulated by legislation covering different subject areas, including human health, environmental protection, agricultural practices, international trade, border control, and commerce. Laws and regulations in these areas form part of the overall pesticide management system, and are intended to regulate the use and trade of pesticides. In many jurisdictions, however, legal provisions may be outdated, or may have been elaborated at different times and with different objectives, creating inconsistencies, overlaps, and gaps. Moreover, in recent years many countries have ratified various international instruments but still have to implement the new obligations and standards in their national legislation. Other countries are desirous of harmonizing their legislation with non-binding international guidelines such as the International Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides but have not yet done so. This text provides updated and comprehensive guidance to make sense of the maze of issues and obligations relevant to the regulation of pesticides.

Legislative Implementation of the Food Chain Approach

Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

Jessica Vapnek


Food safety is an essential element of food security, since "adequate" food means food that is not only available but also safe. Food safety systems have traditionally focused on end-product testing, which is an unsatisfactory means of ensuring safe food. An increasing focus on prevention has spurred interest in a food chain approach, which aims to control all steps in the food chain from production to consumption. Although the approach has drawn international attention in recent years, national lawmakers have lacked guidance on its implementation. This article addresses that need. The article describes the international backdrop to the food chain approach, discusses the main characteristics of the approach, and considers how the food chain approach is, in some respects, already being implemented in some specific areas. As these implementations are only partial solutions, the article then outlines four areas for legislative action to implement the food chain approach more completely. It concludes by raising some outstanding questions linked to the food chain approach while noting some of the advantages its implementation is likely to offer.

Development of an Analytical Tool to Assess Biosecurity Legislation

FAO Legislative Study Series

Daniele Manzella & Jessica Vapnek


Globalization of trade in agricultural products brings opportunities and risks. On the one hand, it generates wealth in countries exporting their produce to foreign markets, and it brings that produce to the tables of consumers in faraway lands. On the other hand, it opens new pathways for pests and diseases that can damage natural resources with accompanying economic and environmental consequences. In order to capture those opportunities and manage those risks, there is an increasing recognition of the need to integrate and improve coordination of regulatory activities designed to protect human, animal and plant life and health, and the environment. To implement this "Biosecurity" approach, governments should first identify and analyse the existing constellation of legal provisions covering the subject areas of Biosecurity. At times this may not be easy as Biosecurity is often regulated in a plethora of parliamentary-level and subsidiary pieces of legislation of different natures, scopes, and objects. For this reason, this study elaborates an orderly methodology to facilitate the review and assessment of national legal frameworks for Biosecurity.

Guidelines for the Revision of National Plant Protection Legislation

FAO Legal Papers Online

Jessica Vapnek & Daniele Manzella


A basic phytosanitary law sets out the government’s power to take action upon the appearance of a new pest, such as declaring a quarantine area and imposing restrictions on the movement of people, vehicles, plants, and plant products into and out of the areas affected by the pest. It also covers inspections, imports, and exports of plants and plant products and the penalties for violations. Recent international developments have caused many countries to re-examine their existing legal frameworks to better meet their international obligations and to improve the implementation of their phytosanitary activities. This text discusses the many essential and desirable elements that should form part of a modern national phytosanitary legal framework. It also identifies the issues that ought to be considered by governments in reviewing their existing regulatory frameworks on plant protection, especially in light of the new revised text of the International Plant Protection Convention and the World Trade Organization Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures.

Recent Trends in the Law and Policy of Bioenergy Production, Promotion and Use

FAO Legislative Study Series

Charlotta Jull, Patricia Carmona Redondo, Victor Mosoti, & Jessica Vapnek


The growing international demand for bioenergy is of particular interest to developing countries seeking opportunities for economic growth and trade. Developing countries have a comparative advantage for bioenergy production because of greater availability of land, favorable climatic conditions for agriculture, and lower labor costs. However, there may be other socioeconomic and environmental implications affecting the potential for developing countries to benefit from the increased global demand for bioenergy. The interrelationship between land use and the competing needs of energy and food security is a key issue in the bioenergy debate. In addition, the effects of large-scale bioenergy production on global commodity prices are a significant trade concern. Bioenergy production may also entail harmful environmental effects such as deforestation and loss of biodiversity. Regulation is required to reduce the negative impacts of large-scale production, as well as to ensure that the most cost-effective and highest-energy conversion technologies are used. This text explores these and other topical issues linked to bioenergy.

Making National Food Laws

Rivista di Diritto Agrario (Agrarian Law Review)

Jessica Vapnek & Melvin Spreij


This article provides guidance to national governments seeking to update existing legislation on food, or to enact new legislation governing food safety and trade.

