12
Autonomy as a Strategy for Diffusing Conflict

Yash Ghai

In recent years several conflicts, especially ethnic ones, have centered on demands for, and resistance to, autonomy. Equally, several conflicts have been resolved by the concession of autonomy. In some instances the form of dispute has been transformed by an offer of autonomy. In other cases an agreement in principle to consider autonomy has been sufficient to get the parties to the negotiating forum. The international community, particularly regional European organizations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), have attached particular importance to autonomy as a conflict management device and have brought pressure on governments to concede, and on minorities to accept, autonomy as a suitable compromise. The use of autonomous or federal arrangements for dealing with ethnic conflicts is a relatively new development, although federalism was instituted in Canada as early as 1867 to manage tensions between the Anglophone and Francophone communities (Watts, 2000) and autonomy arrangements mediated the relationship between Russia and its possession of the Duchy of Finland at an even earlier period (Rae, 1997).

AUTONOMY AS A CONFLICT-RESOLVING DEVICE

Those who are concerned with the settlement of internal conflicts must explore the potential of autonomy. We need to pay attention to this device because disaffected groups frequently ask for it, it is central to negotiations over many present conflicts, and it may be emerging as an entitlement under international law to groups in certain circumstances. Sometimes autonomy may not be sufficient to satisfy the aspirations of groups; they may



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International Conflict Resolution After the Cold War 12 Autonomy as a Strategy for Diffusing Conflict Yash Ghai In recent years several conflicts, especially ethnic ones, have centered on demands for, and resistance to, autonomy. Equally, several conflicts have been resolved by the concession of autonomy. In some instances the form of dispute has been transformed by an offer of autonomy. In other cases an agreement in principle to consider autonomy has been sufficient to get the parties to the negotiating forum. The international community, particularly regional European organizations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), have attached particular importance to autonomy as a conflict management device and have brought pressure on governments to concede, and on minorities to accept, autonomy as a suitable compromise. The use of autonomous or federal arrangements for dealing with ethnic conflicts is a relatively new development, although federalism was instituted in Canada as early as 1867 to manage tensions between the Anglophone and Francophone communities (Watts, 2000) and autonomy arrangements mediated the relationship between Russia and its possession of the Duchy of Finland at an even earlier period (Rae, 1997). AUTONOMY AS A CONFLICT-RESOLVING DEVICE Those who are concerned with the settlement of internal conflicts must explore the potential of autonomy. We need to pay attention to this device because disaffected groups frequently ask for it, it is central to negotiations over many present conflicts, and it may be emerging as an entitlement under international law to groups in certain circumstances. Sometimes autonomy may not be sufficient to satisfy the aspirations of groups; they may

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International Conflict Resolution After the Cold War want to settle for nothing less than separation (as happened in the East Timor referendum). At other times separation, rather than autonomy, may be the first choice of a group, but it is willing to opt for autonomy, realizing that independence is not realistic (as with the Tibetans or the earlier position of the East Timorese, before President Habibe’s surprise offer of separation). Other factors may also change options, such as persistent refusal to consider effective autonomy (as in Sri Lanka in the late 1970s and early 1980s) or intensification of the oppression of the group (as of the Tamils in Sri Lanka and the Albanians in Kosovo). Because of the relative newness of the device, the variety of forms it can take, and the different historical and political contexts in which it has operated, there is inadequate knowledge of autonomy, even among those who demand it, to form a secure basis for negotiations, policy, and implementation. The growing interest in autonomy and successful (and unsuccessful) examples of its use as well as skepticism of and resistance to it suggest the need for further research to enable a more productive and realistic use of autonomy to bring parties to the negotiating table, provide a framework for negotiations, indicate when such negotiations or their outcomes are likely to be successful, and highlight processes and institutions that are likely to promote and sustain a settlement. In a modest way this is the aim of this paper. Autonomy Defined Autonomy is a device to allow ethnic or other groups that claim a distinct identity to exercise direct control over affairs of special concern to them while allowing the larger entity to exercise those powers that cover common interests. Autonomy can be granted under different legal forms. There is no uniform use of terms for the different kinds of arrangements for autonomy (for useful discussions, see Elazar, 1987; Watts, 1994a). I use autonomy as a generic term. Specialized terms are used to designate particular types of arrangements. The best known is federalism, in which all regions enjoy equal powers and have an identical relationship to the central government. Traditionally, federalism has not been used as a way to solve problems of ethnic diversity, although two old federations, Switzerland and Canada, were adopted in part to accommodate ethnic diversity. Classical federalism, in which all regions have equal powers, may not be sufficiently sensitive to the peculiar cultural and other needs of a particular community, which may require a greater measure of self-government. Federal systems in which one or more regions are vested with special powers not granted to other provinces are known as asymmetrical (Stevens, 1977; Watts, 1994b; Agranoff, 1994; Boase, 1994; Brown-John, 1994). Most multiethnic federations are in fact asymmetrical, start-

