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Law, Governance and Development


Admission requirements

Required course(s):



Serious efforts to meet global challenges will sooner or later encounter the limits of law in developing countries. About 125 states in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America are generally referred to as ‘developing’, ‘majority world’ or ‘the Global South’. This course addresses the formation and functioning of the legal systems of these countries, notably in their relation to development. At the interface between state and society, it should be the function of law and legal institutions to regulate people’s security, economic advancement, social justice and environmental protection, to mention just a few goals of development. This raises several important socio-legal questions. To what extent are developing countries’ legal systems able to implement standards set by international law, to provide access and remedies to justice-seekers, and to support good governance and the development of society at large? To understand the capacities of these systems to make laws, implement them, and adjudicate conflicts, we will have to know what they look like, whether they consist of legal transplants from the West, or perhaps are based on other conceptions of law like customary law, divine Islamic law, or other traditions? How does state law relate to ‘non-state law’? We also need to understand how legal systems operate in a heterogeneous and rapidly changing society, and see which role non-state actors play in governance issues. Economic, political and social problems have their impact on the effectiveness of legal and governance institutions. This begs the overarching question of this course. In as far as legal systems do not operate pro-poor, is there anything to be done about that? In other words, what is the scope for strengthening legal systems and promoting the rule of law and human rights in the developing world? Should the ‘Global North’ be involved in this? This course addresses issues of access to justice for the common man and pays critical attention to different notions of justice at international, national and local arenas.

Course Objectives

  • Identify the interrelationships between law, governance, and development

  • Identify and compare the formal features of law and governance prevalent in many developing countries and the actual working of these formal systems

  • Debate the prevailing conceptual frameworks in this field (rule of law, legal pluralism, (good) governance, access to justice, etc.)

  • Explain the complicated relationship between law and development

  • Critically evaluate the feasibility of external interventions aimed at improving the legal systems


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2023-2024 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

Each week will consist of two interactive meetings that combine discussions, lecturing, in-class assignments and Q&A sessions. During the class meetings, you will have the opportunity to present and discuss your ideas within an academic setting and take part in group projects.

Assessment Method

  • Seminar participation: 15 %

  • Two short reaction papers: 20 %

  • Group assignment:

    • Group presentation: 15%
    • Individual paper about the presentation: 10%
  • Written exam with essay questions: 40 %

Reading list

The literature for this course consists mostly of academic articles and book chapters. The literature can be downloaded from the library or will be made available by the course instructor at least one week in advance. Additional online material will be posted on Brightspace.


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Nada Heddane,