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Administrative divisions (also administrative units, administrative regions, subnational entities, or a constituent states, as well as many similar generic terms) are geographical areas into which a particular independent sovereign state is divided. Such a unit usually has an administrative authority with the power to take administrative or policy decisions for its area.
Usually, sovereign states have several levels of administrative division. Common names for the principal (largest) administrative divisions include: states (subnational states, rather than sovereign states), provinces, lands, oblasts and regions. These, in turn, are often subdivided into smaller administrative units known by names such as comarcas, raions or districts, which are further subdivided into municipalities, communes or communities constituting the smallest units of subdivision (the local governments). Some administrative division names (such as departments, cantons, prefectures, counties or governorates) can be used for principal, second-level, or third-level divisions.
The exact number of the levels of administrative divisions and their structure largely varies by country (and sometimes within a single country). Usually, the smaller the country is (by area or population), the fewer levels of administrative divisions it has. For example, Vatican City does not have any administrative subdivisions and Monaco has only one level (both are city-states), while such countries as France and Pakistan have five levels each. The United States is composed of states, possessions, territories, and a federal district, each with varying numbers of subdivisions.
The principal administrative division of a country is sometimes called the "first-level (or first-order) administrative division" or "first administrative level". Its next subdivision might be called "second-level administrative division" or "second administrative level" and so on. An alternative terminology is provided by the Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics which terms the principal division as the second level or NUTS-2.
Administrative divisions are conceptually separate from dependent territories, with the former being an integral part of the state and the other being only under some lesser form of control. However, the term "administrative division" can include dependent territories as well as accepted administrative divisions (for example, in geographical databases).
Communities united in a federation under a federal government are more specifically known as federated states. A federated state may be referred to not only as a state, but also as a province, a region, a canton, a land, a governorate, an oblast, an emirate or a country.
Administrative units that are not federated or confederated but enjoy a greater degree of autonomy or self-government than other territories within the same country can be considered autonomous regions or de facto constituent states of that country. This relationship is by some authors called a federacy or asymmetric federalism. An example is the autonomous republic of Karakalpakstan within Uzbekistan.
Examples of administrative divisions
In many of the following terms originating from British cultural influence, areas of relatively low mean population density might bear a title of an entity one would expect to be either larger or smaller. There is no fixed rule, for "all politics is local" as is perhaps well demonstrated by their relative lack of systemic order. In the realm of self-government, any of these can and does occur along a stretch of road—which for the most part is passing through rural, unsettled countryside. Since the terms are administrative political divisions of the local regional government, their exact relationship and definitions are subject to home rule considerations, tradition, as well as state statute law and local governmental (administrative) definition and control. In British cultural legacy, some territorial entities began with fairly expansive counties which encompass an appreciably large area, but were divided over time into a number of smaller entities. Within those entities are the large and small cities or towns, which may or may not be the county seat. Some of the world's larger cities culturally, if not officially, span several counties, and those crossing state or provincial boundaries have much in common culturally as well, but are rarely incorporated within the same municipal government. Many sister cities share a water boundary, which quite often serves as a border of both cities and counties. For example, Cambridge and Boston, Massachusetts appear to the casual traveler as one large city, while locally they each are quite culturally different and occupy different counties.
- Autonomous community
- Capital city
- Crown Dependency
- Legal entity
- Federal subjects
- Local council
- Public body
- Special administrative region
Urban or rural regions
Due to variations in their use worldwide, consistency in the translation of terms from non-English to English is sometimes difficult to maintain.
For example, "country subdivision codes" is a neologism shortening "Codes for the representation of names of countries and their subdivisions". This is not about any "country subdivision", rather these are codes per subdivision per country. The original document is in French. For example, such translation results in: "Schweiz (die) is local short country name in German language for the Switzerland."
- GADM, a high-resolution database of country administrative areas.
- ISO 3166-2, specifically Codes for the representation of names of countries and their subdivisions — Part 2.
- List of administrative division name changes
- List of etymologies of administrative divisions
- List of administrative divisions by country
- "Administrative divisions - The World Factbook". Central Intelligence Agency. Archived from the original on 2021-03-25. Retrieved 2021-03-26.
- "General maps | Geospatial, location information for a better world". www.un.org. Archived from the original on 2021-04-10. Retrieved 2021-03-26.
- Article 3(1). "EUR-Lex - 02003R1059-20191113 - EN - EUR-Lex". eur-lex.europa.eu. Archived from the original on 2021-05-21. Retrieved 2021-03-25.
- "Global Administrative Unit Layers (GAUL)". FAO. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015.
- "OECD Glossary of Statistical Terms - Administrative regions Definition". stats.oecd.org. Archived from the original on 2021-08-27. Retrieved 2021-08-27.
- "Second Administrative Level Boundaries | Geospatial Information Section & Statistics Division | United Nations". 2021-03-25. Archived from the original on 2021-04-04. Retrieved 2021-03-26.
- Constituent Units Risk Lengthy Dependency on Federal Aid Archived 2010-12-18 at the Wayback Machine. Bird, Richard M (2009). Forum of Federations. Accessed 2009-11-01.
- The Australian National Dictionary: Fourth Edition, pg 1395. (2004) Canberra. ISBN 978-0-19-551771-2.
- California Archived 2015-05-04 at the Wayback Machine. Encyclopædia Britannica. Accessed 2009-11-01.
- Stepan, Alfred (1999), "Federalism and Democracy: Beyond the U.S. Model" (PDF), Journal of Democracy, 10 (4): 19–34, doi:10.1353/jod.1999.0072, S2CID 201765897[permanent dead link]
- International Covenant On Civil And Political Rights Archived 2017-10-10 at the Wayback Machine, p 5. United Nations Human Rights Committee. Accessed 2009-11-01.
- "ISO 3166-2:2020". ISO. Retrieved 2021-03-26.
- SALB Second Administrative Level Boundaries (SALB) programme of the United Nations.
- Statoids, an international convention with standardized two-letter-based multi-level summaries of administrative divisions worldwide (e.g. GH.AH.AS represents Adansi South (AE) in the Accra Home (AH) region of Ghana (GH)).