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A constituent state is a territorial and constitutional entity forming part of a sovereign state. A constituent state holds administrative jurisdiction over a defined geographic territory and is a form of regional government.
Within a federacy
Administrative units that are not federated but enjoy a greater degree of autonomy or self-government than others within the same country can be considered constituent states of a larger sovereign state. This relationship is called a federacy. Autonomous republics like Karakalpakstan in Uzbekistan
Within a non-state constitutional entity
States existing in free association with another can be considered constituent states of a constitutional entity. For example, the Cook Islands, New Zealand and Niue constitute the three constituent countries of the Realm of New Zealand, united under a single head of state: the King or Queen of New Zealand.
The breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which have effectively maintained independence since declaration, are considered constituent republics of Georgia by the majority of world governments. The Republic of Artsakh, which is also independent in effect, is considered by the United Nations to be a constituent entity of Azerbaijan.
The country of Cyprus is divided between two independent political entities: the internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus in the south, and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is recognised as a sovereign state only by Turkey. Both entities are given the title of constituent state of Cyprus by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and the Annan Plan for reuniting Cyprus consistently used the term constituent state to refer to each entity.
The term constituent state can also be applied in describing the region of Palestine at present, which is divided between the governments of Israel and the Palestinian Authority. It has also been used to label both states in proposals for federal solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The breakaway republic of Somaliland in the north, which maintains de facto independence over its territory, is still regarded by member states of the United Nations as a constituent state of Somalia despite its declaration of independence in 1991. The states of Puntland and Galmudug in central and northeastern Somalia retain control over their own territories with little to no oversight from the federal government, which is based in Mogadishu in the south. The administrations in these states have stated that, unlike Somaliland, they do not seek outright independence from Somalia, and are merely maintaining stability until such a time when the government can effectively implement a permanent constitution for the country.
In the south and in opposition to the central government are regions administered by various Islamic insurgent groups, most notably Hizbul Islam and al-Shabaab, both of which seek to establish Sharia law within the country.
Other administrative entities
Palau is divided into sixteen administrative divisions termed "states", which were before 1984 called municipalities. The change in terminology reflects the fact that these divisions are afforded a larger degree of autonomy than before, with each state having its own constitution. As a unitary republic, however, the government of Palau is centralised and these divisions exist solely to establish regional government; they are not united in a federal union.
Like Palau, the government of Myanmar, or Burma, presently operates as a unitary state, with sovereignty confined within the central government. Burma comprises a number of "states", which exist alongside the country's regional divisions. Both "states" and "divisions" can be described as ethnically defined; while the Bamar remain predominant within divisions, the states are mostly dominated by minority groups.
In terms of politics, the use of the term "state" in this context is largely historical, with a number of these states having been united in various federal unions during the British colonial period. At present, most states are afforded a greater degree of autonomy than other divisions. Political separatism in many states is rampant, and territory controlled by the central government in these cases is limited. In these cases, jurisdiction within a state is mostly confined to its respective regional government.
The term "constituent state" is sometimes also used to refer to member states of an international organisation. It is used within the European Union to refer to member states. It is also used to refer to sovereign states in bilateral negotiations or agreements between two or more states.
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