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International Conflict Resolution After the Cold War ing with Canada and Switzerland; other examples are India, Spain, Russia, and Malaysia. Federations in which some provinces are more populous or have more resources than others have also been described as asymmetrical (Tarlton, 1965), but this is not the way I use the term here. The federal model may be regarded as unnecessary if the need is to accommodate only one or two minority groups. In these situations, special powers may be devolved only to a part of the country where the minority constitutes a majority; these powers are exercised by regional institutions. Normally, very significant powers are devolved and the region, unlike in a federation, plays relatively little role in national government and institutions. This kind of autonomy is referred to as regional autonomy (Heintze, 1998) or federacy (Stevens, 1977; Elazar, 1987). By its nature this kind of regional autonomy is asymmetrical. Examples of autonomous regions include the Åland Islands (Finland), South Tyrol (Italy), Kosovo (the former Yugoslavia), Cordillera and Mindanao (the Philippines), Puerto Rico (United States), Zanzibar (Tanzania), Hong Kong and Macao (China), Greenland and Faroes (Denmark), New Caledonia (France), and Scotland (U.K.). Both federalism and regional autonomy are characterized by constitutional entrenchment of autonomy. When territorial devolution of powers is not constitutionally protected or not sufficiently protected, the arrangements are sometimes referred to as regionalism (where central powers and institutions remain dominant, as in Italy) or decentralization (which is frequently a form of administrative transfer of powers, as in France). Local government can also be an effective way to give certain powers to a group since the geographical scale of local government is small and the prospects of its inhabitants being ethnically homogeneous are better. Some federations now constitutionally protect local government as a third tier of government for this very reason (Nigeria and Spain; but constitutional protection was rejected in India). When a federal-type state enters into economicopolitical regional arrangements like the European Union (EU), a third constitutional tier appears (such as in Spain, Finland, and Germany). Reserves are a special instance of spatial organization of government first used by European settlers in America to isolate and dominate indigenous peoples and subsequently adopted in Australia, Africa, and parts of Asia. The apartheid policy of Bantustans was a modern version. However, in recent years the aspirations and historical claims of indigenous peoples have been recognized through the transformation of reserves into self-governing areas, particularly in Canada and the Philippines, although the extent to which they can opt out of national laws, which may be necessary for the preservation of their political and cultural practices, is variable.

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International Conflict Resolution After the Cold War A new but uneven element in the spatial organization of government is the emergence of international regional organizations in which national sovereignty has been traded for a share in participation and decision making in these organizations. Common policies over larger and larger matters are determined by the organization, so that a measure of control of the affairs of a national region has been transferred from national to supranational authority. The consequences are that the diminution of the salience of national sovereignty opens up possibilities of new arrangements between the state and its regions, the state feeling less threatened by regions in a multilayered structure of policy making and administration and the region more willing to accept national sovereignty, which may be the key to its participation in the wider arrangements. This trend is most developed in the EU (with its developing concept of the Europe of Regions; Bullain, 1998), where it is helping to moderate tensions between states and border regions previously intent on secession, as in Spain and Belgium (and which has facilitated the interesting spatial arrangements for policy, administration, and consultation in the two parts of Ireland, each under separate sovereignty, which underlie the new peace settlement). However, it might have different implications for Quebec, which through Ottawa has been drawn into closer economic relations with the United States and Mexico and may feel able to be an independent member of the North American trading area. Attempts to provide for unified Nordic arrangements for the Saami people (including a substantial element of autonomy), regardless of the sovereignty they live under, are another instance of similar kind (Hannum, 1990). Nonterritorial Autonomy A major limitation of territorial devolution of power is that it is restricted to circumstances where there is a regional concentration of an ethnic group. Sometimes attempts are made to transcend this limitation by corporate autonomy, whereby an ethnic group is given forms of collective rights. There are different forms and uses of corporate autonomy. Rights or entitlements protected under such autonomy can be personal, cultural, or political. At one end is corporate autonomy or, more accurately, corporate identity as the basis of wide-ranging rights, as exemplified by the independence constitution of Cyprus (1970), which had set out in detail the role of the Greek and Turkish communities in government and administration, provided for separate seats and electoral rolls, fixed the proportion of ministries, and established communal vetoes to protect specific interests, separate municipal councils, and so forth. Contemporary examples include the Constitution of Bosnia-Herzegovina, which combines more traditional federalism with corpo-

