What Is An Autonomous Government?

Catalan flags are flown outside houses in Barcelona by Catalonian Spaniards who desire a separate, autonomous Catalon state.
Catalan flags are flown outside houses in Barcelona by Catalonian Spaniards who desire a separate, autonomous Catalon state.

Autonomy, Defined

Autonomy refers to the capacity and right of a country or other jurisdiction to govern itself. The term, autonomous comes from the Greek word, autonomos meaning auto - “self” and nomos - “law” respectively. In political, moral, and bio-ethical philosophy, autonomy is thought of as the capability of an entity to make an informed, unforced decision. Anarchism has influenced ideas about autonomy brought about by former colonies seeking autonomy from their colonizers. Indeed, some endemic peoples have governed with autonomous values using the concept of anarchism as a uniting force in their primitive society. 

The Concept Of Autonomy

Autonomy or self-governance is an intangible concept. It ranges from a person's perception to application of deportment and conduct and is also applicable to social units. It can also refer to corporations, organizations, religions, and local governments. In international law, autonomy refers to national sovereignty, as in, former colonies seeking self-governance. It could be the end result of colonial rule, monarchy, or an absolute regime. When ethnic and religious groups feel unrepresented in national governments, these entities may seek autonomy.

Historical Example

In international law, autonomy is often referred to in relation to indigenous peoples, sovereignty, recognition of states, self-determination, or secession. National sovereignty is about self-governance of nations according to international law. The case for the Philippine Islands before it declared its total independence from the United States is cited in the Philippine Autonomy Act of 1916. It would grant autonomy to the Filipinos upon creation of an autonomous government but in time of conflict with a hostile country, the US would have the right to protect the Philippines. Most colonial powers in the past also granted autonomous rule to their colonies before granting them full independence.

Administration and Contemporary Fights for Autonomy

International Law defines autonomous areas as regions of a state that has some ethnic distinctiveness, where some power of internal administration has been given but remains part of the state. Regional autonomy refers to the granting of autonomous rule to outlying regions still within the state's jurisdiction. Regional autonomy includes decentralization of governance from the head government and transfers control and functions to the regional level. In an advanced state of self-governance, in rare cases, full independence might be achieved. The Basque region in Spain and the Spanish Catalan region are among the best examples of two regions in a country fighting for regional autonomy today. Other examples in recent decades can be seen in Palestine's desire to form a state distinct from Israel, the Quebecois push for independence from Canada, and former socialist republics in what were Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union.

Prerequisite Conditions for Autonomy

Self-governance is granted with certain conditions in preparation for the transfer of internal administration to regional officials. The following proposals might be considered in some cases. First, the creation of an ethical code that would include acceptable behavior inside that unit. This would be similar to established professional ethics. Second, the ability to have an outside political authority come in to resolve internal conflict. Third, a code of silence regarding internal activities to outsiders. Fourth, the internal ability to resolve problems internally. Fifth, the ability to discipline the region's citizens. Sixth, an order that would ensure the election of leaders. Seventh, a control system against breakaway groups or factions that would threaten the peace of the region.


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