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Law and Governance in Developing Countries


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, a sufficient command of English (IELTS 6.5 or higher) is required.


About 125 states in Africa, Asia and the Middle East are referred to as ‘the global South’, ‘developing’ or ‘emerging’ or ‘non-western’ countries. Their law and governance systems are the subject of this comparative course. The course starts with the 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. 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 improve legal systems, enhance good governance and promote development. The course seeks to provide answers to how national actors as well as foreign interventions can contribute to these objectives, and to the development process as a whole.

Course objectives

The following achievement levels apply with regard to the course:

  • Students are able to understand and explain the basics of 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

  • They can define and use key concepts such as rule of law, access to justice and legal pluralism and explain how they relate to a bottom-up and a top-down approach of law and governance in developing countries.

  • Students are able to critically assess academic writings and more popular claims about law and governance in developing countries, as well as the feasibility of external interventions in the field.

  • They are able to independently use English language materials to critically evaluate the abovementioned subject; and to present their findings in short oral and written assignments.


The timetable of this course can be found in uSis.

Mode of instruction


  • Number of (2 hour) lectures: 2 × 2 hours for 6 weeks

  • Names of lecturers: Janine Ubink and guest lecturers

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

Assessment method

Examination form(s)

  • Two short reaction papers (20%)

  • Individual paper (30%)

  • Written exam (50%)

If the overall grade is lower the 5,5 the student can do a retake of the exam. Pass grades for examination components lapse at the end of the academic year if a student does not pass the course.

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 (mainly slides) 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



Students have to register for courses and exams through uSis.
Exchange students have priority and will be registered for the course first. Any remaining seats will be available for students from Leiden University and other Dutch Universities.

Contact information

  • Co-ordinator: Janine Ubink

  • Work address: KOG, room B3.22

  • Contact information: via secretariat Ms Kari van Weeren

  • Telephone number: +31 (0)71 527 7493

  • 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: