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Law, Governance, and Development




Admission Requirements



About 125 states in Africa, Asia and the Middle East are referred to as ‘developing’ or ‘non-western’ countries. Their law and governance systems are the subject of this comparative course. The course starts with the question to what extent and how can foreign interventions contribute to better legal systems, good governance and development? This leads us to the second question: how do law and governance actually function in these countries? Several economic, political and social problems cause tensions and conflicts in laws, legal institutions, and legal processes, especially when large scale violence has erupted. Domestic institutions for law and governance are to solve those conflicts, but how do they operate? Often they themselves are subject to the problems they are supposed to solve. What are the chances and ways of breaking through this vicious circle? Whereas there has been widespread frustration about the state of law and legal institutions in the developing world, this course shows that some are remarkably capable of moderating the complex relationships between modern state law, (post-)colonial law, religious norms and customary rules. The problems and solutions that we encounter in this field are of critical importance to the development process as a whole.

Law and legal systems should regulate people’s security, economic advancement, social justice, and environmental protection, to name but a few goals of development. This raises some important socio-legal questions.

Course Objectives

  • To be able to explain the complicated relationship between law and development

  • To acquire insight into and critically reflect on the formal features of law & governance prevalent in many developing countries and the actual working of these formal systems

  • To develop a critical understanding of the prevailing conceptual frameworks in this field (rule of law, legal empowerment, legal pluralism, good governance, access to justice, etc.)

Mode of Instruction

Each week will consist of two seminars, which combine lecturing, student’s presentations with discussions. Through seminar debate, presentations, web posts, and coursework students are given the opportunity to present and defend their ideas within an academic setting and to take part in group projects.


  • 2 times 2-hour, 7 weeks

  • Seminars and the required assignments provide the students with the opportunity to apply their newly gained knowledge and train their academic skills.


To be confirmed in course syllabus:

There will be one individual assignment for a presentation-cum-paper (25%), web-postings (15%), and two written exams, one mid-way (20%) and one at the end (40%).


The literature for this course consists mostly of academic articles and a few policy papers, specified in the course syllabus. No hard copy course reader will be compiled.

The literature can be downloaded from the web or the e-library of Leiden University; students will need to retrieve and print the literature themselves as per the guidance provided on Blackboard. Any literature not available through the web or e-library will be made available by the course convenors at least one week in advance.

Students are expected to print the reading material and bring it to class with any notes or highlighting marked on it.

Contact Information

Jan Michiel Otto: or
Ronald Janse:

Weekly Overview


Preparation for first session

To prepare for the first lecture, please read the literature mentioned on blackboard.