Non-Territorial Autonomy: Interpretations, Forms and Opportunities

Through research and scholarly discussions, the WP will address a variety of ideas and institutional arrangements related to the notion of autonomy on non-territorial grounds. The purpose is description, comparison and critical assessment of these ideas and of their utilization. The WP seeks to provide for a new perspective to look at how cultural and ethnic diversity is conceptually organized and accommodated. The outcomes should be a set of proposals concerning the ways the notion of non-territorial autonomy (hereinafter – NTA) can serve an analytical tool, proposals concerning amelioration of the existing institutions and dissemination of good practices can also be put forward.


Research Task 1: Academic Discussion on Non-Territorial Autonomy.

The event ECMI initiates and arranges for must provide for a discussion on the ways the notion as non-territorial autonomy could apply as an analytical category. Alongside this, practical applications of this notion in various forms shall be addressed. The underlying assumption is that the term “non-territorial autonomy” and similar notions have been employed basically as instrumental categories in law, politics and civic activism. Occasionally, non-territorial autonomy is also used as a category of analysis in a variety of interpretations. The discussions and comparative research seek to clarify the issue and to elaborate more clear approaches to the usage of the idea and the related terminologies.

The cluster works on holding a workshop on non-territorial autonomy in 2011; the major contributors on ECMI side are Tove Malloy and Alexander Osipov. Other projects are regarded as possible options for the future:

  • a section on NTA within the workshop on territorialization of ethnicity to be held in Bolzano/Bozen in November 2011 (TM, AO);
  • a conference on non-territorial autonomy with subsequent publication (TM, AO);
  • publication of a monograph on non-territorial autonomy (AO).


Research Task 2: Practical Application of Non-Territorial Autonomy and Identification of Best Achievements.

The cluster works on comparative research projects addressing certain institutional forms for self-government like elected minority councils, self-governing minority foundations and self-regulating professional organizations, and associations of municipal units. Individual projects will be run by interns and PhD-students invited for this purpose and hosted by ECMI.

Conference on Non-territorial Autonomy

The European Centre for Minority Issues (Flensburg, Germany), jointly with The School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy at Queen’s University Belfast, and the Department of Central & Eastern European Studies, University of Glasgow announce a multidisciplinary conference on the challenges of Non Territorial Autonomy (NTA) in a world of nation-states. The conference will take place on 9 and 10 November 2012 at Queen’s University Belfast, and all interested scholars and students are invited.

Cultural diversity is the norm in a world of nation-states. A recurrent problem is how to organise what are in fact, multi-ethnic and multi-nation states so that majorities and minorities are able to coexist and effectively participate in the life of the state, bolstering allegiance without suffering cultural alienation and without resorting to territorial secession. Multicultural liberal democracies sincerely champion equality and individual human rights, but often have considerable difficulties in accommodating culturally diverse minority communities. Territorial representation is only possible when minority communities inhabit a compact territorial space, yet in the majority of cases, minority communities do not reside compactly, making any territorial representation impossible. This situation often causes intractable problems for the functioning of democratic polities, and requiring modalities of non-territorial autonomy (NTA) as a solution.

The aim of this conference is to examine in theory, empirically and through the work of legal practitioners, the challenges, and possible solutions offered by different models of NTA for the effective participation of minorities in public life. Non-Territorial autonomy takes variety of different forms, such as Consociationalism and National Cultural Autonomy, but also forms of representation that de-territorialises self-determination, as in the case of indigenous communities, the juridical autonomy as with religious communities, or in the practice of some models of multiculturalism. We invite theoretical and comparative papers and case studies on NTA models that build upon theoretical consideration and/or consider empirical case studies.

Questions regarding research on non-territorial autonomy and the remit of the conference should be addressed to ntaconference@qub.ac.uk

 A list of participants with abstracts can be found here.
 The final programme can be found here.

ECMI founders:

The German Federal GovernmentThe German
Federal Government
The Danish GovernmentThe Danish
The Federal State Schleswig-HolsteinThe Federal State