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FEDERALISM: WHAT IS IT?. Forum of Federations An Intensive Course on Democratic Federalism. OVERVIEW. Federalism in context Federalism: What is it? Federalism: What is it not? Decentralized political systems Some features of federalism When does federalism make sense?

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FEDERALISM: WHAT IS IT?

Forum of Federations

An Intensive Course on Democratic Federalism


Overview l.jpg

OVERVIEW

Federalism in context

Federalism: What is it?

Federalism: What is it not?

Decentralized political systems

Some features of federalism

When does federalism make sense?

The critique of federalism

Defence of federalism

Concluding observations


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FEDERALISM IN CONTEXT

  • Globalization

  • Multiple governments; multiple identities

  • Rapid political change

  • 25 federations

  • 40% of the world’s population (2 billion people)


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WHAT IS IT?

  • Constitutional government: shared rule and self rule

  • Two orders of government, both relating directly to citizens

  • Distribution of power and revenue sources between the two orders of government

  • Representation of regions in the centre, often in an upper house

  • Basic rules normally amendable only with consent of constituent units

  • Umpire to settle disputes – courts or referendums

  • Intergovernmental relations for overlapping concerns

    • ………

  • Within this framework, great variety


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    FEDERALISM: WHAT IS IT NOT?

    • It is not unitary government, where sovereignty is concentrated in the central government

    • It is not confederal government, where sovereignty is retained by the associated states

    • It is federal government, where sovereignty is shared between the two orders of government


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    DECENTRALIZED SYSTEMS

    • Decentralized unitary states

    • Quasi-federal systems

    • Federations

    • Confederal arrangements

    • Mixed systems


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    SOME FEATURES OF FEDERALISM

    • AMatter of choice, mutual agreement

    • The Result of compromise

    • The Requirement of balance and restraint

    • A Pragmatic arrangement

    • A Highly contemporary form of government

    • A Highly diverse form of government


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    WHEN DOES FEDERALISM MAKE SENSE?

    • In very large countries

    • When accommodating history, tradition and local loyalties as new states are being formed

    • When accommodating significant ethnic, cultural, linguistic or religious differentiation in existing states

    • When there is a mix of these factors


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    THE CRITIQUE OF FEDERALISM

    • Complex, slow to change, tolerates uneven development and regional inequality, duplicates functions and services

    • The allocation of responsibilities and resources to two orders of government is difficult

    • Thought to be an expensive system of government

    • ‘Minorities within minorities’ problem

    • Unstable: A halfway house en route to secession


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    DEFENCE OF FEDERALISM

    • Helps to establish peace and security, construct common values, and foster pluralist democracy

    • Protects and moderates human diversity

    • ‘Losers’ at the national level can become ‘winners’ at the regional level

    • Increases political participation, with multiple access points; greater choice

    • Encourages experimentation

    • Brings government closer to the people, fosters responsive administration


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    CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS

    • No magic bullet. Federalism by itself is not ‘The Answer’

    • Federal government is constitutional government

    • For countries in crisis, federalism is often the ‘least bad option’ – better than any of the alternatives that present themselves. Everyone’s second choice.

    • Federalism is typically built on hard-won compromise, where no party is in a position to win absolute victory


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