Difference Between Federation and Confederation

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: April 30, 2023

       

Difference Between Federation and Confederation

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Introduction 

It is the membership between the member states that differentiate between a confederation and federation membership. The former may also be described as a voluntary membership of its delegates, while the membership in a federation is not. Often confederation may be misplaced for federation in writing or conversations. However, it is important to know that they are more different in many aspects and not similar and hence strict usage of correct terms put forth by the recent political systems. Some nations which started as confederations may still take this name in their titles even after their official conversion to federations. One such example is that of Switzerland. 

Another example that can be listed is the USA, which was initially a confederation that later converted into a federation after joining the constitution. The United States of America was a confederation before it became a federation with the ratification of the current U.S. constitution in 1788.

Federation Vs. Confederation 

Confederation is involved usually in creating a relaxed union for matters of political, economic, or administrative convenience and is often temporary. The main focuses and aims are on its agreement on joint foreign policy and defense matters but may limit its capability to that. The central authority is appointed by the member states.

On the other hand, in the case of a federation, goals may be finalized by the supreme constitution. However, the execution belongs in the hands of the primary people who are involved in activities including economic, legal, and defense aspects that affect also its member states.

Difference Between Federation and Confederation in Tabular Form.

Main parameters of comparison  Confederation Federation
Held by Held by its member states themselves. In this entity, the federal government is accountable to the member states However, in the decision-making process, each member state is given its own and equal authority. Sovereignty is held by the federal government. In a Federation, the federal government will have the ultimate authority and power, and the member states act subordinate to it and abide by the decisions adequately. 
Authority The central authority is usually appointed by the member states itself. This federal government governs the member states, here the governing body has more power and is independent of the member state subordination.
Rights and powers  Once the objectives are fulfilled, the confederation can dissolve its union and can break away from the union. Hence it is not a very strong union but rather more of a flexible and loose union of its members. Confederation focuses and aims at its agreement on joint foreign policy and defense matters, but may limit its capability to that. This government formation is usually a rigid and strong one. Goals are finalized by the supreme constitution. However, the execution belongs in the hands of the primary people who are involved in activities including economic, legal, and defense aspects that affect also its member states.
Examples Confederation of Madya-as, New England Confederation, Switzerland, United States of America (1781-1789). United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Estonia, Russia, Iraq, Malaysia, Australia, Sudan, and many more.

What is Federation?

A federation can involve the creation of a new state, but the confederation does not create any new state. The term "federation" describes associations of governments that create centralized executive powers to execute policies or oversee cooperative operations. These organisations can be driven largely by political or economic considerations in certain instances or by military goals in others. In this form of organizing government, the ruling government is more powerful and the member states are obligated to the decisions taken by the government.

Some Examples Of Federation That Can Be Listed Are:

  • The European Union (EU) is a supranational organization that, without a strict classification, actually has both confederal and federal aspects. Its forerunners, the European Communities (EC), which included the European Coal and Steel Community, founded in 1952, the European Economic Community (Common Market), founded in 1958, and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom), developed executive machinery quickly.  The EU inherited this executive authority when the communities were integrated under the EU in 1993. Nonetheless, in spite of the EU's centralised executive apparatus (a key feature of a federal system), every member government retains a substantial measure of national sovereignty—an important aspect of confederal arrangements.
  • The United Nations, is another example of a system that does not fall into any particular classification.  Its memebership includes 190 states, which has grown from the original 51 states by the early 21st century. The responsibilities of this organisation have been mentioned in the Charter which include, internataional peace and security, maintaining friendly relations among states, international cooperation in solving issues at the political, economic and cultural level. This structure consists of a Security Council of five permanent members (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and 10 nonpermanent members elected for two-year terms, a General Assembly.

What is Confederation?

A confederation is a union of Multiple member States who comes together and adopt a common Constitution. In other words, a confederation is a relaxed union of some sovereign states where the member states retain their sovereign power even after the formation of the confederation. It means that each of the member states carries on their sovereign identity and autonomous political and economic policies even after forming the union. Hence, it is these member states that elect the forming government which hence is considered usually weak in comparison to the federation.

The confederating states evolve some common defense and foreign policy or some other issues based on common interest. Federation involves the creation of a new state. On the other hand, a federation is not a new state but a union of states for collective action.

The member states get together under the umbrella of an organization for some specific and temporary purposes. Hence, in fulfilling their objectives, the confederation might dissolve or the member states can break away from the union. Hence it is not a very strong union but rather more of a flexible and loose union of its members.

