Associate Professor Jonathan Liljeblad

PhD (University of Southern California), JD (University of Southern California), BS (California Institute of Technology)
ANU College of Law

Areas of expertise

  • International Law (Excl. International Trade Law) 180116
  • Human Rights Law 180114
  • Environmental And Natural Resources Law 180111
  • Law And Society 180119
  • Comparative Law 180106

Research interests

International Law, Human Rights, Indigenous Rights, Environmental Law, Rule of Law, Law & Development


Jonathan Liljeblad earned a PhD and JD from the University of Southern California (USC), an MS from the University of Washington (UW), and a BS from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). His research focuses on the complexities of promoting international norms in developing countries, using case studies in Indigenous rights, human rights, and environment. His fieldwork is mostly in Southeast Asia, where his studies are supported by international aid organisations such as Asia Development Bank (ADB), Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS), Danish Institute of Human Rights (DIHR), & the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ). His research makes interventions in the literatures of international law, law & society, rule-of-law, human rights, environmental law, & law & development. He is a "scholactivist," with his scholarship connected to his advocacy work with international aid organisations. As a result, he bridges academia, government, and civil society; seeks interdisciplinary, transboundary, and cross-cultural collaborations; and nurtures direct impact upon policy-makers and societal leaders. He was born a member of the Pa'Oh indigenous peoples of Shan State, Myanmar, and grew up in Sweden and the United States.

Researcher's projects

  • Indigenous Rights to Environment in International Law—This project explores legal theories that support the concept of Indigenous rights to the environment. The project evaluates the extent to which Indigenous rights to the environment can be drawn from existing international human rights, international environmental law, international criminal law, and Indigenous conceptions of international law. The project bridges theoretical discourses in international law with Jonathan's empirical work regarding Indigenous peoples claims under international human rights and international environmental law.
  • Indigenous Theories of International Law—This is a wider project that arises in conjunction with Jonathan's roles as Co-Chair of the American Society of International Law (ASIL) Rights of Indigenous Peoples Interest Group and Co-Chair of the Law and Society Association (LSA) Indigenous Peoples and the Law Collaborative Research Network. The project follows the arguments of Fourth World Approaches to International Law (FWAIL, alternatively called Original Nations Approaches to International Law, or ONAIL) that claim uniquely Indigenous understandings of international law that are distinct from the prevailing state-centric international law system. The project assembles contributions from a global range of Indigenous scholars presenting Indigenous approaches to topics of international law, with a shared purpose of illustrating the existence of Indigenous perspectives that reflect Indigenous forms of international law.
  • Indigenous Transnationalism in Engagements with International Law—This project builds upon Jonathan's fieldwork in Southeast Asia, and seeks to pursue potential avenues to extend his previous work towards greater generalisibility. The project seeks to engage discourses on transnational Indigenous movements found in other geographic regions—particularly among my colleagues in the Africa, Americas, and the Pacific—to highlight the efforts of Indigenous peoples to mobilise transnational movements to engage existing mechanisms of international law. The project identifies and evaluates such movements to clarify trends regarding their interests for transnational activism, their reasons for using international law to address their interests, their strategies in engaging international law, and their experiences in doing so. 
  • Justice Sector Reforms for Rights-Based Systems in Southeast Asia—This project is supported Asia Development Bank and Konrad Adenauer Stiftung. The project builds upon Jonathan's previous research in Myanmar, and pursues a wider comparative assessment of international aid efforts to promote rights-based reforms in the justice sector of least-developed countries in Southeast Asia (with a focus on Cambodia, Myanmar, and Laos). Particular focus is upon agendas directed towards capacity-building for lawyers, prosecutors, and judges with respect to increasing access to justice, Indigenous rights, human rights, and environmental rights.
  • Law, Development, and World Heritage—This project studies the social, cultural, economic, and political complexities associated with the implementation of law and governance systems in developing countries connected to environmental and cultural heritage programmes under the World Heritage system. The project draws on Jonathan's fieldwork in Southeast Asia, and engages with wider discourses in law and development, environmental and cultural heritage conservation, human rights, Indigenous rights, and international law.


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Updated:  28 November 2023 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers