Federalism

Autonomous Island Regions

Autonomous Island Regions

Abstract

Research regarding autonomous island regions encounters a myriad of various definitions used in two overarching traditions within the field: autonomism and federalism. This short article sheds some light on some of the most common definitions used and maybe how we can derive some closure in the area. However, more research should be done in order to come up with a complete list of autonomous islands in the world.

Introduction

There are several authors that distinguish between territorial and non-territorial autonomies (see e.g. Hannum 1996; Olausson 2008; Légaré and Suksi 2008; Tkacik 2008). Territorial autonomies are seen as special regions within their metropolitan state having legislative and administrative rights and a large scope of issues controlled by the regional government, while the non-territorial autonomies are based on individual or group rights for minorities, indigenous peoples or other specific groups within the society at large with functional, cultural or personal matters in focus. Within the area of territorial autonomies there have been some comparative works where island autonomous regions have been in focus. Olausson (2008) is able to find 39 autonomous islands in the world, while Benedikter (2009) lists about 20 such islands amongst his list of territorial autonomies. I have in my dissertation mapped 44 autonomous islands amongst the territorial autonomies in the world (Ackrén 2009). The numbers vary due to the definitions used in the respective study.

Concepts such as territorial autonomy, federacy, quasi-federal arrangements and asymmetrical federalism are all interlinked with each other (see e.g. Watts 2005; Elazar 1987). Indeed, there is some confusion on these concepts in the academic literature. Furthermore, island regions which have reached a high degree of self-government are usually referred to as sub-national island jurisdictions (SNIJs) (see e.g. Baldacchino 2004; Baldacchino and Hepburn 2012) or partially independent territories (PITs) (see e.g. Rezvani 2014).

This short article will focus on autonomous island regions, but what should we call them? The next section will try to come up with a workable definition that can be used for further studies in the field.

Conceptual Clarifications

The island regions in the world which have reached some form of special status within their respective metropolitan state are usually former colonies (such as Aruba, Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Greenland, Puerto Rico etc.), but this is not always the case (Ackrén 2009; Olausson 2008). There are also islands which have received their self-government based on other political, economic and/or cultural conditions (e.g. the Åland Islands, Faroe Islands, Guernsey, Jersey, and Isle of Man). Devolution or decentralization within unitary states can take many forms. Usually, the states are divided into some forms of regional and local entities, such as, counties, districts and municipalities. However, sometimes some asymmetrical features occur where some regions enhance a greater autonomy or self-government than other regional and local entities with special rights. Island regions lying in the periphery usually belong to this group, since it is more practical if this type of region can handle as much of its internal affairs as possible lying far away from the power centres in the country in question. Decision-making becomes more practical if these are made as close to the citizens as possible. This also means that a certain “island identity” might occur and this will then further shape the island policy and relationship towards its metropolitan state. Political parties and movements are formed to address regional matters and these parties and movements advocate more regional and local matters, which might be different from their metropolitan counterparts.

Autonomous islands can be seen as lying in the middle of a continuum going from dependency to sovereignty. The autonomous island regions are operating on the sub-national level of the state where they occur and therefore they combine “self-rule” with “shared rule” in various ways (Baldacchino 2004: 77). The autonomous island regions constitute entities with both federal and non-federal elements. Federal elements include the idea of multi-level governance with some power and governmental authority transferred to the regions, while the ultimate sovereignty remains at the state level; special status arrangements, which may be seen as asymmetrical federalism; and the principle of combining shared-rule with territorial self-rule (Lluch 2012: 141-144). Some of the non-federal elements are that the formal distribution of power between legislative and executive bodies is not constitutionally entrenched; the shared rule element is usually weak or non-existent; influence over the policymaking institutions of the centre is weak or negligible; and self-rule is established in an unequal way in relation to the core state apparatus (Lluch 2012: 139-41).

A short overview of the various definitions in the literature gives us a picture of which specific characters these islands might uphold.