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International Conflict Resolution After the Cold War rate shares in power and communal vetoes. A more limited version is the application to members of a community of its personal or religious laws (covering marriage and family and occasionally land, particularly for tribal communities; see Ghai, 1998b; for its application in Israel, see Edelman, 1994; for a historical account of its use in Europe, see Eide, 1998). Sometimes group autonomy takes the shape of communal representation, whereby a person’s candidacy and voting are based on a communal electoral roll, as in Bosnia, Fiji, and proposed for Kosovo. These forms of autonomies were significant features of old and modern empires. Modern examples include provisions in the constitutions or laws of Estonia, Hungary, Slovenia, and the Russian Federation (Eide, 1998). More central reliance on group autonomy through cultural councils is found in the developing constitutional dispensation of Belgium. In 1970 separate councils were established for Dutch-, French-, and German-language speakers with competence over aspects of cultural and educational matters; their competence was considerably extended in the 1980s (Peeters, 1994; Murphy, 1995). Personal or communal autonomy is not directly dealt with in this paper for reasons of space (but it is also my view that communal autonomy is unsuitable for modern economic and social life, with its multiple and cross-cutting identities, an integrated economy, and democratic politics). However, in some new constitutions group autonomy is related to, or is part of a package of, federal or other devices for the protection of ethnic communities, frequently in consociatialist arrangements (such as in Belgium, Bosnia-Herzogovina, and the Fiji Islands) and are briefly examined here (see Chapter 11, on how electoral systems can promote consociationalism). These different legal and political forms of autonomy cannot always be easily distinguished and frequently shade off into others. Spain is increasingly analyzed in federal and not just regional terms. Papua New Guinea, although officially a decentralized state, has marked federal features (Ghai and Regan, 2000). The choice of labels is not important for purposes of negotiations, and some deliberate fudging may indeed be beneficial, especially if the constitution seems to prohibit some options (as in China, Sri Lanka, and Spain where a unitary state is mandated) or where there is particular sensitivity about sovereignty (as in China). Labels often refer to legal status—matters such as the degree of entrenchment and the method of division of subjects/powers, which may not always be a true guide to the scope of autonomy. Even when it is possible to be specific about the labels, a legal form may not exist to the exclusion of other forms. Thus, Canada has both symmetrical (for the most part) and asymmetrical federalism (for Quebec), federacy or regional autonomy for aboriginals, and group council for Metis. Similar diversity is found in India. It is important to avoid seeing these devices as alternatives or ex-

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International Conflict Resolution After the Cold War elusive; contemporary variations in diversity, in terms of numbers, identity, and resources, in a single state, requiring differential responses, may benefit from a combination of devices. The developments regarding federalism and autonomy outlined above have greatly increased the flexibility in devising arrangements for forms of self-government to suit widely varying circumstances and contingencies. Added to these broad categories of self-government are the variations in detailed arrangements in each category, such as in the division of powers between different layers of government, structures of government, the relationship between these structures at different levels, and the distribution of financial and other resources. While this flexibility is important in the negotiation process and facilitates compromises, there is the danger that it may lead to complex arrangements and systems, producing a lack of cohesion and the difficulties of governability. When negotiations enter a difficult phase, there is the temptation to devise some fancy scheme that may produce a temporary consensus that is hard to operationalize; thus, there is a conflict between immediate and long-term interests. Federal or autonomy arrangements are inherently hard to operate, requiring both high administrative capacity and political skills, and the embroidery on classical systems that tough negotiations may lead to would undermine long-term prospects of settlement by their sheer weight or complexity. Good examples of this experience would be the regional arrangements in Kenya’s independence constitution (Ghai and McAuslan, 1970), Papua New Guinea’s system of provincial government established in 1976 (Ghai and Regan, 1992), and even Spain’s autonomous communities (Conversi, 2000); the lack of resources is likely to render large parts of Ethiopia’s complex and complicated constitution of 1994 largely negatory (Paul, 2000). The definitions I have adopted concentrate on divisions of powers and corresponding institutions. It is frequently said that autonomy is also, perhaps more fundamentally, a process. It is also said that federalism connotes attitudes, a spirit of mutual respect, and tolerance (Elazar, 1987). These are undoubtedly important points, but I believe that in a comparative study of this kind the more neutral definition in terms of powers and institutions serves our interests better. However, specific arrangements cannot be understood without a consideration of process and values, and I use these in my account of factors that influence the success or failure of autonomy. Autonomy and State Structures These developments in autonomy regimes have significantly changed the nature and organization of states. Therein lies both the positive and the negative aspects of autonomy. The positive aspect is that it helps in

