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Unitary state

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  Unitary states

A unitary state is a sovereign state governed as a single entity in which the central government is the supreme authority. The central government may create or abolish administrative divisions (sub-national units). Such units exercise only the powers that the central government chooses to delegate. Although political power may be delegated through devolution to regional or local governments by statute, the central government may override the decisions of devolved governments, curtail their powers, or expand their powers. The modern unitary state concept originated in France; in the aftermath of the Hundred Years' War, national feelings that emerged from the war unified France. The war accelerated the process of transforming France from a feudal monarchy to a unitary state. The French then later spread unitary states by conquests, throughout Europe during and after the Napoleonic Wars, and to the world through the vast French colonial empire.[1]

Unitary states stand in contrast to federations, also known as federal states. A large majority of the UN member countries, 166 out of 193, have a unitary system of government.[2]

Devolution compared with federalism[edit]

A unitary system of government can be considered to be the opposite of federalism. In federations, the provincial/regional governments share powers with the central government as equal actors through a written constitution, to which the consent of both is required to make amendments. This means that the sub-national units have a right to existence and powers that cannot be unilaterally changed by the central government.[3]

List of current unitary states[edit]

Italics: States with limited recognition from other sovereign states or intergovernmental organizations.

Unitary republics[edit]

Unitary monarchies[edit]

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is an example of a unitary state. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have a degree of autonomous devolved power, but such power is delegated by the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which may enact laws unilaterally altering or abolishing devolution. Similarly in Spain, the devolved powers are delegated through the central government.

Unitary states with a unique form of government[edit]

List of former unitary states[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Holmes, Urban T. Jr. & Schutz, Alexander Herman [in German] (1948). A History of the French Language (revised ed.). Columbus, OH: Harold L. Hedrick. p. 61.[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ "Democracy". United Nations. 2015-11-20. Archived from the original on 2021-02-13. Retrieved 2019-02-22.
  3. ^ a b Ghai, Yash; Regan, Anthony J. (September 2006). "Unitary state, devolution, autonomy, secession: State building and nation building in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea". The Round Table. 95 (386): 589–608. doi:10.1080/00358530600931178. ISSN 0035-8533. S2CID 153980559.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "What is a Unitary State?". WorldAtlas. August 2017. Retrieved 2019-02-22.
  5. ^ Faulconbridge, Guy; Ellsworth, Brian (2021-11-30). "Barbados ditches Britain's Queen Elizabeth to become a republic". Reuters. Retrieved 2021-11-30.
  6. ^ See also Political status of Taiwan, two Chinas and Cross-Strait relations.
  7. ^ "Story: Nation and government – From colony to nation". The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage. 29 August 2013. Retrieved 19 April 2014.
  8. ^ Spicker, Paul (June 30, 2014). "Social policy in the UK". An introduction to Social Policy. Robert Gordon University – Aberdeen Business School. Archived from the original on 4 July 2014. Retrieved 19 April 2014.
  9. ^ Gul, Ayaz (28 September 2021). "Taliban Say They Will Use Parts of Monarchy Constitution to Run Afghanistan for Now". Voice of America. Islamabad, Pakistan. Retrieved 21 October 2022. The Taliban said Tuesday they plan to temporarily enact articles from Afghanistan's 1964 constitution that are 'not in conflict with Islamic Sharia (law)' to govern the country.
  10. ^ "Constitution of Afghanistan = Assasi Qanun (1964)". University of Nebraska-Omaha. Retrieved 21 October 2022. Afghanistan is a Constitutional Monarchy; an independent, unitary and indivisible state.
  11. ^ George, Susannah (18 February 2023). "Inside the Taliban campaign to forge a religious emirate". The Washington Post. Retrieved 19 February 2023.

External links[edit]