Overview of some common definitions in the field

Concept Definition Author Cases
Autonomy To rule over oneself according to one’s own laws or rules. Dinstein (1981) Here we could place various kinds of cases, not just island regions, but also individuals, churches, municipalities, minority groups etc.
Personal and political autonomy “The right to be different and to be left alone; to preserve, protect, and promote values which are beyond the legitimate reach of the rest of the society”. Hannum (1996: 4) Including not only autonomous islands, but minority and indigenous groups as well
Territorial Autonomy A geographical defined area which differs from other sub-national units within the state and which enjoys a special status including some legislative powers within the state, but does not constitute a federal unit or an independent state. Ackrén (2009); Olausson (2008) American Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Aruba, Azores, Balearic Islands, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cook Islands, Falkland Islands, Faroe Islands, Greenland, Åland Islands, etc.
Asymmetrical federalism Political units with differences of interest, character and makeup and where local governments possess varying degrees of autonomy and power. Tarlton (1965: 869) Including not only autonomous island regions, but also other regions such as Catalonia, Basque Country, Nunavut, South Tyrol etc.
Federacy “Asymmetrical permanent linkage between two self-government units with the larger having specific powers within the smaller in exchange for specific privileges”. Any change in this relationship needs decision on a mutual basis by both parties. Federacies usually refer to peripheral or remote territories or islands. Elazar (1987: 55); Elazar (1996); Watts (2005) Faroe Islands and Greenland (in relation to Denmark); Åland Islands (in relation to Finland); Azores and Madeira (in relation to Portugal); Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey (in relation to Great Britain); and Northern Mariana Islands and Puerto Rico (in relation to the USA)
Sub-National Island Jurisdiction (SNIJ) Non-sovereign states with strong levels of internal autonomy, whether de jure or de facto or both; sub-national entities associated to a larger sovereign state with a distinct society and culture and constitute islands. Baldacchino (2010) Åland Islands, Cayman Islands, Cook Islands, Faroe Islands, Greenland, Guernsey, Isle of Man, Jersey, New Caledonia, Niue, Puerto Rico, Turks Caicos Islands, etc.
Partially Independent Territory (PIT) “Partially independent territories are nationalistically distinct and constitutionally differentiated territories that share and divide sovereign powers with a core state. They are neither member units of federations nor are they fully controlled parts of unitary states.” Rezvani (2014) Åland Islands, Aosta Valley, Aruba, Azores, Basque Country, Bermuda, Bougainville, British Virgin Islands, Catalonia, Cayman Islands, Cook Islands, Curacao, Faroe Islands, French Polynesia, etc.

This list is not in any way exhaustive, but gives us some indications of how to define the territories in question. Similar features can be drawn from this list, such as, that autonomous islands seem to be self-ruling territories with a special status constitutionally within the core state and have legislative powers and some authors also go so far as to include ethnicity and culturally distinct features.

Possible Case Selection

How can the autonomous islands then be chosen if we are interested in investigating these territories in more depth? One point of departure would be to go through the countries’ constitutions in the world to see if we can find autonomous islands mentioned in these constitutions. Those countries without written constitutions need, of course, a different approach where self-government acts or other forms of legislative regulations might be an option. There are also cases where special regions are only regulated through ordinary laws or acts and not mentioned in the constitutions (here we find examples of American Samoa, the American Virgin Islands, Cook Islands, Faroe Islands, and Greenland to mentioned just a few cases). Another approach might be to select cases from an institutional approach regarding multi-level governance or from a power perspective. The power that autonomous regions uphold can vary between the centre and the local majorities within the same area. Sometimes these powers are approaching quasi-statehood and at other times they are more limited. Autonomous regions may feature distinctive administrative units, electoral systems, political parties, political symbols, passports and membership in international organizations. Furthermore, autonomy may entail the ability to control natural resources, collect local taxes and set tax rates, obtain external loans, and more. In cultural spheres, autonomy may feature control over official languages, education systems and religious life. There might also be various legal traditions. The case selection will come down to the definition used in any study that we undertake, so therefore there might be various opportunities for different studies. A good study would also include contrasting cases of land-locked territories and not just islands and even the whole continuum going from dependency to sovereignty.

The Case of Greenland

Greenland is a good example where the status has changed over time. First, Greenland was a colony from 1721-1953. In 1953, Greenland became an integrated part of Denmark as a county amongst other counties in Denmark, but then in the end of the 1970s nationalistic movements among the local population started to demand more autonomy and even secession from Denmark. This led to the Home Rule Act in 1979. Greenland then began to take over a lot of various areas of competences from the Danish side. Later a new Self-Government Act in 2009 was implemented and gave Greenland even more powers approaching a kind of quasi-statehood. Now in the recent election campaign the independence issue is on the agenda. This example shows that autonomy is not a static phenomenon. Autonomy is always in a state of flux.

