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Law and Governance in Developing Countries


Please note that the following description of the course is only provisional and therefore subject to change.

Admission requirements

This course is suitable for 2nd and 3rd year students in Law, Social Sciences (anthropology, sociology of development, public administration), and Humanities (history, area studies, arts). Non-Law students should be willing to familiarise themselves with the outlines of law, whereas law students should be willing to engage in subjects beyond the rules of black letter law. For this course is a sufficient command of English (IELTS 6.5 or higher) required.


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.h3. Course objectives

Objectives of the course
The full course objectives are outlined in the reader. The first objective is to provide introductory knowledge about the formation and functioning of legal systems in developing countries; the effectiveness of those legal systems in contributing to governance processes and goals of development; and the feasibility of external interventions aimed at making the systems more effective. Secondly, the course aims at explaining the interdisciplinary nature of the domain of LGD and the interrelationships between law, governance, and development. Thirdly, the course discusses some of the main problems of LGD and introduces key concepts of the field. Finally, it also discusses several practical applications of LGD studies in professional domains.

Achievement levels
The following achievement levels apply with regard to the course:

  • See the above information


The timetable of this course can be found in uSis.

Mode of instruction


  • Number of (2 hour) lectures: 2 × 2 hours for 5 weeks

  • Names of lecturers: Prof. Jan Michiel Otto

  • Required preparation by students: : reading of two to three English articles before each session.


  • Number of (2 hour) seminars: Not applicable

  • Names of instructors:

  • Required preparation by students: reading two or three English articles before each session, as well as preparing one group presentation and its written version.

Other methods of instruction

  • Description: Not applicable

  • Number of (2 hour) instructions:

  • Names of instructors:

  • Required preparation by students:

Assessment method

Examination form(s)

  • Written exam: partly closed book, partly open book (85%)

  • One group presentation-cum-paper (15%)

If the overall grade is lower the 5,5 the student can do a retake of the exam.

Submission procedures
Not applicable

Areas to be tested within the exam
The examination matter consists of the required reading for the course, additional lecture notes as put on blackboard, and the subject matter actually taught in the lectures, the seminars and all other instructions which are part of the course.


More information on this course is offered in Blackboard.

Reading list

Obligatory course materials

  • None

Course information guide:

  • Not applicable


  • Reader Law and Governance in Developing countries, available via


Students have to register for courses and exams through uSis.

Contact information

  • Co-ordinator: Prof. Jan Michiel Otto

  • Work address: KOG, room B3.15

  • Contact information: via secretariat Ms Kari van Weeren

  • Telephone number: +31 (0)71 527 7260

  • Email:


  • Institute: Meta Juridica / Jurisprudence

  • Department: Van Vollenhoven Institute

  • Room number secretary: KOG room B3.13

  • Opening hours: Monday to Thursday 9.00 – 12.30 and 13.30 – 16.00

  • Telephone number secretary: +31 (0) 527 7260

  • Email: