Capacity development for a national defence review in Uganda


The government of Uganda carried out a defence review with UK assistance from 2002 to 2004. The comprehensive review was the fi rst in Uganda’s history and a politically sensitive and risky undertaking for both countries. The review sought to lay the groundwork for changes in how Uganda formulates and delivers defence and wider security policy, by attempting to anchor this process more firmly in wider governmental planning and budgeting processes. It was undertaken at a time when Uganda was facing a number of serious security problems, both in the north and along its border with the Congo.

This marked the first time that the United Kingdom had supported a review process of such scope and complexity. Like Uganda’s other development partners, the United Kingdom was particularly concerned about rising levels of defence spending. The methodology drew upon both the United Kingdom’s own experience with a strategic defence review in the 1990s and current SSR thinking in order to develop a more holistic and developmentally sensitive approach to analysing defence
requirements. Close collaboration was required at both political and technical levels in order to manage the immense expectations generated by the review process.

Entry point

Both the government and its development partners believed that the defence sector offered the most promising entry point for addressing the country’s security problems. Priority was placed on developing an understanding of the role of defence in relation to other security actors, a clear description of the defence forces needed to fulfil this role effectively, and a plan for defence transformation set within the context of competing needs and resource constraints across the public sector.

Lessons learned

Agree objectives at the outset — A clear and shared understanding of the rationale for and objectives of a defence review process should be developed by the government and its development partners before the actual review exercise is launched. Where views differ as to the objectives of a review or how it should be carried out, careful attention should be paid to managing the diverse expectations of stakeholders as to the concrete outcomes the process will deliver.

Ensure methodologies are appropriate to the local context — Experiences can be drawn on from other countries but should be carefully adapted to the local context before being applied, and adequate training for national staff should be provided.

Develop national ownership throughout the process — Where conditions for strong national ownership are not in place from the outset, a strong partnership between a government and its development partners is necessary. A successful partnership implies commitments and responsibilities on both sides, including the need for assistance to be provided in ways that enhance national leadership and political responsibility for the process.


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