Self-governance, self-government, or autonomy is an abstract concept that applies to several scales of organization.

It may refer to personal conduct or family units or to larger scale activities including professions, industry bodies, religions, educational institutions, political units (usually referred to as local government), including autonomous regions or others within nation-states that enjoy some sovereign rights. It falls within the larger context of governance and principles such as consent of the governed, and may involve non-profit organizations and corporate governance.

It can be used to describe a person or many persons or a group being able to exercise all of the necessary functions of power without intervention from any authority that they cannot themselves alter. In addition to describing personal autonomy, "self-rule" is also associated with contexts in which there is the end of colonial rule, absolute government or monarchy as well as demands for autonomy by religious, ethnic or geographic regions which perceive themselves as being unrepresented or underrepresented in a national government. It is, therefore, a fundamental tenet of republican government and democracy as well as of nationalism. Gandhi's term "swaraj" (see also "satygraha") is a branch of this self-rule ideology.

Henry David Thoreau was a major proponent of self-rule in lieu of immoral governments.

Generally when self-governance of nation-states is discussed, it is called national sovereignty, which is an important concept in international law.

Means of self-governance

This article focuses on the self-governance of professions, industries including unions, and formal or informal political units including ethnic or ethical 'nations' not defined by national borders, and of religious organizations, which have professional and political elements. There are many historical examples of such organizations or groups, and some, e.g. the Roman Catholic Church, the Freemasons, the Iroquois Confederacy, have histories going back centuries, including vast bodies of precedent and shared culture and knowledge.

A means of self-governance usually comprises at least the following:

  • An ethical code that outlines acceptable behavior within the unit or group, e.g. the Hippocratic Oath of doctors, or established codes of professional ethics.
  • Some set of criteria whereby an outside legal code or political authority can be called in – unless the group itself opposes such authority, e.g., organized crime groups which are self-governing almost by definition.
  • A means of ensuring that outside authority does not become involved unless and until these criteria are satisfied, usually a code of silence regarding the activities of insiders when conversing with outsiders.
  • A process for registering and resolving grievances, e.g. medical malpractice, union procedures, and for achieving closure regarding them.
  • The power to discipline its own members, ranging from fines and censure up to and including killing them, e.g. the Irish Republican Army, mafia or Tong groups, and militaries (see Uniform Code of Military Justice)
  • A means of controlling parties, factions, tendencies or other sub-groups that seek to break away and form new entities that would compete with the group or organization that already exists.


  • Bird, C. (2000). "The Possibility of Self-Government". The American Political Science Review, 94(3), 563–577.

See also

Aboriginal self-determination

Aboriginal self-determination refers to the governance and decision-making power of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It is the right of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to determine their own political status and pursue their own economic, social and cultural interests. Self-determination asserts that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should direct and implement Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander policy formulation and provision of services. Self-determination encompasses both Aboriginal land rights and self-governance.From the 1970s to 1990s, the Australian government supported aboriginal groups moving from large settlements in remote areas back to outstation communities in formerly traditional lands. Also from the early 1970s, aboriginal communities began running their own health services, legal services, and housing cooperatives.

Autonomous administrative division

An autonomous administrative division (also referred to as an autonomous area, entity, unit, region, subdivision, or territory) is a subdivision or dependent territory of a country that has a degree of self-governance, or autonomy, from an external authority. Typically, it is either geographically distinct from the rest of the country or populated by a national minority. Decentralization of self-governing powers and functions to such divisions is a way for a national government to try to increase democratic participation or administrative efficiency or to defuse internal conflicts. Countries that include autonomous areas may be federacies, federations, or confederations. Autonomous areas can be divided into territorial autonomies, subregional territorial autonomies, and local autonomies.

Borough (Pennsylvania)

In the U.S. commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a borough (sometimes spelled boro) is a self-governing municipal entity, best thought of as a town, usually smaller than a city, but with a similar population density in its residential areas. Sometimes thought of as "junior cities", boroughs generally have fewer powers and responsibilities than full-fledged cities.

Chief minister

A chief minister is an elected or appointed head of government of – in most instances – a sub-national entity, for instance an administrative subdivision or federal constituent entity. Examples include a state (and sometimes a union territory) in India; a territory of Australia; a province of Sri Lanka or Pakistan; a federal province in Nepal; an autonomous region of Philippines; or a British Overseas Territory that has attained self-governance. It is also used as the English version of the title given to the heads of governments of the Malay states without a monarchy.

The title is also used in the Crown dependencies of the Isle of Man (since 1986), in Guernsey (since 2004), and in Jersey (since 2005).

Since 2018 Sierra Leone has a Chief Minister, which is similar to a Prime Minister. Before that, only Milton Margai had the same position between 1954 and 1958.