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International Conflict Resolution After the Cold War restructuring the state to accommodate cultural and ethnic diversity. It is often assumed that conflicts can be prevented or mediated by restructuring the state and official policies by, for example, redistribution through affirmative policies, recognition of personal laws and other forms of pluralism, fairer electoral laws, and forms of power sharing. The negative aspect is that majority groups (and others with a vested interest in a more centralized state) resist modification to the state structure. Most contemporary conflicts are not about territory but about its political organization. They center on the role of the state in society; control over the state provides access to economic power, the state being the major means for reproduction of capital. The state is the most powerful organization in most countries, even when it is not very effective in implementing policy. Consequently, there is strong competition for control over the apparatus of the state. The dominant model of the state derives largely from Western liberal theory. It relies heavily on the concept of citizenship, defining an individual’s relationship to the state and to other individuals, on the basis of equality (Tully, 1995; Parekh, 1993; Walker, 1997). There is also a sharp distinction between public and private spheres, although the public sphere is infused with the values and idiom of the majority and can be alienating for minorities. The exercise of power in the Western state is based on majoritarianism, and it is partly for this reason that there has been considerable resistance to multiethnic federations and asymmetry. Federations in liberal societies are meant to reflect principles of equality (symmetry) and common values (Glazer, 1977). The danger of excesses that majoritarianism may give rise to is frequently tempered by mechanisms of accountability, conventions of tolerance, and a regime of human rights. The danger is also mitigated by varying degrees of homogeneity, with many common bonds among the people acting to discourage the oppression of others. When transplanted to places with significant heterogeneity, the model rapidly lost the elements of accountability, tolerance, and rights and assumed an authoritarian, or at least an exclusionary, form. Even in the land of its origin, the model has come under attack as its population has become more diverse culturally, religiously, and ethnically, and the consciousness of these and other differences has sharpened (Tully, 1995; Kymlicka, 1989; Taylor, 1994). THE LEGAL BASES FOR AUTONOMY A discussion of the legal bases of autonomy is useful both in providing a sense of how the idea of autonomy has developed in recent decades, the forms of entitlements and legitimacy they offer negotiating parties, and the status of the resulting system of autonomy. Legal bases are rel-

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International Conflict Resolution After the Cold War evant to the possibilities of intervention by the international community in a dispute and its role in supervising and guaranteeing the outcome. The presence or absence of an entitlement in either international or national law to autonomy, as well as provisions limiting its scope, can play an important role in the conduct of negotiations and the relative bargaining position of parties, especially when there is international or third-party mediation. Despite increasing adoption of autonomy, its legal basis is unclear (Hannum, 1990; Thornberry, 1998). In principle, the case for autonomy rests on three principal sources: minority rights; indigenous peoples’ rights; and, more controversially, the right to self-determination. Minorities When the United Nations (UN) began work on an international regime of rights, it emphasized individual rights and carefully avoided giving rights, particularly political rights, to groups. There are trends now, however, toward a greater recognition of cultural and ethnic bases of autonomy. Article 27 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), until recently the principal UN provision on minorities, was drafted to exclude collective rights and was narrowly interpreted. But in recent years the UN Human Rights Committee (which supervises implementation of the covenant) has adopted interpretations of Article 27 that recognize that a measure of autonomy and group rights may be necessary for the protection of the cultural rights of minorities. Efforts have also been made by that committee and others to interpret the right to self-determination to mean, where relevant, internal autonomy rather than secession. This broader approach is reflected in a UN Declaration on the Rights of Minorities adopted by the General Assembly in 1992. Unlike the ICCPR, it places positive obligations on the state to protect the identity of minorities and encourage “conditions for the promotion of that identity” (Article 1). It does not go so far as to require autonomy for minorities, but it lays the foundation for it by recognizing community rights and the importance of identity. Several initiatives have been taken in Europe, through the OSCE, the Council of Europe, and the EU to promote the concept of autonomy, although its impact so far is restricted to Europe. This is manifested both in formal declarations and interventions to solve ethnic conflicts in Europe (such as in the Dayton Accord over Bosnia-Herzogivina or the Ram-bouilet proposals for Kosovo). Article 35 of the Copenhagen Declaration on Human Dimension of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) recognizes “appropriate local or autonomous administration as one of the possible means” for the promotion of the “ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and religious identity of certain minorities.” The princi-