Perspectives and Guidelines on Food Legislation, with a New Model Food Law

FAO Legislative Study Series

Jessica Vapnek & Melvin Spreij


Recent dramatic episodes of food-borne disease accidents and outbreaks have raised concerns about the effectiveness of current food control systems at protecting consumers and have sparked increased attention to the regulatory frameworks that govern food safety and food trade. Unease over microbiological and chemical contaminants of the food chain and the use of food additives, pesticides, and veterinary drugs, as well as heightened consumer interest in diet-related health issues, have also raised the profile of food safety control systems. At the same time, population growth, urbanization, and new technologies are influencing food production in unprecedented ways, thus requiring more vigilance by all those involved in the food chain – from primary producers to the consumer – to ensure food safety. These developments have given rise to new legislative needs. National regulatory frameworks have to be adjusted to meet international and regional obligations, while the distribution of responsibilities for the food sector at national level requires rigorous review. Taking into account the constellation of policies, institutions, and resources existing at national level, governments can choose a legislative strategy that best meets their national needs. Toward that end, the text offers concrete recommendations for the preparation of a basic national food law, including three variants of a new model food law.

Law and Sustainable Development Since Rio: Legal Trends in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management

FAO Legislative Study Series

Jessica Vapnek & Mohamed Ali Mekouar, editors


The United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development (Rio de Janeiro, 1992) was a legal landmark. It produced the Convention on Biological Diversity, which in turn has been complemented by the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and followed by the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Rio also produced several soft law instruments, especially Agenda 21, which contains extensive prescriptions for the “further development of international law on sustainable development” and for the establishment of effective national legal frameworks. Both of these have been acted upon. Not everything that has happened since Rio is due to Rio, however. As this book demonstrates, there has hardly been an area untouched by law reform in the last ten years. The Legal Office of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has one of the largest programs of legal technical assistance of any international organization. This has given its legal officers a unique vantage point from which to observe the legislative changes in food, agriculture, and natural resource management, subjects at the core of sustainable development law. The book consists of 12 chapters, for the most part divided into categories such as water or fisheries that correspond with administrative departments in many governments. These chapters reflect very considerably FAO's experience in advising governments on legislation dealing with these subjects. Good lawmaking is almost inevitably a multisectoral affair. Any law on forestry, for example, will reverberate through the land, wildlife, plant protection, and water sectors, and will in turn be shaped by the legal frameworks governing each of these. This collection, bringing together legal analyses on such a wide range of specific topics, should help build a better appreciation of the interrelationships that hold them together.

Implementation of Management Plans

Toxic Cyanobacteria in Water: A Guide to their Public Health Consequences, Monitoring, and Management

Jamie Bartram, Jessica Vapnek, et al.


This chapter examines regulatory options for outbreaks of toxic cyanobacteria in water.

Institutional and Legal Measures to Combat African Swine Fever

FAO Legal Papers Online

Jessica Vapnek


African Swine Fever (ASF) is a viral disease of pigs which can have devastating effects on a country’s economy, agriculture, and food security. The disease, which has nearly a 100% mortality rate, is transmitted to domestic pigs by warthog ticks and by contact with other infected pigs or pig material. Although there is no vaccine against ASF, there are measures that can be taken – both before and after the appearance of the disease – that can drastically reduce the scope of an outbreak and limit the harm it causes. This paper outlines the major institutional and legal elements governments should consider in preparing for and reacting to an outbreak of ASF. It can be considered a checklist for planners interested in improving their ability to respond rapidly and effectively to ASF, and to some extent to other diseases.

Establishing a Water Abstraction Licensing Scheme: Issues and Options

FAO Legal Papers Online

Jessica Vapnek


As the world’s population continues its upward trend, many countries have begun to witness increased competition for water. This competition may be due to elevated levels of water pollution or other environmental stresses, to periodic scarcity, or to the appearance of certain high-volume uses, such as larger-scale tourism, industry, or agriculture. For example, government plans for irrigation development may raise concerns about the availability of water and, concomitantly, the ability of investors to acquire and rely on secure title to water. Even in those countries or states that have been fortunate up till now in having abundant freshwater resources, many governments have begun consideration of their policy options to address competing water uses and escalating demands on water resources. Foremost among these policy options is the establishment of a water abstraction licensing scheme, a system by which a government allocates water rights among competing users. This paper, which poses a series of 50 questions that ought to be considered in the decision-making process, is intended to provide guidance to governments considering whether to adopt a water abstraction licensing scheme. In answering the questions, policy makers will become familiar with options for the details of the operation of such a scheme, and will be able to identify open questions that will have to be resolved before any such scheme can be implemented.

The West African Drug Mule Train

Criminal Law Bulletin

Jessica Vapnek


A sample of drug couriers arrested at a United States airport in an average week is likely to include large numbers of West Africans attempting to smuggle heroin or cocaine into the country. These same couriers will appear again at various stages throughout the justice system from arraignment to guilty plea (or the occasional trial) to sentencing and imprisonment. The same phenomenon occurs at airports in London, Amsterdam, and other European cities. The article describes how and why the West African drug smuggling trade originated, and offers a portrait of the typical African drug courier. It then attempts to identify West African drug smugglers and the reasons they end up in American and European prisons, and offers suggestions about how to limit these drug operations.