Phase A – Assess National Strategic Context, Strategies, Policies and Priorities

General Description

Before the start of the process, it is crucial that there is a shared and objective understanding of the national and regional context and main priorities. An in-depth assessment of the national strategic context along with relevant strategies, policies and priorities is the first activity to undertake.

In national terms, the strategic context is the situation the country finds itself in in terms of factors that might impinge, positively or negatively, on the ability of the country to achieve national goals. Factors to be considered might include:

  • The history of the country and its current norms
  • The regional and international political and security 'climate'
  • The ability as a nation to grasp the opportunities and mitigate the threats of its surrounding environment
  • The regional military situation and the presence or otherwise of friends and/or enemies or potential enemies
  • The strength and resilience of the national economy
  • The sociocultural fabric and the community’s expectations (education, access to justice, etc.)

In partnership with the assessment of the international, regional and national strategic context, an assessment of current policies, strategies and capacity should be conducted. This assessment should clearly outline current policies, as well as, the strategies and capacities to achieve them and objectively determine their strengths and weaknesses and their success or otherwise against their own criteria.

In practice, countries may have many National Strategies such as a National Development Strategy, a Poverty Reduction Strategy or both. At the National Security System level there may be one or more of a National Security Policy, Strategy, or Plan. And at the institution level there are a variety of strategies and outputs used by each sector.

It is quite likely that there are no clearly articulated or defined policies and strategies at the national level and some sporadic strategic documents on the sectoral level. In this case they should be determined or assumed by an examination of the sum of national activities. It is also quite likely that there will be no previously agreed methods for determining the success or failure policies and strategy. A transparent set of criteria will need to be developed to measure success or failure.

Policy assessment is an inherently political activity, but for best results, it needs to be conducted objectively. For this reason, people given the task need to work closely with the government but also need to have the confidence of the government, be sufficiently senior and be confident in their own knowledge to be able to undertake such an assessment that might be seen as critical of previous government decisions. Without this, any assessment is likely to be flawed and lead to irrelevant or even damaging policy directions.