Postgraduate taught 

International Law LLM

Law and International Development LAW5193

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Law
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 1
  • Available to Visiting 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. By means of case-studies on contemporary development projects, students will gain both an understanding of the major challenges to realising the UN's Sustainable Development agenda and how development projects are administered in practice.


10 x 2 hour seminars in semester 2.

Excluded Courses





The course is assessed by a group report on an assigned project with a maximum length of 2500 words (20%) and an individual 4000 word essay (80%). The group work element is central to the pedagogy of the course, which is designed to enhance students' abilities to engage in collaborative initiatives, as would be the case in the development sector, as well as to build the skill set of collective decision-making and oral presentation skills. 

Main Assessment In: December

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. By means of case-studies on concrete development project, students will gain insight into how international development projects are administered in practice. The course will enhance student's written communication skills through the preparation of written assignments. The course will further develop students' oral communication skills and their ability to construct reasoned arguments through participation in seminars, as well as via an assessed class presentation.


Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

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


1. Gain insight into the role of international and domestic legal regimes shaping the implementation of successive iterations of development policy.

2. Demonstrate a comprehensive, historically contextualised understanding of the significance of colonialism in creating contemporary conflicts over how international development agenda is carried out at the local, national, and international levels.

3. Critically evaluate the diverging approaches to development that underpin different international legal regimes (economic, environmental, and human rights).

4. Gain knowledge about how development projects are financed, deliberated and administered.

5. Develop reasoned arguments relating to the competing legal rights, interests, and social and environmental stakes involved in contemporary development projects.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

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