Power Sharing and the Vertical Layering of Authority: A Review of Current Practices

Published in Settling Self-determination Disputes: Complex Power Sharing in Theory and Practice (edited by Marc Weller and Barbara Metzger, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2008), this chapter analyses state construction in complex power-sharing systems from the perspective of how authority is distributed at and between vertical layers of authority. The empirical basis for this analysis is provided by eight recent cases of self-determination conflicts where attempts have been made to resolve them by establishing complex power-sharing institutions: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bougainville, Gagauzia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Mindanao, Northern Ireland and South Ossetia. Following this empirical analysis, I then assess the relevance of the vertical layering of authority within complex power-sharing systems by comparing and contrasting all eight cases from the perspective of the types of institutional structures; the combination of vertical and horizontal power-sharing mechanisms; the distribution of powers at and between different vertical layers of authority; the types of coordination between different vertical layers of authority; the constitutional and legal entrenchment of the institutions created; and territory and population as boundaries of authority. Following this thematic comparison, I examine three common and potentially problematic issues relating to the vertical layering of public authority in complex power-sharing systems: the relationship between vertical and horizontal layers of power-sharing, the coordination of government activities at and between these different layers, and the overall political institutional settlement within which vertically and horizontally structured institutions have to operate. Synthesising this discussion, I conclude by outlining the role that the vertical layering of authority can play as part of a power-sharing “toolkit” by examining the main types of institutional structures and mechanisms of policy coordination and by assessing their context dependence.