Conclusion

This short article has tried to elucidate the concept of autonomous island regions and how we can define these territories. It is clear that we encounter two traditions within research: autonomism and federalism. Sometimes these overarching strategies are combined and sometimes not. The debate will probably still go on for decades to come regarding how we perceive both traditions.

Bibliography

Ackrén, M. 2009. Conditions for Different Autonomy Regimes in the World – A Fuzzy-Set Application. Åbo: Åbo Akademi University Press (Doctoral Dissertation).

Baldacchino, G. 2004. Autonomous but not sovereign? A review of island sub-nationalism. Canadian Review of Studies in Nationalism, 31(1-2), 77-91.

Baldacchino, G. 2010. Island Enclaves: Offshoring Strategies, Creative Governance, and Subnational Island Jurisdictions. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Baldacchino, G. and E. Hepburn (2012). Introduction. Commonwealth & Comparative Politics, 50(4), 395-402.

Benedikter, T. 2009. The World’s Modern Autonomy Systems: Concepts and Experiences of Regional Territorial Autonomy. Bolzano/Bozen: EURAC Research. Available at: http://webfolder.eurac.edu/eurac/publications/Institutes/autonomies/minrig/Autonomies%20Benedikter%2009%20klein.pdf

Dinstein, Y. (ed.) 1981. Models of Autonomy. New Brunswick: Transaction Books.

Elazar, D.J. 1987. Exploring Federalism. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press.

Elazar, D. 1996. From Statism to Federalism – A Paradigm Shift. International Political Science Review, 17(4), 417-429.

Hannum, H. 1996. Autonomy, Sovereignty, and Self-Determination – The Accommodation of Conflicting Rights. Revised Edition. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Légaré, A. and M. Suksi (2008). Introduction: Rethinking the Forms of Autonomy at the Dawn of the 21st Century. International Journal on Minority and Group Rights, 15(2-3), 143-155.

Lluch, J. 2012. Autonomism and Federalism. Publius – The Journal of Federalism, 42(1), 134-161.

Olausson, P. 2008. Autonomy and Islands: A Global Study of the Factors that Determine Island Autonomy Åbo: Åbo Akademi University Press (Doctoral Dissertation).

Rezvani, D.A. 2014. Surpassing the Sovereign State: The Wealth, Self-Rule, and Security Advantages of Partially Independent Territories. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Tarlton, C. D. 1965. Symmetry and Asymmetry as Elements of Federalism: A Theoretical Speculation. The Journal of Politics, 27(4), 861-874.

Tkacik, M. 2008. Characteristics of Forms of Autonomy. International Journal on Minority and Group Rights, 15(2-3), 369-401.

Watts, R.L. 2005. ‘Comparing Forms of Federal Partnerships’ in D. Karmis and W. Norman (eds.): Theories of Federalism: A Reader. New York and Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Further Reading

Aldrich, R. and J. Connell 1998. The Last Colonies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Safran, W. and R. Máiz (eds.) 2000. Identity and Territorial Autonomy in Plural Societies. London and Portland, OR: Frank Cass Publishers.

Suksi, M. 2011. Sub-State Governance through Territorial Autonomy: A Comparative Study in Constitutional Law of Powers, Procedures and Institutions. Berlin-Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag.

Weller, M. and S. Wolff (eds.) 2005. Autonomy, Self-Government and Conflict Resolution: Innovative Approaches to Institutional Design in Divided Societies. London and New York: Routledge.

 

Posted by Maria Ackrén in Case Studies, 0 comments
Gender Equality and Federalism

Gender Equality and Federalism

Abstract

Gender scholars argue that a federal model of governance can provide opportunities to advance gender equality and the rights of women. Those opportunities include increased opportunities to sit in public office, multiple access points for women to lobby for reform measures, encouraging policy transfer between different regions of a country, protecting women from violence by responding more effectively to ethnic diversity and conflict through the provision of autonomy, self-rule and self-determination, and enabling local concerns including the different interests of women to be better represented. In some situations, however, gender scholars argue a federal model of governance makes it difficult to achieve uniformity of laws, programs and services that benefit women, it fragments the solidarity of the women’s movements, and that it is costly and complicated to navigate making gender reform measures more difficult to implement.

