​​​​​​​​​​​​Autonomy is a matter of interest not only for academics, but equally for practitioners involved in negotiations about institutional design (politicians, civil servants, their advisors and third party facilitators from international organizations). Bearing this in mind, the research conducted for this project also has a decidedly practical purpose, i.e. to make precisely such people aware of the wealth of options provided by existing autonomy arrangements. Even though it is not possible to transplant one arrangement in its entirety from one context to another, such awareness may facilitate the work of practitioners because it prevents them from having to re-invent every single aspect of the wheel. This has two main implications for our research. First, in order to demonstrate the real wealth of options at hand, we do not limit ourselves to the analysis of the widely acclaimed standard cases, but also cover lesser-known and so far understudied arrangements of autonomy. Secondly, the practical approach compels us to focus on information that is really useful for practitioners and to present it in a user-friendly manner.

Another characteristic of research within this project is its effort to link insights gained by previous studies from different academic disciplines. In concrete terms, we aim in our analysis to bridge comparative politics and comparative constitutional law. The project team is well suited for such an endeavor because it is composed of experienced researchers from both disciplines. Moreover, external experts contributing case studies to the webpage are required to equally consider both law and political science aspects of the respective autonomy arrangements.

Furthermore, our research is inspired by the aim to bridge studies on territorial and non-territorial autonomy. While territorial arrangements are on a global scale clearly more numerous and better covered by academic analysis, there has been since the 1990s a trend towards very diverse non-territorial arrangements. The fact that our research also scrutinizes and presents numerous cases of this latter form of autonomy constitutes an important added value. This puts people interested in the webpage in a position to keep track of the enormous variety, which autonomy arrangements stand for today.



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Latest Ne​​ws

Latest Publications & Further Readings

Ethnic Hungarians in Romania put forward new proposal for autonomy 

6 February 2017, Bucharest (Romania) 

The Official Gazette of Romania published recently a citizens' legislative initiative regarding the autonomy of Szeklerland, a historical region in central Romania where the majority population is Hungarian. To be sent to the Romanian parliament for debate, the authors of the citizens' legislative initiative must collect 100 000 supporting signatures within six months from the day of publication in the Official Gazette. According to the proposal, Romanian and Hungarian would be co-official languages of the autonomous region Szeklerland. The state would grant primary powers over a range of policy areas to the autonomous region, which would establish its own managing institutions. Read more... ​


Indigenous right to and forms of (legally recognized) autonomy

17 January 2017, Bolzano/Bozen (Italy)

EURAC researcher Alexandra Tomaselli​ discusses the indigenous right to autonomy on the blog of the Multidisciplinary Network on Indigenous Peoples. Since the late 1980s and throughout the decade of the 1990s, forms of indigenous autonomy or self-government were introduced in the Constitutions of five Latin American countries (Nicaragua, Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Venezuela), two of which (Ecuador and Bolivia) have reinforced such arrangements in their recent constitutional reforms (at least, on paper). In Mexico, the 2001 constitutional reform also recognised the indigenous right to autonomy, albeit to be implemented at the state (and not federal) level. Read more…​


Italian region of Veneto is planning a referendum on autonomy in the spring 2017

6 December 2016, Venice (Italy)

The people living in Venice and surrounding region are demanding for special autonomous status, with lawmakers of the Italian regional council of Veneto approving a law that defined the people from the region as "national minority", in similar terms as the people of neighbouring South Tyrol. The law would allow for the introduction of bilingual teaching and the knowledge of Venetian language and culture for those who want to work in public administration roles, but opponents of the law think Italy's Constitutional Court will declare it invalid. Read more...​


Participatory democracy and reform of the 1972 Autonomy Statute of the Italian region Trentino-South Tyrol

