Asymmetric Autonomy and the Settlement of Ethnic Conflicts

Asymmetric Autonomy and the Settlement of Ethnic Conflicts

Asymmetric Autonomy and the Settlement of Ethnic Conflicts

Asymmetric Autonomy and the Settlement of Ethnic Conflicts


Throughout the world many sovereign states grant one or more of their territories greater autonomy than other areas. 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.


This book is an outcome of a long-term research project supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. We are particularly grateful for this support and for the generous advice and guidance offered by Steve del Rosso of the Corporation.

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 SelfDetermination Trap). During this phase, the principal collaborators of the project also addressed traditional mechanisms of ethnopolitical conflict settlement (Autonomy, Self-Governance, and Conflict Resolution).

The team then extended its investigation into an analysis of complex power sharing as a new means of addressing previously unresolvable conflicts. Over the 1990s in particular, major innovations had taken place in this area; we set out to analyze these while simultaneously refining the theoretical understanding of the meaning and complexity of the concept of power sharing (Settling Self-Determination Conflicts).

The emphasis on complex power sharing in international settlement practice has now been somewhat eclipsed by a return to autonomy settlements. However, this is by no means a simple reversion to previous practice. Instead, many of the most recent settlements, or projected settlements, are supported by power-sharing arrangements. These, along with more monodimensional autonomy settlements, share a strong focus on asymmetrical autonomy. It was thus deemed appropriate at this point to investigate the novel aspects of asymmetrical state design as a tool of ethnopolitical conflict settlement.

As this volume goes to press, the team is turning its attention to another aspect of the management of interethnic relations. Having devoted much time and energy to issues of the macroconstruction of ethnically diverse (or divided) states, we are now addressing solutions that can be adopted below the level of major constitutional revision. This work (Political Participation of Minorities) considers the institutions, mechanisms, and . . .

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