Introduction

There is no common theory about the impact of different governance models on the advancement of gender equality. Indeed, gender scholars have differing views as to whether a federal model (a governance model where power is permanently distributed between a national parliament and subnational parliaments) has a greater capacity to advance gender equality than a unitary model (a governance model where power resides in the national parliament). (Gray 2010: 20). More recently however an increasing body of gender scholars have argued that a federal model can, in certain circumstances, enhance the advancement of gender equality.

The effectiveness of any model of governance, whether unitary or federal, at advancing gender equality depends on a range of other factors including: the political will of central and state governments (for example whether they are progressive or conservative); the ethnic and cultural diversity of the population (for example whether ethnic minorities are regional or dispersed); the size of population; the presence or absence of conflict; the level of economic wealth; and the strength of traditional practices and cultural norms which discriminate against women (Haussman, Sawer & Vickers 2010: 39). While there is no way of knowing whether a failed policy in a unitary state might have worked more effectively in a federal state, there are compelling arguments in the literature supporting the capacity of federal models to advance gender equality if the surrounding political, economic, cultural and social conditions are conducive and if appropriate gender equality mechanisms are installed.

Opportunities for the Advancement of Gender Equality in a Federal Model

Gender scholars argue that a federal model of governance provides opportunities for the advancement of gender equality. Federal models however vary greatly. Some confer a large amount of power in the national government to regulate the country; others grant more autonomy to subnational bodies. Some federations impose clear divisions in the powers of the national government and the subnational bodies, while others have overlapping or shared powers. While the different federal models may create different opportunities, in general these opportunities include the following.

First, a federal model of governance increases opportunities for women’s democratic participation simply because there are more public office positions available (Obiora and Toomey 2010: 211). In all models of governance (unitary and federal) it is important women and minorities are represented in the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. Women’s representation and participation in governance strengthens democracy, reflects population composition and ensures the voices of women are heard. Women are also more willing to support the interests of other sectoral groups, to promote public goods such as water, schools, health and sanitation and to hold leaders to account and to support policies that assist children and the elderly (Deininger, Jin, Nagarajan & Xia 2015).

Second, as well as creating more opportunities for women to enter public office, multiple parliaments create multiple access points for women to lobby for reform measures. If the national government is conservative and resistant to gender equality measures, women advocates can lobby the subnational governments instead. For example, in Australia women’s advocates in working to a national policy on child-care alternated between lobbying the national government and subnational governments (Brennan 2010).

Third, a federal model of governance encourages policy transfer within a country. It does this by creating competition between the subnational units and enabling the success of one subnational unit to provide a positive example for another. For example, in India an innovative Short Message Service (SMS) system tracked approximately 1,200 newborn children in the state of Madhya Pradesh reducing infant mortality. This successful programme was then adopted in other states around India (Solanki 2010).

Fourth, a federal model of governance is better able to respond to ethnic diversity and conflict by providing opportunities for autonomy, self-rule and self-determination (Adeney 2016).[1] This indirectly benefits women who are disproportionately affected by conflict.

Finally, a federal model of governance enables local concerns including the different interests of women to be better represented. It does this by creating subnational bodies with real power that are geographically closely situated to local communities and better informed about local needs. It may also enable the delivery of public goods and services locally, close to the communities they serve.

Challenges of a Federal Model for the Advancement of Gender Equality

Gender scholars also argue that a federal model of governance limits opportunities for the advancement of gender equality.

First, if subnational bodies are individually responsible for the implementation of universal (human rights) norms it may be more challenging to achieve uniformity. Instead, some gender scholars argue a strong central government is essential for the uniformity of laws, programs and services. For example, family law that provides for equal rights in the family is important for the advancement of gender equality. Family law has historically granted men enormous power in the family and discrimination against women and girls in family law systems places them in a subordinate position to men within the family. This imbalance is replicated in economic affairs and in all areas of decision-making in the public sphere.  In New Zealand – a unitary state – the power to enact family law resides with the national government and there is national family law legislation which is largely compliant with CEDAW and good practice in family law. In India – by contrast, a federation – family law is determined by the different religious groups and contains many laws and practices that discriminate against women. For example, spousal maintenance is not uniformly available, inheritance laws favour males, and divorce is fault-based and in some communities not available for women.