15 October - 2 November 2016, Trento and Bolzano/Bozen (Italy)

EURAC researchers discuss the ongoing reform of the Autonomy Statute of Trentino-South Tyrol on academic blogs. On the National Observatory on Language Rights (University of Montréal), Jens Woelk gives an overview of the reform process in the two autonomous provinces (Trento and South Tyrol) which form the region Trentino-South Tyrol. The two provinces have chosen their own – and different – participatory procedures, which will have to be coordinated at regional level. On the European Politics and Policy blog (London School of Economics and Political Science - LSE), Stephen Larin and Marc Röggla focus on South Tyrol and argue that although the ability of citizens to participate in the reform has been more limited than originally envisaged, the process is nevertheless evidence of the potential for power-sharing models to transform conflicts. In their follow-up post on the LSE Democratic Audit blog, Larin and  Röggla propose to bolster South Tyrol's liberal–democratic legitimacy by amending the Autonomy Statue to include 'Others' – the province's official designation for people who do not want to declare membership of one of its three official language groups – in the executive proportionality rule.


The Global Autonomy, Governance, and Federalism Forum 2016

19-20 October 2016, Manila (Philippines)

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The Global Forum is Southeast Asia’s most comprehensive conference on autonomy, federalism, and governance as a means to address societal divides and conflicts and promote sustainable development. It brings together governmental officials, scholars, representatives of NGOs, business community and media. The list of case studies presented and discussed include inter alia Mindanao and Cordillera (Philippines), Canada, Spain, India, Australia, Northern Ireland and Scotland (UK), Bougainville (Papua New Guinea), Aceh (Indonesia), Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, South Africa, Finland and Kenya. Read more…


Tibet Support Groups call on China to resume dialogue on genuine autonomy for Tibet

10 September 2016, Brussels (Belgium)

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The 7th Tibet Support Groups Conference called on the Chinese government to unconditionally resume dialogue with the representative of the Dalai Lama and to respond positively to his efforts to pursue a mutually-beneficial solution through the Middle-Way approach, which calls for genuine autonomy for the whole of the Tibetan people. The conference was organized in Brussels by Tibet Interest Group in the European Parliament, and co-hosted by the International Campaign for Tibet, Lights on Tibet, Les Amis du Tibet, and the Tibetan Community in Belgium. Read more…


Winter School on "Federalism and Power-sharing" - Call for applications

5 September 2016, Bolzano/Bozen (Italy)

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The Winter School is a common cross-border project of the Institute for Studies on Federalism and Regionalism of EURAC research, the Faculty of Law and the School of Political Science and Sociology of the University of Innsbruck. The Winter School  analyzes the phenomena of federalism, regionalism and multilevel governance from a legal and a political science perspective. The two-week postgraduate programme welcomes applications from young researchers and academics, post-docs and post-graduate students, civil servants from a local, regional or national government as well as employees of international organizations or NGOs. The deadline for application is 23 October 2016. Read more...





John Coakley (ed.), Non-territorial Autonomy in Divided Societies. Comparative Perspectives, Routledge, 2017.

This volume aims to fill a gap in the academic literature on non-territorial autonomy (NTA) by offering a comparative assessment of the significance of this political institutional device. Developed theoretically by Karl Renner in the early twentieth century as a mechanism for responding to demands for self-government from dispersed minorities within the Austro-Hungarian Empire, NTA had earlier roots in the Ottoman Empire, and later formed the basis for constitutional experiments in Estonia, in Belgium, and in states with sizeable but dispersed minorities. Read more...​


Bulletin of Latin American Research, Special Issue: 25 Years of Autonomy on Nicaragua's Caribbean Coast: Cultural Diversity and Governance in Indigenous Regions of Latin America, Volume 35, Issue 3, July 2016, 287–419.

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The articles included in this special issue offer a critical assessment of the last 25 years of autonomy through an examination of some of the most contentious issues that have characterised the exercise of autonomy rights, namely: the obstacles facing Miskitu indigenous women who suffer domestic violence when they need to access the justice system, the long and complex process of territorial demarcation and indigenous land titling, the historical roots and contemporary expressions of indigenous autonomy, communal governance and political participation, and the promise of Afro-descendant land activism. All the articles included in this special issue shed new light on the above-mentioned issues, and at the same time provide an overview on contemporary research on the autonomy process. Read more...


