McGill’s Faculty of Law has enjoyed a long-standing and productive relationship with legal partners in Russia. Members of the Faculty began advising Russian law reformers ever since the creation of the Russian Federation in the early 1990s. They began by partnering with and advising the Centre for Private Law, which advised President Yeltsin directly. Later, the faculty received a Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) grant to continue its work with the Institute for Law Based Economy in Moscow.

Nurturing the rule of law in Russia’s institutions

The result is that members of the McGill Faculty of Law have played a pivotal role in every phase of the legal reforms and drafting of the Russian Civil Code and other areas of private law legislation. Since April 2011, the Rule of Law and Economic Development Research Group (ROLED) has supported the work of the Centre for Legal and Economic Studies in Moscow by channeling Canadian and foreign expertise in a range of areas to advance transparency, accountability, and good governance in Russia. The most recent partnership with Russia which concluded in 2012 has been with Centre for Legal and Economic Studies based in Moscow.

Following two decades of transition to a market economy, Russia has weak political and economic institutions, rampant corruption, and lack of transparency and democratic accountability at all levels of government. This weak rule of law continues to undermine Russia’s ability to realize its economic potential. In particular, ideological hostilities against entrepreneurial activities remain a significant hindrance to the development of a modern and diversified economy.

The rule of law and economic development

However, recognition of Russia’s increasingly strategic profile in various international fora, including its recent entry into the World Trade Organization, offer tremendous potential and long-awaited opportunities for the country to establish itself as a global economic player. The Russian context provided an impetus for us to examine more closely the various dimensions of rule of law and its relationship to economic development. Specifically, if the Russian state were to engage in tangible actions to foster the rule of law, how might such efforts sustain much-needed economic growth?

Finding commonalities through interdisciplinary research

Our goal thus became to incorporate research on other transition and emerging economies in order to examine commonalities across each and enable us to highlight contextually specific issues. Through interdisciplinary research across Brazil, Russia, India, and China (the so-called BRIC countries), our objective was not to prescribe models of transplantation, but rather, to compare the systems and structures in which law operates, and evaluate the current climate of rule of law and its relationship to economic development within each country.