Second, many gender scholars have argued against a federal model of governance as an effective model for advancing gender equality on the basis that it limits central government power and fragments its ability to implement redistributive social policies that benefit women and girls (Gray 2006). For example, if each subnational unit is individually responsible for the delivery of public services then services for women may differ according to the wealth and priorities of each subnational unit. If service delivery (such as medical centres, safe shelters, counselling) is responsibility of region/states then budget, political will, and the strength of women’s advocacy may determine whether services are offered, and the adequacy of services offered. It also fragments and isolates women’s organisations and movements making organising collaboratively difficult (Correa 2014).

Third, a federal model of governance can be less responsive to gender equality reforms because the local focus is on territorial interests and identities. Global examples indicate federations often tolerate continuation of regional discriminatory practices particularly in areas such as inheritance or family law (Obiora & Tomey 2010).

Finally, a federal model of governance is costly and complicated with multiple institutions (multiple governments, multiple administration systems, multiple judicial systems). It can be difficult for citizens to understand and navigate and, for a smaller, poorer country in particular, this may mean there is less money for gender equality reforms.

Conclusion

In every model of governance gender equality measures are challenging to implement despite the documented benefits economically, socially and politically of achieving gender equality. A federal model of governance creates opportunities for the advancement of gender equality, but it also creates challenges.  Ultimately the political, economic, social, ethnic, cultural, geographical context of a country determines which features of different federal models are likely to be beneficial for advancing gender equality.

 

Bibliography

Adeney K Federalism and Conflict Resolution in India and Pakistan Palgrave, 2016

Brennan D, “Federalism, Childcare and Multilevel Governance in Australia” in (eds) Melissa Haussman, Marian Sawer and Jill Vickers Federalism, Feminism and Multi-Level Governance (Ashgate: 2010).

Chandler A, “Women, Gender and Federalism in Russia. A Deafening Silence” (eds) Melissa Haussman, Marian Sawer and Jill Vickers Federalism, Feminism and Multi-Level Governance (Ashgate: 2010) 141.

Chappell L “Nested Newness and Institutional Innovation: Expanding Justice in the International Criminal Court” (2011) in Mona Krook and Fiona Mackay (eds) Gender, Politics and Institutions: Towards a Feminist Institutionalism (Palgrave: 2011) 163.

Deininger K, S Jin, H Nagarajan & F Xia (2015) “Does Female Reservation Affect Long-Term Political Outcomes? Evidence from Rural India” (2015) 51(1) Journal of Development Studies 32.

Forster C, Advancing Gender Equality Within a Federal Governance Model in Myanmar UN Women, 2017

Franceshet S and Jennifer Piscopo, “Federalism, Decentralisation and Reproductive Rights in Argentina and Chile” (2012) Journal of Federalism 1.

Gray G, “Women, Federalism and Women Friendly Policies’ (2006) 65(1) Australian Journal of Public Administration 25.

Gray G, “Federalism, Feminism and Multilevel Governance: The Elusive Search for Theory” in (eds) Melissa Haussman, Marian Sawer and Jill Vickers Federalism, Feminism and Multi-Level Governance (Ashgate: 2010) 39.

Hedstom J, “We did not Realize About the Gender Issues. So We Thought it was a Good Idea” (2015) 18(1) International Federal Journal of Politics 61.

Lang S and Birgit Sauer, “Does Federalism Impact Gender Architectures? The Case of Women’s Policy Agencies in Germany and Austria” (2012) 43(1) Journal of Federalism 68.

Mahan R and Cheryl Collier, “Navigating the Shoals of Canadian Federalism” in (eds) Melissa Haussman, Marian Sawer and Jill Vickers Federalism, Feminism and Multi-Level Governance (Ashgate: 2010).

Menon N, “A Uniform Civil Code in India: The State of the Debate in 2014.” Feminist Studies 40.2 (2014) 480-486.

Niedermeier A and Wolfram Ridder, Decentralization, Federalism and Democracy. Politics, Governance, and Public Administration in National and Subnational Settings. Experiences from Germany, Asia and Beyond (Hanns Seidel Foundation, 2nd ed, 2016).

