Territorial Power-Sharing


Territorial Power-Sharing involves the delegation of power to a regional or local level, where a minority group may be in a majority, so as to give them some form of self-governance. Our research the different forms territorial power-sharing can take, and the pros and cons for such a technique, in particular for women.

tab two animations

Territorial power-sharing can be understood as the sharing of the central government’s powers and responsibilities to geographical units.

Government building with arrows pointing to different location markers

Territorial power-sharing is most often used in conflicts within states, where ethno-national groups are geographically concentrated in particular places and seek greater self-determination.

The proportion of all agreements that involve territorial power-sharing in all its forms

Donut pie chart showing 14% 14% Territorial (% of all agreements)
Donut pie chart showing 41% 41% Federal (% of territorial agreements)
Donut pie chart showing 35% 35% Devolution to local/ municipal level (% of territorial agreements)
Donut pie chart showing 42% 42% Regional autonomy (% of territorial agreements)

Different elements of all these forms of territorial subdivision are often combined in creative and multi-layered permutations.

Using territorial power-sharing to accommodate ethno-national groups is more likely to be part of a complex package of decentralizing powers to a variety of sub-state entities, sometimes building on earlier rhetorical commitments to federal principles, such as in Bosnia and Nepal.

Agreements with territorial power-sharing, by battle location

During negotiations on territorial power-sharing, there are critical decisions that have implications for inclusion, including:

Military power-sharing is often agreed as an alternative form of demobilisation, demilitarisation and reintegration (DDR) measures, or put in place as part of a wider attempt as security sector reform (SSR). DDR, SSR and forms of military power-sharing may all be part of a ‘security transition’, which is itself a political process.

Key issues which need decided in designing territorial power-sharing arrangements are:
  • How territory will be split

  • How power will be divided

  • How boundaries will be drawn

  • What this means for non-dominant minorities and women

Scroll or map showing boundaries and location markers

Women from various identity groups may experience territorial power-sharing differently depending on whether they will find themselves as members of:

Large group of women showing the major community the majority community within the sub-national territory


Small group of women showing the minority (in red) within the sub-national territory the minority community within the sub-national territory



Recommendation 1

Territorial power-sharing can enable inclusion of the main conflict parties, but should also consider how wider social groups will be affected.

Four hands join in a circle

Recommendation 2

Symbolic naming of the arrangements may be more difficult than deciding on the arrangements, and creativity may be required.

Federalism?: Circle with Central powers and circle with State powers overlapping they are Shared; Autonomy?: A fist; Decentralisation?: Globe central to location pins Decentralisation? Autonomy? State powers Central powers Federalism? Shared

Recommendation 3

Sequencing territorial devolution of power in stages, to build incremental agreement, can help build support for territorial power-sharing as a framework for a more inclusive state.

Blocks building in stages ?

Recommendation 4

Creative techniques for formalising ‘unsettlement’ may present opportunities to accommodate different national groups' within one state to statehood. This can include:

  • Providing for incremental decision-making on powers

  • Providing for ‘fuzzy borders’

  • Providing for new choices as to the territory in the future (through postponed referenda)

Open ended: Open road; Unresolved borders: Broken chain; Extra connections: globe with highlighted areas Providing for open ended unresolved processes Leaving unresolved border areas Providing for extra territorial connections between kin groups