Autonomous administrative division


An autonomous administrative division (also referred to as an autonomous area, zone, entity, unit, region, subdivision, province, or territory) is a subnational administrative division or internal territory of a sovereign state that has a degree of autonomyself-governance—under the national government. Autonomous areas are distinct from the constituent units of a federation (e.g. a state, or province) in that they possess unique powers for their given circumstances. Typically, it is either geographically distinct from the rest of the state or populated by a national minority, which may exercise home rule. Decentralization of self-governing powers and functions to such divisions is a way for a national government to try to increase democratic participation or administrative efficiency or to defuse internal conflicts. States that include autonomous areas may be federacies, federations, or confederations. Autonomous areas can be divided into territorial autonomies, subregional territorial autonomies, and local autonomies.

List of major autonomous areas

Division State Notes
  Azad Kashmir Controlled by:   Pakistan
Claimed by:   India
Azad Kashmir is a self-governing polity which has not been formally annexed by Pakistan. It was established after a rebellion against the Maharajah of Kashmir, and the subsequent First Kashmir War.[1] It is located within the historic Kashmir region, which is disputed between India, Pakistan and China.
  United Kingdom Three of the four constituent countries of the United Kingdom, namely Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, each have an elected, devolved legislature which has the ability to legislate in devolved matters. The Parliament of the United Kingdom which retains sovereignty (the United Kingdom is a unitary state), can dissolve the devolved legislatures at any time, and legislates in matters that are not devolved, as well as having the capacity to legislate in areas that are devolved (by constitutional convention, without the agreement of the devolved legislature). Formerly, both Scotland and England were fully sovereign states.
  Denmark The two autonomous territories[2] (Danish: land, Faroese: land, Greenlandic: nuna) of the realm of the Kingdom, the Faroe Islands and Greenland, each have an elected devolved legislature which has the ability to legislate in devolved matters. The Kingdom Parliament 'Folketinget' retains sovereignty (The Kingdom of Denmark is a unitary state) and legislates in matters that are not devolved, as well as having the capacity to legislate in areas that are devolved (this does not normally occur without the agreement of the devolved legislature).
  Tobago   Trinidad and Tobago The Tobago House of Assembly is a devolved legislature that is responsible for the island of Tobago.[3]
  Vojvodina   Serbia
Kosovo / Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija Claimed by:   Serbia
Controlled by:   Kosovo
In 2008, Kosovo unilaterally declared itself as an independent state. Its international recognition is split between those who recognize it as an independent state and those who view it as an autonomous province of Serbia under United Nations administration.
  Åland   Finland
  Bangsamoro   Philippines
  Bougainville   Papua New Guinea
  People's Republic of China
  Somalia Somaliland is a self-declared independent state, although it is internationally considered an autonomous region in northwestern Somalia.
  Atlántico Norte   Nicaragua
  Atlántico Sur
  Rodrigues   Mauritius
  Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria   Syria
  Zanzibar   Tanzania
  Nakhchivan   Azerbaijan
  Adjara   Georgia
Abkhazia /   Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia De jure:   Georgia
Controlled by:   Abkhazia
In 1999, the Republic of Abkhazia declared its independence from Georgia after the 1992–1993 war. Georgia and most of the U.N. member states have not recognized Abkhazia's independence and still has an administrative apparatus for the claimed Autonomous Republic; its independence is recognized by Russia and three other U.N. member states.
Gorno-Badakhshan   Tajikistan
  Republic of Crimea /  Autonomous Republic of Crimea De jure:   Ukraine
Controlled by:   Russia
The 2014 annexation of Crimea by Russia is not recognized by most countries, including Ukraine.
  Karakalpakstan   Uzbekistan
  Gagauzia   Moldova
Transnistria / Left Bank of the Dniester Claimed by:   Moldova
Controlled by:   Transnistria
In 1990, the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (PMR, commonly known as Transnistria) declared its independence from the Soviet Union. While Moldova has not formally recognized Transnistria's independence and still has an administrative apparatus for the claimed Autonomous Territorial Unit, its independence is recognized by 3 other non-UN member states.
  Bosnia and Herzegovina
  Chile In 2007, the Chamber of Deputies of Chile passed a law designating both as "special territories", granting them more autonomy.[4] Additionally, the Juan Fernandez Islands archipelago is a commune, while Easter Island is both a commune and a province.
  Barbuda (1976)   Antigua and Barbuda
  Rotuma   Fiji
  Kurdistan Region (2005)   Iraq
  Nevis (1967)   Saint Kitts and Nevis
  Autonomous Region of Príncipe (1995)   São Tomé and Príncipe
  Svalbard   Norway Although it does not fit the definition of autonomous area (not possessing partial internal sovereignty), Svalbard has the sovereignty of Norway limited by the Spitsbergen Treaty of 1920 and therefore is considered as having special status (as it is considered fully integrated with Norway, and not a dependency, it is a sui generis case).
  Heligoland   Germany Heligoland, Germany: Although it is part of a German state, Schleswig-Holstein, it has been excluded of some European Union normatives, such as customs union and the Value Added Tax Area.
  Büsingen am Hochrhein Despite being integral parts of their respective countries, these two enclaves of Switzerland predominantly use the Swiss franc as currency and are in customs union with Switzerland.
  Campione d'Italia   Italy

Other territories considered autonomous


British Crown Dependencies

Division State Notes
  Guernsey   United Kingdom
  Isle of Man

Guernsey, the Isle of Man, and Jersey are self-governing Crown Dependencies which are not part of the United Kingdom; however, the UK is responsible for their defence and international affairs.

