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Group Members:

Yohannes Dires
Samuel Getaneh
Sisay Getnet
H/mariam Sewagegn
Habtamu Adugna

[Civics Ethical Education
Group Research]
The Merits and Demerits of Federal and Unitary State

Submitted to:

SOS HGS Bahir-Dar Civics Department
Civics and Ethical Education Group Research 2

Unitary government
A unitary government is a government in which all the powers of the
state are concentrated in the hands of the Central Government
sanctioned by the constitution. The Local Governments derive their
powers from the Central Government. In this system, the constitution
does make arrangements for the distribution of power between the
local and the central governments. For the convenience of
administration of unitary government the state is divided into some
parts. In these parts local governments are formed. To squeeze or
expand the power of the government depends on the will of the central

However, unitary states often also include one or more self-governing
regions. The difference between a federation and this kind of unitary
state is that in a unitary state the autonomous status of self-governing
regions exists by the sufferance of the central government, and may
be unilaterally revoked. While it is common for a federation to be
brought into being by agreement between a numbers of formally
independent states, in a unitary state self-governing regions are often
created through a process of decentralization, where a formerly
centralized state agrees to grant autonomy to a region that was
previously entirely subordinate. Thus federations are often established
voluntarily from 'below' whereas devolution grants self-government
from 'above'.

It is often part of the philosophy of a unitary state that, regardless of
the actual status of any of its parts, its entire territory constitutes a
single sovereign entity or nation-state, and that by virtue of this the
central government exercises sovereignty over the whole territory as
of right. In a federation, on the other hand, sovereignty is often
regarded as residing notionally in the component states, or as being
shared between these states and the central government.
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 Ethiopia before 1991 G.C. was considered as one nation state and was
under a unitary state.

Merits of the unitary government
I. In the system of Unitary form of government, the same law, policies and the same
administration prevail in the country under one government. Under this system the
administration becomes strong and the national unity is integrated. Or Uniform
application of laws and policies.

II. As all the powers are in the hands of one government, greater skill and efficiency is
reflected both in the domestic and International affairs.

III. Provides a relatively simple organization.

IV. There is little or no duplication of personnel and services.

V. Decrease the economic outcome budget.

Demerits of the unitary government
I. In the unitary system of government the local governments have no power. They carry on
administration depending on the will of the central government.

II. Very often the central government does not know the local problems and grievances. So,
the laws passed by the central government may not be useful according to the needs and
demands of the local government. The local governments don’t have their own

 It does not give the opportunity for local self government and preservation of
certain local peculiarities
III. It may decrease the number or the recognization of the nation and nationalities’ Culture
and language since they are considered as a nation.

IV. People may not have direct right to make decision
V. In the country there may not be a serious control of the local power holders since
the power and authority is held by the central government. If there would have been
separation of power the local governments may take full control of their territory.
VI. Economic development will be limited in one area.
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Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain,
Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Brunei,
Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central
African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo (Brazzaville), Congo
(Kinshasa), Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark,
Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, East Timor, Ecuador, Egypt, El
Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Fiji Islands, Finland, France, Gabon,
Gambia, Georgia, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau,
Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel,
Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kiribati, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan,
Laos, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania,
Luxembourg, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malawi, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Marshall
Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco,
Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand,
Nicaragua, Niger, North Korea, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Palau, Panama, Papua
New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania,
Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines,
Samoa, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore,
Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, South Korea, Sri
Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Syria, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Thailand,
Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu,
Uganda, Ukraine, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Vatican City, Vietnam, Yemen,
Zambia, and Zimbabwe
Civics and Ethical Education Group Research 5

Federal government

A federation (Latin: foedus, foederis, 'covenant'), also known as a
federal state, is a type of sovereign state characterized by a union of
partially self-governing states or regions united by a central (federal)

In the system of administration where the constitution distributes
the powers between the Central Government and the Provincial
Government In a federation, the self-governing status of the
component states is typically constitutionally entrenched and may not
be altered by an Independent decision of the central government.

