A constituent state is a territorial and constitutional entity forming part of a sovereign state. A constituent state holds administrative jurisdiction over a defined geographic territory and is a form of regional government.

Federated entities

Constituent states united in a federal union under a federal government are more specifically known as federated states.[1][2]

Within a federacy

Administrative units that are not federated but enjoy a greater degree of autonomy or self-government than others within the same country can be considered constituent states of a larger sovereign state. This relationship is called a federacy.[3] Autonomous republics like Karakalpakstan in Uzbekistan[4]

Within a non-state constitutional entity

States existing in free association with another can be considered constituent states of a constitutional entity. For example, the Cook Islands, New Zealand and Niue constitute the three constituent countries of the Realm of New Zealand, united under a single head of state: the King or Queen of New Zealand.[5]

Breakaway states

The term can also be applied as an alternative to formal recognition of a secessionist state that has unilaterally declared independence, and whose de jure sovereignty remains in dispute.

The Caucasus

The South Caucasus region consists of a number of breakaway and autonomous republics in addition to the states of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia recognised by the United Nations.

The breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which have effectively maintained independence since declaration, are considered constituent republics of Georgia by the majority of world governments. The Republic of Artsakh, which is also independent in effect, is considered by the United Nations to be a constituent entity of Azerbaijan.[6]


The country of Cyprus is divided between two independent political entities: the internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus in the south, and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is recognised as a sovereign state only by Turkey. Both entities are given the title of constituent state of Cyprus by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and the Annan Plan for reuniting Cyprus consistently used the term constituent state to refer to each entity.[7]


The term constituent state can also be applied in describing the region of Palestine at present, which is divided between the governments of Israel and the Palestinian Authority. It has also been used to label both states in proposals for federal solutions to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.[8]


Because of the ongoing war in Somalia, the Somali country is now divided into a number of constituent states with varying degrees of independence from the Transitional Federal Government.

The breakaway republic of Somaliland in the north, which maintains de facto independence over its territory, is still regarded by member states of the United Nations as a constituent state of Somalia despite its declaration of independence in 1991.[9][10] The states of Puntland and Galmudug in central and northeastern Somalia retain control over their own territories with little to no oversight from the federal government, which is based in Mogadishu in the south. The administrations in these states have stated that, unlike Somaliland, they do not seek outright independence from Somalia, and are merely maintaining stability until such a time when the government can effectively implement a permanent constitution for the country.[11]

In the south and in opposition to the central government are regions administered by various Islamic insurgent groups, most notably Hizbul Islam and al-Shabaab, both of which seek to establish Sharia law within the country.[12]


Kosovo has unilaterally declared independence from the Republic of Serbia in February 2008.

Other administrative entities


Palau is divided into sixteen administrative divisions termed "states",[13] which were before 1984 called municipalities. The change in terminology reflects the fact that these divisions are afforded a larger degree of autonomy than before, with each state having its own constitution. As a unitary republic, however, the government of Palau is centralised and these divisions exist solely to establish regional government; they are not united in a federal union.


Like Palau, the government of Myanmar, or Burma, presently operates as a unitary state, with sovereignty confined within the central government. Burma comprises a number of "states", which exist alongside the country's regional divisions.[13] Both "states" and "divisions" can be described as ethnically defined; while the Bamar remain predominant within divisions, the states are mostly dominated by minority groups.[14]

In terms of politics, the use of the term "state" in this context is largely historical, with a number of these states having been united in various federal unions during the British colonial period. At present, most states are afforded a greater degree of autonomy than other divisions. Political separatism in many states is rampant, and territory controlled by the central government in these cases is limited. In these cases, jurisdiction within a state is mostly confined to its respective regional government.[15]

In addition, various proposals have been made for instituting federalism in Burma, which would allow these states to implement individual constitutions.[16][17]

Other uses

The term "constituent state" is sometimes also used to refer to member states of an international organisation. It is used within the European Union to refer to member states. It is also used to refer to sovereign states in bilateral negotiations or agreements between two or more states.

See also


  1. ^ Constituent Units Risk Lengthy Dependency on Federal Aid Archived 2010-12-18 at the Wayback Machine.. Bird, Richard M (2009). Forum of Federations. Accessed 2009-11-01.
  2. ^ California. Encyclopædia Britannica. Accessed 2009-11-01.
  3. ^ Stepan, Alfred (1999), "Federalism and Democracy: Beyond the U.S. Model" (PDF), Journal of Democracy, 10 (4): 19–34, doi:10.1353/jod.1999.0072 [permanent dead link]
  4. ^ International Covenant On Civil And Political Rights, p 5. United Nations Human Rights Committee. Accessed 2009-11-01.
  5. ^ Website of the Governor-General of New Zealand. Accessed 2009-11-01.
  6. ^ Aghayev, Nasimi (2008), Caucasian Review of International Affairs (PDF), p. 13, retrieved 2009-11-01 
  7. ^ Annan Plan - Final Revision Archived 2011-07-21 at the Wayback Machine.. UNFICYP. Accessed 2009-11-01.
  8. ^ Federal/Confederal Solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian Conflict Elazar, Daniel J. Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Accessed 2009-11-01.
  9. ^ Somaliland's 'Path to Recognition'. Reynolds, Paul (2008). BBC. Accessed 2009-11-01.
  10. ^ The Signs Say Somaliland, but the World Says Somalia. Lacey, Mark (2006). New York Times. Accessed 2009-11-01.
  11. ^ Political Background Archived 2012-11-20 at the Wayback Machine. Stylianou, Stelios. Range Resources, p 7. Accessed 2009-11-01.
  12. ^ Hardline Islamists in Somalia Mail Foreign Service (2009). Mail Online. Accessed 2009-11-01.
  13. ^ a b "Field Listing: Administrative Divisions". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. 2009-10-01. ISSN 1553-8133. Retrieved 2009-11-01. 
  14. ^ Callahan, Mary (2007). Political Authority in Burma's Ethnic Minority States. Pasir Panjang, Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. p. 56. ISBN 978-981-230-462-9. p18. 
  15. ^ Wa Army to Celebrate 20th Anniversary Archived April 17, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.. Wai Moe (2009). The Irrawaddy. Accessed 2009-11-01.
  16. ^ Federal and State Constitutions Online Burma Library. Accessed 2009-11-01.
  17. ^ The KIO Proposal. Kachin Independence Organization. Letter to the National Convention Commission, and National leaders of the Union. Accessed 2009-11-01.