Cornish nationalism

Cornish nationalism is a cultural, political and social movement that seeks the recognition of Cornwall – the south-westernmost part of the island of Great Britain – as a nation distinct from England. It is usually based on three general arguments:

that Cornwall has a Celtic cultural identity separate from that of England, and that the Cornish people have a national, civic or ethnic identity separate from that of English people;

that Cornwall should be granted a degree of devolution or autonomy, usually in the form of a Cornish national assembly;

and that Cornwall is legally a territorial and constitutional Duchy with the right to veto Westminster legislation, not merely a county of England, and has never been formally incorporated into England via an Act of Union.

Direct rule

Direct rule is when an imperial or central power takes direct control over the legislature, executive and civil administration of an otherwise largely self-governing territory.

Dominion of Newfoundland

Newfoundland was a British dominion from 1907 to 1934 when it surrendered dominion status by ending self-government in exchange for British Royal Commission rule as a crown colony. Newfoundland remained a crown colony until Newfoundland joined Canada as a province. The dominion, situated in northeastern North America along the Atlantic coast, comprised the island of Newfoundland as well as Labrador on the continental mainland. Before attaining dominion status, Newfoundland was a British colony, self-governing from 1855.

Newfoundland was one of the original "dominions" within the meaning of the Balfour Declaration of 1926 and the Statute of Westminster of 1931, accordingly enjoyed a constitutional status equivalent to the other dominions at the time. In 1934, Newfoundland became the only dominion to give up its self-governing status, ending 79 years of self-government.This episode came about due to a crisis in Newfoundland's public finances in 1932. Newfoundland had accumulated a significant amount of debt by building a railway across the island (completed in the 1890s) and by raising its own regiment for the First World War. In November 1932 the government warned that Newfoundland would default on payments on the public debt. The British government quickly established the Newfoundland Royal Commission to inquire into and report on the position. The Commission's report, published in October 1933, recommended that Newfoundland give up its system of self-government temporarily and allow the United Kingdom to administer the dominion through an appointed commission.The Newfoundland parliament accepted this recommendation and presented a petition to the King asking for the suspension of the constitution and the appointment of commissioners to administer the government until the country became self-supporting again. To enable compliance with this request, the United Kingdom Parliament passed the Newfoundland Act 1933, and on 16 February 1934, the UK government appointed six commissioners, three from Newfoundland and three from the UK, with the Governor as chairman. The dominion would never become self-governing again. The system of a six-member Commission of Government continued to govern Newfoundland until it joined Canada in 1949 to become Canada's tenth province.

Gilgit Baltistan Scouts

The Gilgit Baltistan Scouts (reporting name: GB Scouts) are part of the Paramilitary forces of Pakistan, under the direct control of the Ministry of the Interior of the Pakistan Government. The Scouts are an internal security force with the prime objective to protect northern borders of Pakistan and support Civil Administration in ensuring maintenance of law and order anywhere in Pakistan. The force was formerly known as the Northern Areas Scouts but was renamed to the Gilgit Baltistan Scouts in 2011 due to the imposition of "Empowerment and Self Governance Order" in 2009.

Gram panchayat

A gram panchayat (transl. 'village council') or village panchayat is the only grassroots-level of panchayati raj formalised local self-governance system in India at the village or small-town level, and has a sarpanch as its elected head.The failed attempts to deal with local matters at the national level caused, in 1992, the reintroduction of panchayats for their previously used purpose as an organisation for local self-governance. There are about 250,000 gram panchayats in India.

Internal affairs (law enforcement)

The internal affairs refers to a division of a law enforcement agency that investigates incidents and possible suspicions of law-breaking and professional misconduct attributed to officers on the force. It is thus a mechanism of limited self-governance, "a police force policing itself". In different systems, internal affairs can go by other names such as Internal Investigations Division (usually referred to as IID), professional standards, inspectorate general, Office of Professional Responsibility, Internal Review Board, or similar.

Due to the sensitive nature of this responsibility, in many departments, officers employed in an internal affairs unit are not in a detective command but report directly to the agency's chief, or to a board of civilian police commissioners.

Internal affairs investigators are bound by stringent rules when conducting their investigations. In California, the Peace Officers Bill of Rights (POBR) is a mandated set of rules found in the Government Code.

Law of Gibraltar

The law of Gibraltar is a combination of common law

and statute, and is based heavily upon English law.

The English Law (Application) Act of 1962 stipulates that English common law will apply to Gibraltar unless overridden by Gibraltar law. However, as Gibraltar is a self-governing British overseas territory, it maintains its own independent tax status and its parliament can enact laws independently of the United Kingdom.

List of municipalities in Georgia (country)

A municipality (Georgian: მუნიციპალიტეტი, translit.: munitsip'alit'et'i) is a subdivision of Georgia, consisting of a settlement or a group of settlements, which enjoy local self-government. There are two types of municipalities—self-governing cities (ქალაქი, k'alak'i), 5 in total, and self-governing communities (თემი, temi), 67 in total, as of January 2019.

