The number of countries that have adopted federal or decentralized political structures is increasing globally. Currently, around thirty states have been established using a federal model and others have incorporated elements of federalism into their structures in response to recent demands for increased regional autonomy and independence.
Many more states have started to move away from the idea of a culturally unified state and to recognise cultural diversity using federalist solutions. In recent years, most violent conflicts have not been between but rather within states.
These conflicts have different roots, but are usually associated with demands from particular groups for redistribution of power within the state. Peace negotiations are, therefore, successful only if the parties to the conflict are able to redefine state power and to move beyond oppression or assimilation of particular groups in order to create mechanisms for peaceful coexistence in a multicultural state.
In many countries that have not been built on a federal model and which do not wish to devolve power to different levels of government, the question of power distribution has become a central issue. At present, there are very few states that are not dealing, in one form or another, with the issue of decentralization which has as its goal the improvement of the legitimacy or the efficiency of the state by strengthening the democratic process.
Switzerland, with its lengthy tradition as a federalist state that has successfully redistributed power, has a wealth of experience to offer other countries. As a state, Switzerland is quintessentially multicultural and seeks to maintain cultural diversity within the national unit, by effectively resisting centralization tendencies even in times of globalization.
Since its establishment in 1984, the Institute of Federalism, has dealt with issues of federalism, decentralization, state organization, rule of law, democracy and human rights. The Institute is receiving an increasing number of mandates to perform consulting, training and continuing education in this area.
The international component of the Institute acquired such great importance, that since 1997, there has been a separate section dedicated to international cooperation and comparative federalist research. Both the national and the international sections at the Institute continue to work closely together.