Unitary state

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).[1] 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 abrogate the acts of devolved governments or curtail (or expand) their powers.

  Unitary states

Unitary states stand in contrast with federations, also known as federal states. A large majority of the world's sovereign states (166 of the 193 UN member states) have a unitary system of government.[2]

Devolution compared with federalism

A unitary system of government can be considered 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]

There are, however, similarities between federalism and devolution. Devolution within a unitary state, like federalism, may be symmetrical, with all sub-national units having the same powers and status, or asymmetric, with sub-national units varying in their powers and status. Many unitary states have no areas possessing a degree of autonomy.[4] In such countries, sub-national regions cannot decide their own laws. Examples are Romania, Ireland and Norway.

The pathway of regional integration or separation

List of unitary states

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

Unitary republics

Unitary monarchies

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 (except in Scotland, where a referendum would be required to end devolution). Similarly in Spain, the devolved powers are delegated through the central government.

Unitary states with a unique form of government

See also


  1. "What is a Unitary State?". WorldAtlas. August 2017. Retrieved 2019-02-22.
  2. "Democracy". www.un.org. 2015-11-20. Archived from the original on 2021-02-13. Retrieved 2019-02-22.
  3. 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. "unitary system | government". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2017-08-11.
  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, Chinese Taipei, One China and Taiwan, China.
  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. "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. "1964 Constitution of Afghanistan". University of Nebraska-Omaha. Retrieved 21 October 2022. Afghanistan is a Constitutional Monarchy; an independent, unitary and indivisible state.
  11. Jones, Seth G. (December 2020). "Afghanistan's Future Emirate? The Taliban and the Struggle for Afghanistan". CTC Sentinel. Combating Terrorism Center. 13 (11). Retrieved 21 October 2022.
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