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Asymmetric Autonomy and the Settlement of Ethnic Conflicts

Edited by Marc Weller and Katherine Nobbs

Publication Year: 2010

Throughout the world there are many instances in which one or more territories within a sovereign state are granted greater autonomy than other areas governed by that state. This arrangement, known as asymmetric autonomy, has been adopted with greater regularity as a solution to ethnic strife and secessionist struggles in recent decades. As asymmetric autonomy becomes one of the most frequently used conflict resolution methods, examination of the positive and negative consequences of its implementation, as well as its efficacy, is vital.

Asymmetric Autonomy and the Settlement of Ethnic Conflicts assesses the ability of such power distribution arrangements to resolve violent struggles between central governments and separatist groups. This collection of new case studies from around the world covers a host of important developments, from recentralization in Russia, to "one country, two systems" in China, to constitutional innovation in Iraq. As a whole, these essays examine how well asymmetric autonomy agreements can bring protracted and bloody conflicts to an end, satisfy the demands of both sides, guarantee the physical integrity of a state, and ensure peace and stability. Contributors to this book also analyze the many problems and dilemmas that can arise when autonomous regions are formed. For example, powers may be loosely defined or unrealistically assigned to the state within a state. Redrawn boundaries can create new minorities and make other groups vulnerable to human rights violations. Given the number of limited self-determination systems in place, the essays in this volume present varied evaluations of these political structures.

Asymmetric state agreements have the potential to remedy some of humanity's most intractable disputes. In Asymmetric Autonomy and the Settlement of Ethnic Conflicts, leading political scientists and diplomatic experts shed new light on the practical consequences of these settlements and offer sophisticated frameworks for understanding this path toward lasting peace.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Series: National and Ethnic Conflict in the 21st Century

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Table of Contents

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

The first phase of the project addressed the nature of self-determination conflicts and the deficiencies of international legal regulation in this respect. This work, previously appearing in scholarly articles and book chapters, is now embodied in a monograph (Escaping the Self-Determination Trap). During this phase, ...

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pp. 1-14

The concept of autonomy conjures up a sense of separateness, of selfgovernance largely independent of a central state. Independence of governance from the center suggests a potential for separation by means of the centrifugal forces of disintegration. Nevertheless, autonomy solutions have been increasingly ...

Part I: Asymmetrical Approaches to State Design

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1. Cases of Asymmetrical Territorial Autonomy

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pp. 17-47

Territorial autonomy is not an entirely new approach for resolving selfdetermination disputes, but its application has become far more widespread since the end of the Cold War. Prior to that, it was mostly cases in Europe (or overseas territories related to European states, such as the Netherlands Antilles) ...

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2. The Russian Constitutional System: Complexity and Asymmetry

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pp. 48-74

The Russian Federation (RF) is the largest and most complex in the world. In 2000, it was composed of no fewer than 89 "subjects of the Federation." As of 1 March 2008, it had 83. The reason for this surprising "shrinkage" are explored below. It is plain that since 2004 there has been a premeditated assault ...

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3. Partial Asymmetry and Federal Construction: Accommodating Diversity in the Canadian Constitution

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pp. 75-96

In a cursory overview of asymmetrical federations, the Canadian case stands out in several respects. First, although a strong secessionist movement exists in Quebec, there has been little recourse to violence that would necessitate international mediation. Second, a recent "pact" or settlement that addresses ...

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4. Elusive Autonomy in Sub-Saharan Africa

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pp. 97-120

Many conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa are framed as "ethnic" or "tribal." In such situations, it is increasingly common to attempt to accommodate diversity through power-sharing arrangements and, particularly, autonomy (Ghai 2005; Haysom 2002). But few African rulers are prepared to contemplate regional ...

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5. Asymmetry in the Face of Heavily Disproportionate Power Relations: Hong Kong

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pp. 121-147

On 1 July 1997, Hong Kong, the last major British Dependent Territory, became a Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) of the People's Republic of China (PRC) under the principle of "One Country, Two Systems." It is a most remarkable marriage, as the two systems are dramatically different. ...

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6. Asymmetric Autonomy in the United Kingdom

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pp. 148-180

Asymmetric autonomy usually refers to an institutional arrangement in which different parts of a state enjoy different levels of autonomy. It arises in federations, when certain federal regions have more (or fewer) powers than others, or in unitary states, when some regions enjoy autonomy, including ...

Part II: Conflict Settlements

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7. Thinking About Asymmetry and Symmetry in the Remaking of Iraq

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pp. 183-210

Sadly, however, many psychologists tell us that we judge beauty by people's symmetry, not their truthfulness (Swami and Furnham 2007). The concept of symmetry, and its antonym asymmetry, contains both aesthetic and geometric ammunition. Symmetry suggests balanced form or balanced measure; asymmetry ...

Part III: Emerging Settlements

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8. The Case for Asymmetric Federalism in Georgia: A Missed Opportunity

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pp. 213-230

Let us first consider what we mean by federalism. By federalism I refer to the constitutional arrangements in place in federal political systems (Elazar 1987, 1993, 1994; Watts 1998), which include not only strict federations but a wider array of decentralized political systems such as confederacies, ...

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9. Gagauz Autonomy in Moldova: The Real and the Virtual in Post-Soviet State Design

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pp. 231-251

Various efforts to assess the effects of autonomy arrangements on the prospects of achieving stability and democracy in ethnically heterogeneous societies receive a lot of attention in the literature.1 The Gagauzian autonomy illustrates some of the key challenges of elaborating and implementing autonomy ...

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10. Asymmetric Autonomy and Power Sharing for Sri Lanka: A Political Solution to Ethnic Conflict?

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pp. 252-277

Sri Lanka's twenty-five-year-old civil war between the Sinhalese-dominated government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) and the Tamil guerrilla organization Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) is essentially secessionist. Since 1983, the LTTE has been fighting for its own Tamil homeland, the so-called "Tamil Eelam." ...

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11. Puntland's Declaration of Autonomy and Somaliland's Secession: Two Quests for Self-Governance in a Failed State

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pp. 278-297

During the 1990s the Democratic Republic of Somalia (Somalia) became notorious for what has become an increasingly common phenomenon of the post-Cold War international order: the prolonged and seemingly permanent absence of an effective government, or state failure. A UN peace-building mission ...

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pp. 298-306

Asymmetric autonomy remains the tool of choice in the settlement of ethno-political and self-determination conflicts. Given the diverse challenges posed by ethnic diversity to existing states, it is not surprising that the flexibility offered by asymmetrical designs makes this a tempting option. ...

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List of Contributors

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pp. 307-310

Bill Bowring is Professor of Law at Birkbeck, University of London and is a practicing English barrister (mainly in the European Court of Human Rights). He founded and was the first director of the Human Rights and Social Justice Research Institute, and founder and now chair of the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre ...


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pp. 311-318

E-ISBN-13: 9780812205756
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812242300

Page Count: 360
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: National and Ethnic Conflict in the 21st Century