The form of government or constitutional structure found in a
federation is known as federalism it can be considered the opposite of
another system, the unitary state. Federations may be multi-ethnic, or
cover a large area of territory, although neither is necessarily the case.
Federations are most often founded on an original agreement between
a number of sovereign states based on mutual concerns or interests.
The initial agreements create a stability that encourages other
common interests, brings the disparate territories closer, and gives
them all even more common ground. At some time this is recognized
and a movement is organized to merge more closely. Other times,
especially when common cultural factors are at play such as ethnicity
and language, some of these steps in this pattern are expedited and

This system is there in India and in the United States of America. In the
system there are two types of government: the Central government,
and the state government. The constitution distributes power between
the Central and the State Government. The subjects concerning the
total interest of the states remain under the Central Government and
Civics and Ethical Education Group Research 6

the subjects concerning the local interest remain in the State or
Provincial Government. In the matters of regional administration the
State Government enjoys self-government. In this system of
administration the constitution is written and it is rigid.

Merits of the Federal government
I. In a Federal system the unit or Provincial Governments maintain national unity
keeping their separate entity. The federal system of administration is a political
contrivance. Powers are distributed between the central and the Provincial
Government by the constitution so; the load of works of the central government is
lessened. As a result, the skill of both the governments increases.
II. As there is the distribution of specific powers, the central government does not
interfere with the administration of the provincial government to become
III. Distribution of power among the member states and the central government has 3
()1 It secures peoples’ right to self governance and gives them the chance to
participate this right fully.
()2 It also provides people with opportunity to work together on equal basis
for their common good.
()3 It limits the authority of the central government.

Demerits of the Federal government
I. In this system of administration the state governments create laws for their own
necessity and convenience; so there is no similarity in law and administration in
different state governments. In the different parts of the same state different types
of laws are promulgated.
II. In both, the governments conflict regarding right body up. As the powers are
divided between the two governments the central government becomes weak in
many respects.
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III. A federal state is where sovereignty is shared between relatively sovereign state
governments, and an "umbrella development" government of very limited, clearly
defined power. Neither state nor federal governments have the power to interfere
with the other's powers.
IV. The country or the nation and nationalities may separate due to their self
Federation Major Federating Units Minor Federating Units
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Provinces of
Argentina 23 provinces 1 federal district

States and
1 federal district/territory, 1 major
Australia territories of 6 states
territory, several minor territories

Austria States of Austria 9 Länder or Bundesländer

Divisions of 2 Communities, 2 Regions and 1
Belgium merged Community and Region

Divisions of 2 entities (out of which one is
Bosnia and
Bosnia and itself a federation, consisting of 1 district
Herzegovina 10 cantons)

1 federal district and 5,561
Brazil States of Brazil 26 states

Provinces and
Canada territories of 10 provinces 3 territories

Comoros 3 islands

Regions of
Ethiopia 9 regions 2 chartered cities

States of
Germany 16 Länder or Bundesländer

Republic of States and 7 union territories including a
27 states
India territories of India national capital territory

Governorates of 18 governorates, including the
Iraq autonnmous region ofKurdistan.

Malaysia States of Malaysia 13 states 3 federal territories

Mexico States of Mexico 31 states 1 federal district

States of 4 states

Nigeria States of Nigeria 36 states 1 territory

Provinces and
4 federal territories including a
Pakistan territories of 4 provinces
federal capital territory

21 republics, 46 oblasts, 9 krais,
Russian Federal subjects 1 autonomous oblast, 4
Federation of Russia autonomous okrugs, 2 federal-
level cities[12]

Islands/parishes of
Saint Kitts and
Saint Kitts and 2 islands/14 parishes

Sudan States of Sudan 26 states

Cantons of
Switzerland 26 cantons

United Arab Emirates of the
7 emirates
Emirates UAE

1 federal district; 1 incorporated
United States
The 50 states 50 states territory, 13 unincorporated
of America
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Figure 1 A map showing the federal and unitary states in the world

Key Black Unitary states

White Federal states

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