Panchayati raj

The Panchayat raj (Hindi: पंचायती राज panchayat- "village council", raj "rule") is a political system, originating from the Indian subcontinent, found mainly in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. It is the oldest system of local government in the Indian subcontinent, and historical mentions date to the 250 CE period. The word raj means "rule" and panchayat means "assembely”(ayat) of five (panch). Traditionally panchayats consisted of wise and respected elders chosen and accepted by the local community. However, there were varying forms of such assemblies. Traditionally, these assemblies settled disputes between individuals and between villages.

The leader of the panchayat was often called the mukhiya, sarpanch or pradhan, an elected or generally acknowledged position. The modern panchayati raj of India and its gram panchayats are not to be confused with either the traditional system nor with the extra-constitutional khap panchayats (or caste panchayats) found in parts of northern India.

Mahatma Gandhi advocated panchayat raj as the foundation of India's political system. It would have been a decentralised form of government where each village would be responsible for its own affairs. The term for such a vision was Gram Swaraj ("village self-governance"). Instead India developed a highly centralised form of government. However, this has been moderated by the decentralisation of several administrative functions to the local level, empowering elected gram panchayats. There are significant differences between the traditional panchayati raj system, that envisioned by Gandhi, and the system formalised in India in 1992.The system is also found in Trinidad and Tobago.

Public holidays in Iceland

Public holidays in Iceland are established by the act of the Icelandic parliament. The public holidays are the religious holidays of the Church of Iceland and the first day of summer, May Day, the Icelandic National Day. In addition, Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve are holidays from 1PM.There are also twelve official flag days in Iceland, some of which are not public holidays. On a flag day all government buildings fly the flag. Although citizens are not obliged to do it, most people do, if they have a flagpole.


Pulpally is a mid-sized town in Wayanad District of Kerala, India. Geographically a Village in Sultan Bathery Taluk and a "Grama Panchayath" under local self governance system. It is about 24 km from Sultan Battery, and is almost surrounded by forest.

Self-governance of Singapore

The self-governance of Singapore was carried out in several stages. Since Singapore's founding in 1819, Singapore had been under the colonial rule of the United Kingdom. The first local elections on a limited scale for several positions in the government of Singapore started in 1948 following an amendment to the Constitution of Singapore.

This was further amended with the Rendel Constitution, strengthening local representation. Singapore was granted full internal self-government in 1959, but the colonial administration still controlled external relations and shared control of several key internal policies such as internal security.

In 1963, Singapore joined Malaysia, relieving it of colonial rule and becoming an autonomous state within the Malaysian federation. After a fallout in the relations between the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) and the People's Action Party (PAP), the ruling parties of the Federation and Singapore respectively, full independence came about with Singapore's expulsion from Malaysia in 1965.

Self-governing colony

In the British Empire, a self-governing colony was a colony with an elected government in which elected rulers were able to make most decisions without referring to the colonial power with nominal control of the colony. Most self-governing colonies had responsible government.

Self-governing colonies for the most part have no formal authority over constitutional matters such the monarchy and the constitutional relationship with Britain. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, in London, serves as the ultimate avenue of appeal in matters of law and justice.

Colonies have sometimes been referred to as "self-governing" in situations where the executive has been under the control of neither the imperial government nor a local legislature elected by universal suffrage, but by a local oligarchy state. In most cases such control has been exercised by an elite class from a settler community.


Swarāj (Hindi: स्वराज swa- "self", raj "rule") can mean generally self-governance or "self-rule", and was used synonymously with "home-rule" by Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati and later on by Mohandas Gandhi, but the word usually refers to Gandhi's concept for Indian independence from foreign domination. Swaraj lays stress on governance, not by a hierarchical government, but by self governance through individuals and community building. The focus is on political decentralisation. Since this is against the political and social systems followed by Britain, Gandhi's concept of Swaraj advocated India's discarding British political, economic, bureaucratic, legal, military, and educational institutions. S. Satyamurti, Chittaranjan Das and Motilal Nehru were among a contrasting group of Swarajists who laid the foundation for parliamentary democracy in India.

Although Gandhi's aim of totally implementing the concepts of Swaraj in India was not achieved, the voluntary work organisations which he founded for this purpose did serve as precursors and role models for people's movements, voluntary organisations, and some of the non-governmental organisations that were subsequently launched in various parts of India. The student movement against oppressive local and central governments, led by Jayaprakash Narayan, and the Bhoodan movement, which presaged demands for land reform legislation throughout India, and which ultimately led to India's discarding of the Zamindari system of land tenure and social organisation, were also inspired by the ideas of Swaraj.

Tsung Tsin Mission of Hong Kong

The Tsung Tsin Mission of Hong Kong or TTMHK (Chinese: 基督教香港崇真會) is one of the eight Lutheran bodies in Hong Kong. It currently has approximately 10,600 members.The current president of TTMHK is Elder Wong Fook Yee.

Autonomous types of first-tier subdivision administration
Unitary state
See also


This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.