Poverty, Knowledge and Policy Processes: A Case Study of Ugandan National Poverty Reduction Policy

Published on 1 January 2002

This report, part of a broader research project on Poverty Knowledge and Policy Processes, concerns the poverty reduction policy process in Kampala, Uganda. It is based on an understanding of policy as a complex, dynamic process, rather than a linear progression of formulation and implementation.

This policy process comprises a multiplicity of distinct but linked spaces, in which a wide range of actors, governmental and non-governmental, engage in order to influence and shape policy. Each actor brings into a policy space their own unique version of knowledge about poverty, which informs their actions.

The report describes and analyses, in turn, the actors involved in policy processes at national level, the kinds of knowledge on which the processes draw, and the spaces, formal and informal, in which policy actors engage with each other. It concludes that the contemporary poverty reduction policy context in Uganda holds several opportunities and several risks. One area of risk relates to the fundamental contradiction between the nature of the national political space and the way the Government of Uganda (GoU) is energetically opening up new policy spaces and ushering in a range of diverse actors.

Another is the disconnection between, on the one hand, the international national alliance operating in Kampala, and on the other, the relationship between Kampala and the rest of the country. Opportunities include the current state of flux of poverty knowledge in Uganda, and the already considerable experience of blending diverse kinds of knowledge for policy purposes. These opportunities allow for optimism about how the ‘new poverty experts’, sub-national actors and others outside the GoU donor nexus might affect the course of policy in future

The report concludes that civil society (CS) actors, and especially non-governmental organisation (NGO) poverty advocates, are at a critical juncture in Uganda today. To enhance their impact on policy, they can either remain relatively passive participants in processes into which government invites them, or can opt to exercise greater agency, act more autonomously and forge their own processes.

Paradoxically, although the transformational potential of strong government ownership of a broad-based, participatory poverty reduction policy agenda is clear from the Uganda case, the report ends by calling on non-governmental policy actors to reclaim from government and its donor partners the territory of participation, and to make it more their own again, albeit in the new realm of policy.


Rosemary McGee

Power and Popular Politics Cluster Lead

Publication details

published by
Brock, K., McGee, R. and Ssewakiryanga, R.
IDS Research Report, issue 53
1 85864 430 5


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