Obiora L and Sarah Toomey, “Federalism and Gender Politics in Nigeria” in (eds) Melissa Haussman, Marian Sawer and Jill Vickers (Ashgate: 2010) 211.

Solanki G, “A Fine Balance? Multilevel Governance and Women’s Organising in India” in (eds) Melissa Haussman, Marian Sawer and Jill Vickers Federalism, Feminism and Multi-Level Governance (Ashgate: 2010).

 

Further Reading

Anand A and Lekha Chakraborty “Determining Gender Equity in Fiscal Federalism: Analytical Issues and Empirical Evidence from India” Working Paper 590, 2010. http://www. levyinstitute.org/publications/determining-gender-equity-in-fiscal-federalism-analytical-issues-and-empirical-evidence-from-india

Forster C, Women’s Rights in Constitutions: Global Good Practices in Advancing Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Constitutions (UNDP: New York 2016) 1 42. Online at: http:// iknowpolitics.org/en/learn/knowledge-resources/report-white-paper/womens-rights-constitutions-global-good-practices

Vickers J, “Gendering Federalism: Institutions of Decentralization and Power-Sharing” (2011)  in Krook M.L., Mackay F. (eds) Gender, Politics and Institutions. Gender and Politics Series. Palgrave Macmillan, London

Vickers J, “Is Federalism Gendered? Incorporating Gender into Studies of Federalism” (2013) 43(1) Publius: The Journal of Federalism Pages 1–23,

 

[1] See also, Anderson and Keil, ‘Federalism as a Tool of Conflict Resolution’ http://50shadesoffederalism.com/federalism-conflict/federalism-tool-conflict-resolution/

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Posted by Christine Forster in Policies, 0 comments
The Union Model of Indian Federalism

The Union Model of Indian Federalism

Abstract

The Founding Fathers provided India with a Union Constitution and a model of federalism, which is now distinctively know as a ‘union model of federalism’. It distinctively harmonises otherwise opposite processes of (i) centralisation-decentralisation; (ii) autonomy-integration, and unionisation- regionalisation. The degree of federalism varies from Article to Article and from one context to another. One finds a consistency in the relative degrees of centralisation and decentralisation. Powers are distributed in a manner as to promote federal nationalism and regionalism, besides being an ethnically responsive federal polity. With the introduction of Goods and Services Taxes (GST) and the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog) and growing salience of subject specific regulatory bodies, Indian federalism is gradually shifting towards a system of national governance, which I have termed ‘National federalism’. This contribution succinctly analyses these aspects of Indian federalism.

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Posted by Ajay Kumar Singh in Case Studies, 0 comments
The Original Sin of Ethiopian Federalism

The Original Sin of Ethiopian Federalism

Abstract

Territorial autonomy for ethnic groups is an important component of Ethiopian federalism designed to deal with the challenges of ethnic diversity. The constitutional decision to use ethnicity as a basis for the organisation of the state represents a recognition of the political relevance of ethnicity. However, the decision that each major ethnic group should be dominant in one and only subnational unit has elevated ethnic identity to a primary political identity. This approach overlooks other historically and politically relevant territorial identities. The constitution thus misses an opportunity to respond to ethnic concerns without freezing ethnicity as an exclusive political identity.

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Posted by Yonatan Fessha in Case Studies, 0 comments
Switzerland in 2018 – The Re-birth of Federalism?

Switzerland in 2018 – The Re-birth of Federalism?

Abstract

Switzerland is often held up as one of the most successful examples of a stable federal system. Since its creation in 1848, Swiss federalism has contributed to the country’s stability, as well as its wealth and prosperity. Notwithstanding the generally accepted success of the Swiss experiment with federalism, the Swiss themselves very much relish an opportunity to examine and criticise the federal system. This has even been institutionalised in the form of ‘National Conferences on federalism’ which, when convened every three years, provide a forum for a discussion on the development of Swiss federalism, often focusing on drawbacks and weaknesses as opposed to benefits. For the first time in many years, however, the 2017 National Conference presented federalism in a more positive light. This article briefly details the history and complexity of federalism in Switzerland, discusses the development of the National Conferences and concludes with a discussion on federalism in times of illiberal democracy.