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International Conflict Resolution After the Cold War pal instrument of the Council of Europe is the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (1994), which protects various rights of minorities, obliges the state to facilitate the enjoyment of these rights, and recognizes many rights of identity. There is no proclamation of a right to autonomy, but the exercise of some of these rights implies a measure of autonomy. The Copenhagen Declaration and statements of principle by the Council of Europe, although not strictly binding, have been used by the OSCE High Commissioner for Minorities and other mediating bodies as a basis for compromise between contending forces and have thus influenced practice in which autonomy has been a key constituent (Bloed, 1995; Packer, 1998; Thornberry, 1998, Hopmann, Chapter 14, this volume; see also OSCE High Commissioner for Minorities, 1999). The European Community has also used conformity with the Copenhagen Declaration as a precondition for the recognition of new states in Europe. The ability of existing states (which is relatively unregulated by international law) to confer recognition on entities, especially breakaway states, can be a powerful weapon to influence their constitutional structure. When various republics within the Federations of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union were breaking away, the European Community issued a Declaration on the Guidelines on the Recognition of New States in Eastern Europe and in the Soviet Union (December 16, 1991), although it was not applied in all cases. Among the conditions a candidate had to satisfy before it would be recognized was that its constitution contained “guarantees for the rights of ethnic and national groups and minorities in accordance with the commitments subscribed to in the framework of the CSCE” (European Community, 1991:1487). Entities requesting recognition were asked to submit evidence that their constitutions conformed to the guidelines; recognition was granted only if the evidence satisfied a European Community constitutional tribunal set up for this purpose (Rich, 1993; Weller, 1992; Rady, 1996). Similar principles have been used for admission to the Council of Europe and the EU. Indigenous Peoples The Convention on Indigenous Peoples, adopted in 1991 and representing a reversal of paternalistic and assimilationist approaches followed in the 1959 convention, recognized the “aspirations of these [indigenous] peoples to exercise control over their own institutions, ways of life and economic development and to maintain and develop their identities, languages and religions, within the framework of the States in which they live.” Their cultural and religious values, institutions, and forms of traditional social control are to be preserved (Article 4). The system of land

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International Conflict Resolution After the Cold War ownership and the rules for the transmission of land rights are to be protected (Articles 14 and 17). The Draft UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (submitted by the UN Sub-commission on Minorities, August 1994) goes even further and proclaims their right to self-determination, under which they may “freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development” (Article 3). The principle of self-determination gives them the “right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs,” which include social, cultural, and economic activities and the right to control the entry of nonmembers (Article 31). It recognizes their collective rights (Article 7) and the right to maintain and strengthen their distinct political, economic, social, and cultural characteristics (Article 4). These ideas have already formed the basis of negotiations between indigenous peoples and the states in which they live, giving recognition not only to their land rights (as in Australia and New Zealand) but also to forms of autonomy (as in Canada), although Asian and African governments deny the existence of indigenous peoples in their states and the instruments have had little impact there (Brölmann and Zieck, 1993; Stavenhagen, 1998; Alfredson, 1998; Kingsbury, 1999). Indigenous people, particularly in North America, also base their claims on other legal bases: (a) their “inherent sovereignty,” which predates colonization, and (b) treaties with incoming powers (for what has been called “treaty federalism,” see Henderson, 1994). Self-Determination The broadest source of autonomy is self-determination, in itself a difficult and controversial concept but one that has increasingly been analyzed in terms of the internal democratic organization of a state rather than in terms of secession or independence. The marked bias of the international community of states against the use of self-determination, other than for classical colonies, is well known (Franck, 1993). The UN General Assembly resolved many years ago that autonomy is a manifestation of self-determination. The greater involvement of the UN or consortia of states in the settlement of internal conflicts has also helped to develop the concept of self-determination as implying autonomy in appropriate circumstances, such as in Bosnia, Eastern Europe, and Kosovo (Rosas, 1993; Franck, 1993; Higgins, 1993). However, the birth of new states following the collapse of the communist order in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and the Balkans, has removed some taboo against secession, and the international community seems to be inching toward some consensus that extreme oppression of a group may justify secession. This position has

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International Conflict Resolution After the Cold War served to strengthen the internal aspect of self-determination, for a state can defeat the claim of separation if it can demonstrate that it respects the political and cultural rights of minorities. A further, and far-reaching, gloss has been placed on this doctrine by the Canadian Supreme Court, which decided in 1999 that Quebec has no right under either the Canadian Constitution or international law to unilateral secession but that, if Quebec were to decide on secession through a referendum, Ottawa and other provinces would have to negotiate with Quebec on future constitutional arrangements (2 SCR 217, 1998). However, these rules or understandings are not accepted everywhere, and they are unlikely to persuade leaders in Africa or Asia. Such a view of self-determination has some support in certain national constitutions, indicating no more than a trend at this stage. Often constitutional provisions for autonomy are adopted during periods of social and political transformation, when an autocratic regime is overthrown (when there is considerable legitimacy for autonomy), or when a crisis is reached in minority-majority conflicts, or when there is intense international pressure (in which case legitimacy is granted rather grudgingly). Propelled by these factors, a number of constitutions now recognize some entitlement to self-government, such as the Philippines in relation to two provinces, one for indigenous people and the other for a religious minority; Spain, which guarantees autonomy to three regions and invites others to negotiate with the center for autonomy; Papua New Guinea, which authorizes provinces to negotiate with the central government for substantial devolution of power; Fiji, which recognizes the right of indigenous people to their own administration at the local level; and recently Ethiopia, which gives its “nations, nationalities, and peoples” the right to seek wide-ranging powers as states within a federation and guarantees them even the right to secession. The Russian Constitution of 1993, in the wake of the breakup of the Soviet Union, provides for extensive autonomy to its constituent parts, whether republics or autonomous areas (Agnew, 1995; Lynn and Novikov, 1997; Smith, 1996). Chinese constitution entrenches the rights of ethnic minorities to substantial self-government, although in practice the dominance of the Communist Party negates their autonomy (Ghai, 2000). In other instances the constitution authorizes but does not require the establishment of autonomous areas, with China again an interesting example (Article 31), in order to provide a constitutional basis for “one country, two systems” for the reunification of Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. On the other hand, it should also be noted that some constitutions prohibit or restrict the scope of autonomy by requiring that the state be unitary or some similar expression; such a provision has retarded the acceptance or implementation of meaningful devolution in, for example, Sri Lanka, Papua New Guinea, and China.

