This article examines an attempt by the government of Uganda and UNHCR to implement a developmental ‘Self Reliance Strategy’ in response to the needs of 188 ,000 long-term Sudanese refugees and their hosts in Uganda, and analyses some of the conceptual, political and practical issues arising from it. It contends that conditions of extreme insecurity in the north, and the fact that refugees in Uganda do not enjoy freedom of movement, undermine from the outset prospects for a successfully integrative and developmental approach to refugee assistance. It argues the rights and well-being of refugees in Uganda are subordinated to the government’s wider political objectives in relation to Uganda’s internal conflict, and with respect to its relations with the international donor community. It concludes that, while developmental approaches promise advantages in protracted refugee situations, ways must be found of ensuring the protection and socioeconomic needs, of refugees are assured.