Difference Between Federation and Confederation

The main difference between federation and confederation is that the sovereignty of the members of a federation expires with their formation, while the members of a confederation retain their sovereignty even after the formation of the confederation.

The federation therefore usually consists of sub-regions within one state, while the confederation consists of several states. Federation and confederation are different political concepts and systems that focus on the administrative system between states.

Member States' membership in a federation is not voluntary, while membership in a confederation is voluntary. Therefore, the members of a confederation can revoke their membership at any time, unlike in a federation.

Key areas covered

1. What is a federation - definition, characteristics, characteristics, 2. What is a confederation - definition, characteristics, characteristics 3. What is the difference between covenant and covenant - comparison of the main differences

key terms

Confederation, federation, politics

Difference Between Federation and Confederation - Comparative Summary

What is a Federation?

The prevailing political system of federalism is the basis of the concept of federation. A federation is a political unit that is characterized by the unification of partially self-governing provinces, states or other regions under a central (federal) government. As a rule, the states with large territories with numerous provinces and regions follow the concept of federation.

In other words, a federation is a form of government in which sovereign power is formally divided between the central authority and the other sub-regions. This helps maintain control over these other constitutional regions in terms of both their internal and external affairs.

This separation of powers between the electorate and the central government takes place in accordance with a recognized written constitution. This is done after an initial agreement with the leaders of these subregions in terms of common interests, common goals, etc., in order to avoid and reduce differences between them and encourage them to stand up for a common goal as a new state.

Key difference - Federation vs. Confederation

Figure 1: Flag of the Russian Federation

In addition, while the constituent members, i.e. the provinces and the other regions, may lose their sovereign power under this system of government, they may also to some extent their independent governments in terms of separate laws, traditions and customs etc. Members of a federation however, are required to respect the authority of the central government, particularly in relation to defense, military and security matters, foreign policy, international relations and diplomacy, economic matters such as exchange rates, etc.

Some examples of federations are Canada, Russia, United States, China, India, and Australia.

What is Confederation?

A confederation is an association of states that retain their sovereignty and sometimes adopt a common constitution. In other words, a confederation is a loose association of several sovereign states in which the member states retain their sovereign power even after the confederation is formed. This means that the member states retain their sovereign identity and autonomous political and economic policy even after the Union has been founded.

For example, states come together in a confederation and create a loose (often temporary) union for political, economic or administrative reasons. The Confederate States develop common defense and foreign policy or other issues of common interest. Therefore, it is not a matter of a new state, but of an amalgamation of different autonomous states for the purpose of collective action, which often affects other states.

The member states gather under the umbrella of one organization for specific and temporary purposes. As a result, the confederation may dissolve if its objectives are met or the member states may break out of the union.

Difference Between Federation and Confederation

Figure 2: Confederation of the Rhine, first meeting of the member states

Otherwise, the resolutions of the central organization of the federal government do not affect the legal status; they are more academic or trying to achieve their common goals. So they do not have to be enforced by the courts of the Member States. This is different with the members of an association.

Difference Between Federation and Confederation


The federation is a political unit of regional states or constituents united into a single group with centralized control, while the confederation is a more or less permanent association of sovereign states according to common interests and political, economic or even administrative purposes.

Central Authority

The federal government, which governs the member states, acts as the central authority of the federal government, while the central authority in a confederation is usually a weak nominal body appointed by the member states.

New state

The federation is the creation of a new state, but the confederation does not create a new state.


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


Federation membership becomes compulsory, while confederation membership is voluntary for countries. Therefore, members of a confederation can withdraw from the union at any time.


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


The decisions of the federations concern the laws of the federal government and the member states that obey and enforce them. On the contrary, the decisions of the federal government have no legal character; they are mostly academic, or common foreign policy, etc. and therefore do not oblige the member states to enforce them.


The extent of association in a confederation is not as deep as in a federation. In other words, a federation is a rigid association while a confederation is more or less a loose association.


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


Federation and confederation are two forms of systems of government in the world. We can see the federation system in states made up of large territories with multiple provinces and regions, while the confederation is usually made up of autonomous states with common political and economic goals. The main difference between federation and confederation lies in the sovereign status of their members after the formation of the confederation.


1. “Difference: Confederation and Federation | States | Political Science. "Political Science Notes, March 28, 2017, available here . 2." Federation ". Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, June 21, 2018, available here . 3." Confederation ". Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, June 19, 2018, here available .

Image courtesy:

1. "State flag of Russia (alternative)" By Osipov Georgiy Nokka - own work, public domain) via Commons Wikimedia 2. " First meeting of the Rhine Confederation " by contemporary engraving c. 1806 - (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia

About the author: Upen

Upen, BA (Honors) in Languages ​​and Linguistics, has academic experience and knowledge of international relations and politics. Her academic interests are English language, European and Oriental languages, internal affairs and international politics, and psychology.