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International Conflict Resolution After the Cold War compromises (as in Papua New Guinea and Ethiopia). A consultancy firm that advised Papua New Guinea on the implementation of decentralization, expected to be asymmetrical under negotiated constitutional provisions, recommended the equal devolution of powers to all provinces, regardless of their capacity or willingness to assume these powers. If this proposal avoided one bureaucratic nightmare, it created another—poorly equipped provinces struggling to carry out new responsibilities, which they neither understood or wanted. The result was continuing domination by central bureaucrats and a not inconsiderable degree of inefficiency (Ghai and Regan, 1992). But the political problems with asymmetry are even more decisive. I have already referred to the difficulty of conceding autonomy on a purely ethnic basis. The difficulty is greater if only one or two groups are to enjoy autonomy. If the national government is inclined to support autonomy, it may have to generalize conditions for the granting of autonomy. In Papua New Guinea in 1976, negotiations for autonomy were conducted between the national government and representatives of Bougainville. The assumption was that the arrangements under negotiations were for Bougainville only, and in fact Bougainville leaders insisted that only their province was to be entitled to them (to recognize their distinctiveness). However, the government realized that parliamentary support for these arrangements could not be guaranteed unless all provinces were given similar options. Similar developments took place in Spain, where all provinces or groupings of provinces were given roughly the same options as the “historic territories.” Increasingly, Spain takes on the appearance of a federation and a symmetrical one at that. The devolution to provincial councils in Sri Lanka followed a similar trajectory, diluting the special claims of Tamils to autonomy. Asymmetry has come under considerable attack in Canada. In Britain, following autonomies for Scotland and Wales, there is agitation for officially defined English regions. The tendency toward symmetry is, however, not universal; sometimes there may be a recognition of the historical claims of a community or the clear distinctiveness, and vulnerability, of its culture (as in Greenland, Faroes, Åland, Corsica, and Cordilleras). Sometimes a community may desire a greater measure of political integration than asymmetry would permit; for example, the Swedish-speaking community on the Finnish mainland rejected the offer of an Åland type of autonomy. Asymmetry is particularly controversial when the region benefiting from it wants equal or even superior representation in central institutions. Logically, the region should not participate in decisions at the national level on areas that are within its autonomy, for then it would be making decisions for other regions, especially when the votes of its representatives hold the balance. When there is substantial asymmetrical autonomy,

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International Conflict Resolution After the Cold War the moral or political right of the representatives of an autonomous region to count toward a parliamentary majority and thus determine the formation of the central government group can be questioned. Claims might be made by the rest of the country that representatives from that region should be excluded from holding ministries whose portfolios cover areas within asymmetrical autonomy or indeed that the number of ministries given to them should be severely restricted. If there is equal representation for the autonomous region, other provinces would resent it; if the representation is less favorable, the region would tend to look inward, political parties would tend to become regional and the region’s integration with the state would weaken. The conversion of asymmetry into symmetry is not necessarily against the interests of the original claimants of autonomy. They would cease to be the object of envy and resentment. A greater number of beneficiaries would produce a more balanced state. It would also increase the capacity of regions to negotiate with the center and extract higher benefits. But for many groups the exact amount of devolved power is less important than they alone should enjoy some special powers, as a way to mark their status. If the powers they have are generalized, they increase their own demands for more, leading not only to a higher level of general devolution than is desirable or desired but also pushing the special groups toward confederal solutions. They regard asymmetry as a proper recognition of their “distinctive society” status (to use the Canadian parlance). This conflict, rather than bureaucratic problems of managing institutional diversity, is the real problem besetting asymmetry. Kymlicka (1998a, 1989b) has pointed to a number of problems about asymmetry in Canada that may make it unsustainable. If a group insists on asymmetry and others do not concede it, the stalemate may result in attempts at secession (as some Quebecois are threatening). On the other hand, the concession of asymmetry merely encourages the demand for further powers and emboldens the group, having already won and operating with a large measure of autonomy, to go to the logical next step, that of separate statehood. It is said that Chamberlain considered the asymmetrical home rule proposals for Ireland to have such a potential for the breakup of the British Empire that he even contemplated a symmetrically constituted British federation (Jay, 1989). The future feasibility and viability of multiethnic autonomy thus depend greatly on how asymmetry is negotiated. While the utility of asymmetry may be acknowledged, political and bureaucratic difficulties may limit its application. On the other hand, it must be noted that outside Canada the difficulties are more theoretical than practical. The Indian experience and that of other federations shows that groups claiming or enjoying autonomy do not see themselves as nations alienated from oth-

