Federated state

A federated state (which may also be referred to as a state, a province, a region, a canton, a governorate, an oblast, an emirate or a country) is a territorial and constitutional community forming part of a federation.[1] Such states differ from fully sovereign states, in that they do not have full sovereign powers, as the sovereign powers have been divided between the federated states and the central or federal government. Importantly, federated states do not have standing as entities of international law. Instead, the federal union as a single entity is the sovereign state for purposes of international law.[2] Depending on the constitutional structure of a particular federation, a federated state can hold various degrees of legislative, judicial and administrative jurisdiction over a defined geographic territory and is a form of regional government.

In some cases, a federation is created from a union of political entities, which are either independent, or dependent territories of another sovereign entity (most commonly a colonial power).[upper-alpha 1] In other cases, federated states have been created out of the regions of previously unitary states.[upper-alpha 2] Once a federal constitution is formed, the rules governing the relationship between federal and regional powers become part of the country's constitutional law and not international law.

In countries with federal constitutions, there is a division of power between the central government and the component states. These entities - states, provinces, counties, cantons, Länder, etc. - are partially self-governing and are afforded a degree of constitutionally guaranteed autonomy that varies substantially from one federation to another.[upper-alpha 3] Depending on the form the decentralization of powers takes, a federated state's legislative powers may or may not be overruled or vetoed by the federal government. Laws governing the relationship between federal and regional powers can be amended through the national or federal constitution, and, if they exist, state constitutions as well.

Differences in terminology

Federated states typically, though not necessarily, use differences in the terminology of institutions to which there is an analogous federal-level equivalent. This list is a demonstration of common—though neither exhaustive nor universal—terminology differences between the state and federal levels:

Type of GovernmentFederal-level titleState-level title
Republic President Governor
Republic - Deputy Vice President Lieutenant Governor
Monarchy Queen / King Queen / King
Monarchy - Representative Governor General Governor / Lieutenant Governor
Head of Government (if any) Prime Minister Premier
Chief Minister
Minister President
Head of Department Minister / Secretary Minister / Secretary
Executive Body Cabinet Cabinet
Privy Council Executive Council
Federal Government / Union Government State Government
Council of Ministers Board of Ministers / Council of Ministers
Legislative Body Parliament Legislature
Congress State Council
National Assembly General Assembly
Upper House Senate Legislative Council
Lower House House of Representatives Legislative Assembly
Chamber of Deputies Landtag
National Assembly House of Assembly
Highest Court Supreme Court High Court
Court of Final Appeal

List of constituents by federation

The "federated units" in the table below have inherent governmental authority in the federation's constitutional system, while the "other units" are delegated authority by the federal government or are administered directly by it.

FederationFederated unitsOther units
 Argentina[3] 23 provinces: 1 autonomous city:
 Australia[4] 6 states: 10 territories:
 Austria[5] 9 states:
 Belgium[6] 3 regions:[upper-alpha 6]
3 communities:[upper-alpha 7]
 Bosnia and Herzegovina 2 entities:[upper-alpha 5] 1 self-governing district:
The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina is itself a federation of 10 cantons:
 Brazil[7] 26 states:
1 federal district:
5,568 municipalities[upper-alpha 9]
 Canada[8] 10 provinces: 3 territories:
 Comoros 3 islands:[upper-alpha 5]
 Ethiopia[9] 9 regions: 2 chartered cities:
 Germany[10] 16 states:
 India[11] 28 states: 9 union territories:
 Iraq[12] 19 governorates: 1 autonomous region:
 Malaysia[13] 13 states: 3 federal territories:
 Mexico[14] 31 states:
1 autonomous city:
 Micronesia[15] 4 states:
   Nepal 7 provinces:
 Nigeria[16] 36 states: 1 territory:
 Pakistan[17] 4 provinces: 2 autonomous territories:[upper-alpha 5]
1 federal territory:

 Islamabad Capital Territory[upper-alpha 4]

 Russia[18][19] 46 oblasts:
22 republics:[upper-alpha 5]
9 krais:
4 autonomous okrugs:[upper-alpha 5]
3 federal cities:
1 autonomous oblast:
 Saint Kitts and Nevis 2 islands:[upper-alpha 11]
 Somalia[20][21] 6 federal member states:[upper-alpha 12]
 South Sudan 28 states:
 Sudan[22] 18 states:
  Switzerland[23] 26 cantons:
 United Arab Emirates[24] 7 emirates:
 United States[25] 50 states: 1 federal district:
1 incorporated territory:
13 unincorporated territories:
 Venezuela[26] 23 states: 1 capital district:
1 federal dependency:

See also


  1. Examples are Australia and the United States.
  2. This occurred in Belgium in 1993. The Belgian regions had previously devolved powers.
  3. For instance, Canadian provinces and Swiss cantons possess substantially more powers and enjoy more protection against interference and infringements from the central government than most non-Western federations.
  4. Federal capital district, region or territory.
  5. autonomous area
  6. Flanders and Wallonia are subdivided into five provinces each, which are mandated by the Constitution of Belgium. Provincial governance are the responsibility of the regional governments.
  7. The communities and regions of Belgium are separate government institutions with different areas of responsibility. The communities are organized based on linguistic boundaries, which are different from regional boundaries.
  8. The Brazilian federal district has a level of self-ruling equal to the other main federal units.
  9. Article 18 of the 1988 Brazilian Constitution treats the municipalities as parts of the federation and not simply dependent subdivisions of the states.
  10. Sovereignty over territory actively disputed by another sovereign state or the international community.
  11. The federation is divided into 14 parishes, nine on Saint Kitts and five on Nevis.
  12. Adopted constitution accommodates existing regional governments, with the ultimate number and boundaries of the Federal Member States to be determined by the House of the People of the Federal Parliament.


  1. The Australian National Dictionary: Fourth Edition, pg 1395. (2004) Canberra. ISBN 978-0-19-551771-2.
  2. Crawford, J. (2006). The Creation of States in International Law. Oxford, Clarendon Press.
  3. Daniel, Kate; Special Broadcasting Service Corporation (2008). SBS World Guide: The Complete Fact File on Every Country, 16th ed. Prahran, Victoria, Australia: Hardie Grant Books. p. 827. ISBN 978-1-74066-648-0. p26.
  4. SBS World Guide 2008, p38
  5. SBS World Guide 2008, p46
  6. SBS World Guide 2008, p74
  7. SBS World Guide 2008, p101
  8. SBS World Guide 2008, p132
  9. SBS World Guide 2008, p239
  10. SBS World Guide 2008, p275
  11. SBS World Guide 2008, p328
  12. SBS World Guide 2008, p346
  13. SBS World Guide 2008, p460
  14. SBS World Guide 2008, p481
  15. SBS World Guide 2008, p486
  16. SBS World Guide 2008, p537
  17. SBS World Guide 2008, p549
  18. SBS World Guide 2008, p600
  19. "Chapter 3. The Federal Structure: Article 65". The Constitution of the Russian Federation.
  20. "The Federal Republic of Somalia - Harmonized Draft Constitution" (PDF). Federal Republic of Somalia. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 January 2013. Retrieved 2 August 2012.
  21. "Guidebook to the Somali Draft Provisional Constitution". Archived from the original on 20 January 2013. Retrieved 2 August 2012.
  22. SBS World Guide 2008, p687
  23. SBS World Guide 2008, p700
  24. SBS World Guide 2008, p760
  25. SBS World Guide 2008, p774
  26. SBS World Guide 2008, p798
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