Please note: there may be some adjustments to the teaching arrangements published in the course catalogue for 2020-21. Given current circumstances related to the Covid-19 pandemic it is anticipated that some usual arrangements for teaching on campus will be modified to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students and staff on campus; further adjustments may also be necessary, or beneficial, during the course of the academic year as national requirements relating to management of the pandemic are revised.

Law and International Development (EM) LAW5191

  • Academic Session: 2022-23
  • School: School of Law
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 1
  • Available to Visiting Students: No
  • Available to Erasmus Students: No

Short Description

This course engages with contemporary debates about the role of law in international development, focusing in particular on the relationship between economic development, environmental sustainability and inequality. Through analysis of historical developments, relevant theories and case studies of development projects and related social and environmental disputes, the course examines interactions between different legal regimes (economic, environmental, human rights) and how they shape policy and decision-making on sustainable development at international, national and local levels. In doing so, the course draws on cutting-edge academic research about law and development to examine the practical challenges faced by governments and social movements in finding fair and effective pathways to sustainable development.


Students will analyse the role of international institutions and specific legal regimes in promoting and implementing successive visions of economic development in the period since decolonisation. They will develop critical awareness of how different legal regimes (economic, human rights, and environmental) create competing visions for how development is best achieved, and they will reflect on the role of law in the context of conflicts over development projects. Students will also gain an understanding of the major legal challenges to realising the UN's Sustainable Development agenda.


2-hour seminars for 10 weeks

Requirements of Entry

The course is open to all EMJMD ILGSPD students subject to the requirements of the programme.

Excluded Courses



It is advisable for the students to have a basic knowledge of public international law (or willingness to acquire such relevant knowledge by engaging in independent study) 


The summative assessment comprises of one 5000-words essay worth 100% of the mark.

Course Aims

The aim of this course is to enable students to develop a theoretically sophisticated appreciation of the history of international development as an idea and as an institutional practice. The role of legal regimes and international institutions in fostering sustainable and inclusive economic development is a major preoccupation for academic researchers, international institutions, and legal practitioners. This course will equip law students with the knowledge and skills required to engage with the complex and contested legal terrain of contemporary development initiatives at the international, domestic, and local levels. Students will learn how to critically analyse competing theoretical visions of international development, and they will evaluate the UN's Sustainable Development agenda and the obstacles to its realisation. The course will enhance student's written communication skills through the preparation of written assignments.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:


1. Understand the role of international and domestic legal regimes and international institutions in the development and implementation of successive interations of development policy

2. Demonstrate a comprehensive, historically contextualised understanding of the significance of European colonialism and neo-colonial governance practices in creating contemporary conflicts over how international development is carried out

3. Analyse from a perspective of various disciplines the role of legal regimes (economic, environmental, and human rights) in creating visions for international development, and critically evaluate the significance of these legal regimes in contemporary development conflicts at the local, national, and international levels.

4. Demonstrate an understanding of the UN's agenda for sustainable economic development and the key obstacles to its realisation

5. Gain knowledge about the institutional landscape of international development and critically reflect on how development projects are financed and administered .

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components of the course's summative assessment.