For the same reason, they can be also referred to as confederations, voluntary associations of states that work for some common purpose, commonly conclude on specific limitations on their freedom of action, and establish some consultation or deliberation. The limitations on the decision-making may be pronounced when it comes to the point that the member states must consult with each other before taking some independent action. Its members generally have equal status from the confederation.

Some Examples That Can Be Listed Are:

  • Swiss cantons preceded the federal union of modern Switzerland. Similarly, the German Confederation of the 19th century (the Deutsche Bund) is the predecessor of the modern Germany’s federal arrangements, and the federal constitution of the United States is the successor to the government of the Articles of Confederation.
  • There have been also identified cases in which confederations have replaced more centralized arrangements, such as, for example when empires break down and get replaced by voluntary associations of their former colonies. For example, the French community, the Commonwealth, which was formerly (1931–49) the British Commonwealth of Nations.
  • The Articles of Confederation (1781–89), which came before the United States Constitution, are another illustration of confederal agreements that gave rise to a federal union. According to the Articles, a Congress of the Confederation was a unicameral body made up of ambassadors from the 13 states, with each having one vote.. Congress was further authorized to appoint an executive committee of states
  • Another confederation that developed as a result of the decentralisation and eventual collapse of an empire is the Commonwealth. The United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, the Irish Free State (Ireland), Newfoundland, New Zealand, and the Union of South Africa were its founding members in 1931. Later, Newfoundland became a province of Canada, and Ireland withdrew from the Commonwealth. In 1961 South Africa also came out of the organization, although it rejoined in 1994. Recently, Commonwealth had grown to include more than 50 members. It also had embraced countries—i.e., Mozambique (1995) and Rwanda (2009)—that lacked colonial ties to Britain.   
  • The Statute of Westminster (1931) established that all members were equal in rights and status. This body is responsible for organizing meetings, keeping the membership informed, and to implements its collective decisions. As a result, its member nations have enjoyed trade advantages, technical support, and educational exchanges. The Commonwealth established a mission to advance democracy, economic prosperity, and human rights in the latter half of the 20th century.

Main Difference Between Federation and Confederation in Points

Definition

A Federation is a political entity of regional states or constituents united into a single group with centralized control while a confederation is a more or less permanent union of sovereign states according to common interests and political, economic, or even administrative convenience.

Powers and Decision Making

The federal government which governs the member states acts as the ultimate or central authority in decision making with shared rights. Whereas, in the case of a confederation, the central authority is usually a weak nominal body appointed by the member states.

Sovereignty

The member states in a federation lose their sovereignty and are controlled by the central authority while the member states in a confederation retain their sovereignty even after their union. This is the main difference between the Federation and Confederation.

Membership

The membership in a federation becomes mandatory while the membership in a confederation is voluntary to the states, which gives its members power that is equal among all members. Therefore, the members of a confederation can leave the union at any time they wish, which shows the weakness in its organization.

Constitution

The Federation has its written constitution while the confederation does not have a written constitution.

Resolutions

The resolutions passed by federations and the member states are bound to obey and enforce them. On the contrary, the resolutions passed by the Confederation are not of the status of law. It usually does not bind the member states to enforce them.

The limits

The limit of the association in a confederation is not as deep as in a federation. In other words, a federation is a strict union while a confederation is more or less a relaxed union.

 Some Examples of countries with each form of government 

Some examples of federations are America, Russia, China, Belgium, Austria, Australia, Germany, Switzerland, etc. Some examples of Confederation are the EU, confederations in North America, the Old Swiss Confederacy, Confederation of the Rhine, etc.

Conclusion 

Federation and Confederation are two different forms of government systems that exist from the early 16 the centuries in the world. The federation system usually involves states consisting of large territories with several provinces and regions while the confederation is usually among autonomous states with common political and economic objectives. 

The main difference between federation and confederation lies in the sovereign status of their members, and the right and ownership offered to their members, especially in case of the decision-making process and others. A federation is a strict union while a confederation is more or less a relaxed union.

Confederation is involved usually in creating a relaxed union for matters of political, economic, or administrative convenience and is often temporary. The main focuses and aims are on its agreement on joint foreign policy and defense matters but may limit its capability to that. The central authority is appointed by the member states.

References

  • https://www.britannica.com/topic/political-system/Confederations-and-federations

Category

Law


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"Difference Between Federation and Confederation." Diffzy.com, 2024. Thu. 29 Feb. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-federation-and-confederation-1140>.



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