Alexandra Tomaselli, “Exploring Indigenous Self‐governments and Forms of Autonomies” in Corinne Lennox and Damien Short (eds.), Handbook of Indigenous Peoples' Rights, Routledge, London and New York, 2016, 83-100.

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This chapter focuses on whether a right to autonomy of indigenous peoples exists under international law or is confined to domestic legislation solely. In particular, it is suggested that indigenous peoples have the right to autonomy, which derives from their right to self-determination but without limiting the scope of the latter. After introducing where forms of indigenous autonomies worldwide have been established and how these may be classified, the achievements and failures of the eight case studies of (mainly, territorial) autonomous arrangements (Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh; Aceh and Papua in Indonesia; Bolivia; Ecuador; Mexico; Venezuela; and Colombia) are analysed. Read more...


Ethnopolitics, Special Issue: Non-Territorial Autonomy and the Government of Divided Societies, Volume 15, Issue 1, 2016.

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The introduction of the special issue problematizes the concept of non-territorial autonomy and explores the dilemma generated by the tension between ethnic geography and degree of self-rule. It introduces a set of case studies where the relationship between these two features is discussed further: the Ottoman empire and its successor states, the Habsburg monarchy, the Jewish minorities of Europe, interwar Estonia, contemporary Belgium, and two indigenous peoples, the Sámi in Norway and the Maori in New Zealand. The special issue concludes by suggesting that in almost all cases where autonomy is extended to a minority within a state this is exercised on a territorial basis and that in many cases of non-territorial autonomy the powers assumed by the autonomous institutions are substantially symbolic. Read more...


Tove H. Malloy, Francesco Palermo (eds.), Minority Accommodation through Territorial and Non-Territorial Autonomy, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2015.

The book explores the relationship between minority, territory, and autonomy, and how it informs our understanding of non-territorial autonomy (NTA) as a strategy for accommodating ethno-cultural diversity in modern societies. While territorial autonomy (TA) is defined by a claim to a certain territory, NTA does not assume that it is derived from any particular right to territory, allocated to groups that are dispersed among the majority while belonging to a certain self-identified notion of group identity. In seeking to understand the value of NTA as a public policy tool for social cohesion, this volume critically dissects both NTA and TA, and through a conceptual analysis and case-study examination, rethinks the viability of autonomies as institutions of diversity management. Read more....


Tove H. Malloy, Alexander Osipov, Balázs Vizi (eds.), Managing Diversity through Non-Territorial Autonomy: Assessing Advantages, Deficiencies, and Risks, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2015.

The volume carves out a space for contextual knowledge production on NTA in law and the social and political sciences. What are the institutions, bodies, and functions that ethno-cultural groups can draw on when seeking to have a voice in their own affairs, as well as over issues in society related to their identity production? How are these entities incorporated and empowered to have a voice? What degree of voice do they have, and how are they designed to project the voice? Thus, contextual knowledge also involves critical assessment and risk analyses as well as penetrating insights as to the unintended consequences and hidden agendas that may inform NTA policies. Read more...


Karlo Basta, John McGarry and Richard Simeon (eds.), Territorial Pluralism: Managing Difference in Multinational States, University of British Columbia Press, Vancouver, 2015.

The volume aims to answer the following question: given traditional concerns about state sovereignty, nation-building, and unity, how realistic is it to expect that a state’s authorities will agree to recognize and empower distinct sub-state communities? Territorial pluralism is a form of political autonomy designed to accommodate national, ethnic, or linguistic differences within a state. The book examines a wide variety of cases, including developing and industrialized states and democratic and authoritarian regimes. Drawing on examples of both success and failure, contributors analyze specific cases to understand the kinds of institutions that emerge in response to demands for territorial pluralism, as well as their political effects. They argue that territorial pluralism remains a legitimate and effective means for managing difference in multinational states. Read more...

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