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International Conflict Resolution After the Cold War ers. They are strongly bonded to the wider nation and their representatives, through regional or national parties, and play a full part in national institutions. But equally one must not underestimate the ability of politicians to erect these theoretical difficulties into real barriers to asymmetrical autonomy. Autonomy does not promote secession; true autonomy prevents it. I have already discussed examples where the concession of autonomy has reconciled ethnic minorities to the state and diluted the appeal of secession. The concession of autonomy reduces the level of the stridency of minorities and the consciousness of their ethnic identity. Such concession strengthens the hands of the moderates in the ethnic group. Equally the denial or removal of autonomy aggravates ethnic discontent and sentiments of separatism and enables those least interested in a peaceful solution to exploit the sense of grievance of the group. Nevertheless, it is widely believed that territorial autonomy will lead to secession and that corporate autonomy will impede national integration. Autonomy increases the resources and strengthens the identities of regional minorities, frequently justifying a claim of secession under the principles of self-determination. Moreover, Kymlicka (1989) argues, the members of one ethnic group are indifferent to the rights and interests of the other groups and are unwilling to make sacrifices for them, particularly since they do not expect reciprocity (Kymlicka, 1989). He considers that multinational federations are inflexible and prone to deadlocks and instability, particularly in the ways that boundaries are drawn or powers divided. Kymlicka draws attention to what he claims is a paradox—that the more the federation is successful in promoting the interest of national minorities, “the more it will strengthen the sense that these minorities are a separate people with inherent rights of self-government, whose participation in the larger country is conditional and revocable” (p. 140). In practice the situation is quite different. Few instances of the granting of autonomy have led to secession. What it has led to is a demand by other groups for similar treatment, leading to a kind of dispersal of authority. What this often does is strengthen national unity; the Indian and Papua New Guinean experiences with their linguistic communities are evidence. Secession frequently arises when autonomy is denied or abolished. In discussing secession it may be important to make a distinction between federations by aggregation and disaggregation. In the first case the federation is based on mutual consent and voluntariness, and it is on the whole forwarding looking. It is in the second case that there is a particular worry about secession, as federal arrangements are often a concession to overwhelming pressures or threats (it is interesting that of the examples of voluntary federalism, as in Canada and Switzerland, the

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International Conflict Resolution After the Cold War attempted secession by a province or canton is unlikely to be resisted militarily by the others). Instances of secession or attempted secession from a federation reveal on closer investigation that they are not the logical result of autonomy. If we take first the case of Bangladesh’s breakaway from Pakistan, it is clear that the central authorities in Islamabad had in fact refused to treat East Pakistan as an equal partner (despite its larger population) (Young, 1976; Ahmed, 1991). It tried to impose Urdu upon a Bengali-speaking people; banned the broadcast of the songs of the leading Bengali poet, Tagore; drained off economic resources to the West; discriminated against Bengalis in state services (particularly in the armed forces); and in the end denied its major party, the Awami League, the fruits of its electoral victory. So East Pakistan not only ruled the country as a unitary state but also discriminated heavily against a part of it. The crisis was precipitated by the refusal of the center to accept Mujib Rahman’s proposals for a genuine and equal federation. The breakups of the federations in the USSR and Yugoslavia were also the result of the failure to implement a genuine federation. This is less true of Yugoslavia; the federation there had tried to bring together people who had a long history of enmity but provided relatively little opportunities for the development of a real Yugoslavian identity. Both federations relied heavily on the Communist Party to hold them together, preventing an organic unity. Also the central authorities used ethnicities in opportunistic ways, not calculated to promote good interethnic relations. In any case the situations in the USSR and Yugoslavia are more correctly analyzed less as secessions than as implosions of the federations. Perhaps less so in Yugoslavia, the separation of constituent parts followed rather than caused the breakdown of the central authorities. The breakup of Czechoslovakia is different. It was consensual (at least elite consensual) and therefore not secession. It does not appear to have been connected with the nature and operation of the federation, for this was negated by the dominance of the Communist Party. After the “velvet” revolution, there appears to have been a vague feeling on the part of each community that it was getting less than the other from the federation and that it would be better off without the other (Musil, 1995; Seroka, 1994). But fundamentally, the federation became a prey to the general salience of ethnicity elsewhere in the wake of the collapse of communist regimes. I turn finally to Papua New Guinea, where parts of Bougainville are in rebellion and want secession. The settlement of 1976, which established a wide-ranging decentralization, solved the problems of Bougainville. An elected provincial government was established, responsible to an elected local assembly. With its human and physical resources, it quickly built an