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Posted by Nicolas Schmitt in Case Studies, 0 comments
A Federation like no other: The Case of Bosnia and Herzegovina

A Federation like no other: The Case of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Abstract

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a complex state composed of two entities: the Federation of BiH and Republika Srpska, and one independent unit – Brčko District, as well as three constituent peoples: Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs. The Constitution does not mention the word federation, thus it is not formally defined whether BiH has a federal or confederal character. Strengthened competences of the state and a clear direction towards greater empowerment of the state level institutions suggest a movement from a confederation to a federation. However, while there is no agreement on what exactly Bosnia is, what is even more alarming is the abuse of the concept of federalism by Bosnian elites. Serbs consciously misinterpret federalism to underline their demand for more autonomy and, ultimately, secession. Croats see federalism as a tool to argue for a third entity, while Bosniaks promote the idea of regionalism instead. Thus, despite the fact that it has been twenty years since the first post-war elections, nothing has really changed; Bosnia and Herzegovina remains a highly unbalanced and badly constructed federation.

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Posted by Aleksandra Zdeb in Case Studies, 0 comments
Joint-decision Making: An Alternative to Centralisation / Decentralisation

Joint-decision Making: An Alternative to Centralisation / Decentralisation

Abstract

The text presents the concept of joint-decision making as an idea and alternative to the already established concepts of centralisation and decentralisation in federal studies. Whereas the notions of centralisation and decentralisation seem to be well established in federal studies, the idea of joint-decision making seems to count only as a German speciality or a German feature of federal studies. This paper further explores this idea and concept, drawing upon the German case as well as suggesting it is worth expanding beyond it.

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Posted by Dominic Heinz in Theory, 0 comments
Secession and Federalism: A Chiaroscuro

Secession and Federalism: A Chiaroscuro

Abstract

The relationship between federalism and secession might be regarded as antithetical but is an unavoidable fact in multinational political communities. Integration and disintegration are both possible trends in a federation. Recent political events in Catalonia show the salience of independence claims, a political phenomenon already experienced by other countries such as Scotland or Quebec. Liberal democracies evolve and debates on self-government and self-determination cannot be discussed as they were decades ago. Constitutional right to secede is extremely rare, however we can find good reasons both in constitutional and normative analysis supporting democratic self-determination. Minority nations, as permanent minorities, claim for liberal guarantees to protect them from majorities, but also democratic rights to express their views on their constitutional future. Pacts are the basis of any political agreement and any federal arrangement requires individual and collective compromises to be respected.

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Posted by Marc Sanjaume-Calvet in Diversity Management, 0 comments
Dynamic Federalism

Dynamic Federalism

Abstract

Traditional federal theory seems no longer apt to grasp recent evolutions in state structures. By delimiting federal states in terms of defining institutional features, federalism scholars put themselves at the margin rather than the centre of where the action is: fragmenting dynamics in multinational states, secession movements, as well as centralist and decentralist tendencies within the European Union. In a dynamic approach to federalism, all multi-tiered systems are assembled with a common denominator being how they manage tensions between autonomy claims of territorial entities on the one hand, and the need for cohesion or efficiency of the central government on the other. In this approach, qualifying criteria to categorise state structures become mere indicators to rank multi-tiered systems on a gliding scale from the most central to the loosest systems. The ranking is based on three sets of indicators, one measuring autonomy, another measuring cohesion and a third, linking both, measuring participation. The core question examined in this contribution is: which mechanisms in the constitutional system have a centralising or decentralising effect?

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Posted by Patricia Popelier in Theory, 0 comments
Divide to rule? Federal Innovation (and its lack) in South Asia

Divide to rule? Federal Innovation (and its lack) in South Asia

Abstract

Ethnofederalism is too readily dismissed as a solution for accommodating territorially concentrated minorities within a state. This contribution demonstrates that although there are real concerns when these groups are not included within central decision making institutions or have their autonomy threatened by the centre, territorial autonomy for these groups increases rather than decreases their affinity with the central state. It is therefore a solution that should not be dismissed out of hand, although care needs to be taken when groups are intermixed and non-territorial autonomy may be necessary in addition.

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Posted by Katharine Adeney in Federalism and Conflict, 0 comments