Summary of "Conclusions"

Summary of


By Ruth Lapidoth

This Article Summary written by: Tanya Glaser, Conflict Research Consortium

Ruth Lapidoth, "Conclusions," part in Autonomy: Flexible Solutions to Ethnic Conflicts, (Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace Press, 1996), p. 169-205.

Lapidoth draws on her previous conceptual analysis and review of cases to suggest some issues to be considered in establishing autonomous regimes. She also identifies factors which influence the success of autonomy as a response to ethnic conflict. Lapidoth opens by pointing out that there is presently no generally recognized right to autonomy. However, there is some recognition of a right to autonomy for indigenous peoples, and increasing acceptance of a principle of self-determination for peoples.

Establishing Autonomous Regimes

First, Lapidoth asks, how should an autonomous regime be created? They may be created by an act of the central government, or by international convention. If created by convention, it must be decided who the appropriate parties are. Parties must decide on the type of autonomous regime to be created. Autonomy may be granted to a particular territory (territorial autonomy), or it may be granted to a group of people regardless of their location in the state (personal autonomy). In either case, the parties will have to define the autonomous territory or people. Parties will also need to decide whether the grant of autonomy is to be permanent or temporary, and whether autonomy should be implemented gradually or granted all at once.

The institutions of the autonomous regime must be designed. Autonomous regimes exercise (limited) authority over their members. Institutions for wielding that power must be devised. Parties must agree on procedures for appointing members to the ruling institutions, and decide on limits to the regime's powers.

Autonomous regimes may be granted any of a range of powers and authorities, including authority over their security, foreign relations, economy and taxation, resources, communication and transportation, culture, language, education and social issues. They may also be given responsibility for protecting human rights and the environment. Questions of legal jurisdiction must be worked out. Generally, a territorial autonomy will have broader powers than a personal autonomy regime. Personal autonomy powers are usually limited to cultural, educational and language issues.

Finally, the relation between the autonomous regime and the central state must be spelled out. Parties must agree on the extent of central government oversight of the autonomous regime. Responsibility for financing the autonomous regime must be allocated. Provisions must be made for disputes between the central government and the autonomous regime, and procedures for dispute resolution agreed upon.

Factors Influencing Success

Lapidoth lists sixteen "ingredients" which favor the success of an autonomous regime. The autonomous regime must be established with the consent of its intended members. It must also have the support of any foreign states which are ethnically or otherwise affiliated with the autonomous group. The establishment of an autonomous regime should benefit both the minority and the majority populations in the state. The autonomous regime should be allowed to display the symbols of their identity and their autonomous status.

The division of powers between the autonomy and the central government should be very clearly defined. The central government should consult the autonomous regime when government activities would affect the regime. Autonomous regimes are more successful when they have some organ for cooperation with the central government, and also when there is an established procedure for dispute resolution.

It is often better to implement the autonomous regime gradually. Autonomy is more successful when both the autonomous regime and the central government are democratic, and when human rights are guaranteed respect. Autonomies are also more successful when there is economic parity between the autonomous population and the state. Limited period autonomies must make provisions for their dissolution at the time of their establishment. If the regime includes commitment to behavioral norms, it is better if those norms reflect international norms of behaviors.

Finally, Lapidoth observes that "the most important and indispensable condition for a successful autonomy is a prevailing atmosphere of conciliation and goodwill."[p. 201] Because of this factor, autonomous regimes will be more successful if they are established earlier in a conflict, before the conflict escalates into bitterness.