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International Conflict Resolution After the Cold War enviable reputation for efficiency and was assessed by various enquiries as the most effective and accountable of provincial governments. Regular elections were held, and its leaders played a full role in national politics. The troubles of 1989 had a common source—the inequitable distribution of income from the copper mine—but this time it was not a provincial-wide protest but had its origins in disputes among the community that owned the land on which the mine was located and concerned the internal distribution of royalties (Ghai and Regan, 2000). The local democratic forces to which autonomy gave rise were as much the victims of the anger and violence of the rebels as the central authorities. The granting of autonomy to Bougainville had helped to strengthen its links to the rest of the country, for it eliminated some genuine grievances and established a democratic order internally connected to the national system. There is little doubt that without the 1977 autonomy the rebellion of 1989 would have garnered more support in Bougainville—so autonomy prevented rather than promoted secession. These case studies point to the need to distinguish secession from the termination of a federation. There may be little to mourn in the second case; it suggests that ethnic communities have decided, mutually, to lead separate lives. Autonomy is important for ethnicity because it represents a compromise, a balance between those who want a tight unitary system of government and those who may prefer separation. It loses that function if the wish to separate is mutual and the separation is achieved without strife or recrimination. CONCLUSION The question of autonomy is central to many conflicts today. Autonomy can play an important constructive role in mediating relations between different communities in multiethnic states. It can defuse conflicts. It is a particularly appropriate mechanism for the protection and promotion of culture and the values of a community, but it is not an easy device to operate. Great political and technical skills are required to structure and make it work. Given the difficulties of managing multiethnic states, autonomy is a valuable option, notwithstanding its own difficulties. But autonomy can also be fragmenting, pigeon-holing and dividing communities. Sometimes in an attempt to preserve the integuments of a state, autonomy is so structured that it is difficult to find the common ground on which communities can find a moral or political basis for coexistence. Autonomy, particularly federal autonomy, is built around the notion that the people of a state are best served through a balance between the common and the particular. If the emphasis is so much on the particular, separation may be the better option, notwithstanding the pro-

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International Conflict Resolution After the Cold War liferation of states. The secret of autonomy is the recognition of the common; certainly it seems to be the condition for its success. Perhaps about 30 years ago too much emphasis was placed on the common, and for this reason autonomy was narrow and contingent. Today we may be placing too much emphasis on the particular. It may be necessary to consider devices that stress common bonds and construct institutions that hold people together, as Nigeria did with the principles to federalize the center in the 1979 constitution, as in election of a president, the composition of the federal executive, or the registration of parties, to promote broad interregional support, to counter the tendency toward disassociating that comes with disaggregating ethnic autonomy (Kirke-Green, 1983). Autonomy should be chosen not because of some notion of preserving sovereignty but in order to enable different groups to live together, to define a common public space. REFERENCES Agnew, John 1995 Postscript: Federalism in the post-Cold War era. In Federalism: The Multiethnic Challenge, Graham Smith, ed. London: Longman. Agranoff, Robert 1994 Asymmetrical and symmetrical federalism in Spain: An examination of intergovernmental policy. In Evaluating Federal Systems, Bertus de Villiers, ed. Cape Town: Juta. Ahmed, Moudad 1991 Bangladesh: Constitutional Quest for Autonomy. Dhaka: University Press Ltd. Alfredson, Gudmunder 1998 Indigenous peoples and autonomy. In Autonomy: Applications and Implications, Markku Suksi, ed. The Hague: Kluwer. Bloed, A. 1995 The OCSE and the issue of national minorities. In Universal Minority Rights, A. Phillips and A.Rosas, eds. Abo: Abo Akademi University Press. Boase, Joan Price 1994 Faces of asymmetry: German and Canadian federalism. In Evaluating Federal Systems, Bertus de Villiers, ed. Cape Town: Juta. Brölmann, C.M., and M.Y.A.Zieck 1993 Indigenous peoples. In Peoples and Minorities in International Law, Catherine Brölmann, René Lefeber, and Marjoleine Zieck, eds. Dordrecht: M.Nijhoff. Brown-John, Lloyd 1994 Asymmetrical federalism: Keeping Canada together? In Evaluating Federal Systems, Bertus de Villiers, ed. Cape Town: Juta. Bullain, Inigo 1998 Autonomy and the European Union. In Autonomy: Applications and Implications, Markku Suski, ed. The Hague: Kluwer. Connor, Walker 1984 The National Question in Marxist-Leninist Theory and Strategy. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

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