A federated state (which may be referred to as a state, a province, a canton, a Land, etc.) is a territorial and constitutional community forming part of a federal union (federation). Such states differ from fully sovereign states, in that they have transferred a portion of their sovereign powers to a federal government. Importantly, when states choose to federate, they lose their standing as persons of international law. Instead, the federal union as a single entity becomes the sovereign state for purposes of international law. A federated state holds 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). In other cases, federated states have been created out of the regions of previously unitary states. 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, cantons, Länder, etc. - are partially self-governing and are afforded a degree of constitutionally guaranteed autonomy that varies substantially from one federation to another. 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 federal constitution and state constitutions.
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 (see federal district and federal territory). * indicates federal capital (or federated units that contain it) ** actively disputed by other sovereign states or the international community
^The communities and regions are separate government institutions with different areas of responsibility. The communities are organized based on linguistic boundaries, which are different from regional boundaries.
^The federal city has a level of self-ruling equal to the other main federal units.
^The 1988 Brazilian Constitution treats the municipalities as parts of the Federation and not simply dependent subdivisions of the states.
^Saint Kitts is governed directly by the federal government.
^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.
^This occurred in Belgium in 1993. The Belgian regions had previously devolved powers.
^For instance, Canadian provinces and Swiss cantons possess substantially more powers and enjoy more protection against interference and infringments from the central government than most non-Western federations.