Territorial authorities are French administrative structures, separate from State administration, which have responsibility for the interests of the population in a defined territory.
The following are defined as territorial authorities :
- municipalities ;
- departments along with the five overseas departments ;
- regions along with the five overseas regions ;
- authorities with a special status ;
- overseas authorities.
New Caledonia (archipelago of Oceania located in Melanesia) is a so-called sui generis ("of its own kind") authority, that is, a territorial authority of the French Republic and not an overseas authority (COM).
The term local authority is a common-language description of what the French Constitution calls a "territorial authority". Indeed, until the constitutional revision of 28 March 2003, both terms featured in the Constitution: local authority in Article 34 and territorial authority in Title XII. But since then, only the latter expression appears in the Constitution. Authorities are therefore now "territorial" and the expression "local authority" has no legal basis.