British Overseas Territories

Division State Notes
  Anguilla   United Kingdom
  British Virgin Islands
  Cayman Islands
  Falkland Islands
  Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
  Turks and Caicos Islands

Gibraltar is a self-governing overseas territory of the UK. Most of the other 13 British Overseas Territories also have autonomy in internal affairs through local legislatures.

Dutch constituent countries

Division State Notes
  Aruba   Kingdom of the Netherlands
  Sint Maarten

Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten are autonomous countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, each with their own parliament. In addition they enjoy autonomy in taxation matters as well as having their own currencies.

French overseas collectivities, New Caledonia, and Corsica

Division State Notes
  Alsace (2021)[citation needed]   France single territorial collectivity
  Corsica (2018)[citation needed] single territorial collectivity
  French Guiana overseas region and department and single territorial collectivity
  Guadeloupe overseas region and department
  Martinique overseas region and department and single territorial collectivity
  Mayotte overseas region and department
  Réunion overseas region and department
  French Polynesia overseas collectivity
  Saint-Barthélemy overseas collectivity
  Saint-Martin overseas collectivity
  Saint-Pierre and Miquelon overseas collectivity
  Wallis and Futuna overseas collectivity
  New Caledonia sui generis collectivity

The French Constitution recognises three autonomous jurisdictions. Corsica, a region of France, enjoys a greater degree of autonomy on matters such as tax and education compared to mainland regions.[citation needed] New Caledonia, a sui generis collectivity, and French Polynesia, an overseas collectivity, are highly autonomous territories with their own government, legislature, currency, and constitution. They do not, however, have legislative powers for policy areas relating to law and order, defense, border control or university education. Other smaller overseas collectivities have a lesser degree of autonomy through local legislatures. The five overseas regions, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, and Réunion, are generally governed the same as mainland regions; however, they enjoy some additional powers, including certain legislative powers for devolved areas.

New Zealand overseas territories

Division State Notes
  Cook Islands   New Zealand

New Zealand maintains nominal sovereignty over three Pacific Island nations. The Cook Islands and Niue are self-governing countries in free association with New Zealand that maintain some international relationships in their own name. Tokelau remains an autonomous dependency of New Zealand. The Chatham Islands—despite having the designation of Territory—is an integral part of the country, situated within the New Zealand archipelago. The territory's council is not autonomous and has broadly the same powers as other local councils, although notably it can also charge levies on goods entering or leaving the islands.[5]

Ethnic autonomous territories


Ethiopian special woredas


In Ethiopia, "special woredas" are a subgroup of woredas (districts) that are organized around the traditional homelands of specific ethnic minorities, and are outside the usual hierarchy of a kilil, or region. These woredas have many similarities to autonomous areas in other countries.

Areas designated for indigenous peoples

Division State Notes
  Nisga'a   Canada
  Haida Nation
  Hopi Reservation   United States
  Cherokee Nation
  Choctaw Nation
  Pine Ridge Indian Reservation
  Navajo Nation
Emberá-Wounaan   Panama
Kuna de Madugandí
Kuna de Wargandí
  Kuna Yala
  Naso Tjër Di Comarca

Other areas that are autonomous in nature but not in name are areas designated for indigenous peoples, such as those of the Americas:

List of historical autonomous administrative divisions


See also



  1. ^ "Azad Kashmir | Meaning, History, Population, & Government | Britannica".
  2. ^ a b * Benedikter, Thomas (2006-06-19). "The working autonomies in Europe". Society for Threatened Peoples. Archived from the original on 2008-03-09. Retrieved 2019-08-30. Denmark has established very specific territorial autonomies with its two island territories
    • Ackrén, Maria (November 2017). "Greenland". Autonomy Arrangements in the World. Archived from the original on 2019-08-30. Retrieved 2019-08-30. Faroese and Greenlandic are seen as official regional languages in the self-governing territories belonging to Denmark.
    • "Greenland". International Cooperation and Development. European Commission. 2013-06-03. Retrieved 2019-08-27. Greenland [...] is an autonomous territory within the Kingdom of Denmark
    • "Facts about the Faroe Islands". Nordic cooperation. Archived from the original on 23 April 2018. Retrieved 1 July 2015. The Faroe Islands [...] is one of three autonomous territories in the Nordic Region
  3. ^ Tobago Division Of Tourism - About Tobago, Governance Archived 2007-07-10 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ "Easter Islands now a "special territory" with more autonomy".
  5. ^ "Chatham Islands Council Act 1995 No 41 (as at 01 July 2013), Public Act Contents – New Zealand Legislation".

Works cited

  • M. Weller and S. Wolff (eds), Autonomy, Self-governance and Conflict Resolution: Innovative Approaches to Institutional Design in Divided Societies. Abingdon, Routledge, 2005
  • From Conflict to Autonomy in Nicaragua: Lessons Learnt[permanent dead link], report by Minority Rights Group International
  • P.M. Olausson, Autonomy and Islands, A Global Study of the Factors that determine Island Autonomy. Åbo: Åbo Akademi University Press, 2007.
  • Thomas Benedikter (ed.), Solving Ethnic Conflict through Self-Government - A Short Guide to Autonomy in Europe and South Asia, EURAC Bozen 2009,
  • Thomas Benedikter, 100 Years of Modern Territorial Autonomy - Autonomy around the World, Berlin/Zürich, LIT 2021, ISBN 978-3-643-91401-9 (pb)
  • Benedikter, Thomas (2010). "The World's Modern Autonomy Systems". Bozen: EURAC – via