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Law, Governance & 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 from the question to what extent and how foreign interventions can contribute to better legal systems, good governance and development. However, in order to answer this question we need to consider a second one: how do law and governance actually function in these countries?

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 supposed to contribute to resolving those conflicts, but often they themselves are subject to the same problems they are supposed to address. What are the chances and ways of breaking through this vicious circle? While there has been widespread frustration about the state of law and legal institutions in the developing world, this course shows that some of these institutions 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.

Course Objectives

In terms of skills, after successful completion of this course, students are able to:

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

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

In terms of knowledge, after successful completion of this course, students are able to:

  • explain the complicated relationship between law and development


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2020-2021 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

Each week will consist of two seminars, which combine lecturing, students’ 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.

Assessment Method


Reading list

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

The literature can be downloaded from the web; students will need to retrieve and print the literature themselves as per the guidance provided on Brightspace. Any literature not available through the web or e-library will be posted on Brightspace by the course convenor / lecturer at least one week in advance.


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,


Dr. Bernardo Ribeiro de Almeida,