Town Planning Review 89.4 features ‘Viewpoint: Thoughts on internationalism and planning’ by Ben Davy. In Town Planning Review 90.1, the first issue of 2019, Klaus Kunzmann contributed his paper ‘Viewpoint: Why not Italian? Differences matter! A comment on Ben Davy’s Viewpoint in TPR on ‘Thoughts on internationalism and planning’. Below, Ben Davy describes his paper and shares his thoughts on the subject.
Ben Davy’s paper in 89.4 will be free to read for a limited time here.
When I joined the team of Town Planning Review’s co-editors in November 2017, I had just come back from a UN Climate Change Conference where I had experienced an awkward, even embarrassing situation that made me think hard about the importance of internationalism (if you want to know more about this situation, please check my Viewpoint here). Despite my reflection, I have not been able to present a clear view on internationalism and planning. At least, Professor Klaus R. Kunzmann, my esteemed colleague from the University of Dortmund, thinks that my thoughts on internationalism and planning are »opaque«. He also assumes that differences do not matter to me, and that Mozart’s Zauberflöte best be performed in Italian. Since I prefer to listen to Emanuel Schikaneder’s original libretto (in German), I better hold my tongue on the Magic Flute.
So, what’s my view on internationalism and why it is important to planners? As I am writing this blog entry, the international community – or, at least, those parts of the international community that are still committed to internationalism – celebrate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a textbook example of internationalism. The Universal Declaration was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in December 1948, and 70 years later, global human rights have failed many tests in the real world which is still filled with injustice, violence, humiliation, and terror. Global human rights, however, have also sharpened our perception of territorial sovereignty (as limited) and the rights of every woman, man, or child against national governments (as augmented). Both achievements are today called into question by the Universal Declaration of Human Hate constantly streamed on Twitter, Facebook, and other anti-social media. In my Viewpoint, I am emphasizing the need to learn about and understand others because learning and understanding are entrenched elements of internationalism. I am happy that Professor Kunzmann and I seem to agree on this point because he announces that »[t]o this end Ben Davy is absolutely right.«
In my Viewpoint, I take the role of internationalism as an instrument of building world peace even a bit further—by taking it back several centuries. Internationalism is a child of neither the internet nor YouTube. Roman law was codified in the 6th century A.D. with a clear conception of ius gentium, the law of all peoples. Although legal internationalism always also has been an instrument of hegemony, international law can be considered, as Martti Koskenniemi thinks, the »gentle civilizer of nations«. On a much smaller scale, but very dear to me, planning can play a similar role which is not opaque, but much needed. Planning can be the »gentle civilizer« of land users worldwide. Although land use planning is always sub-national, planners benefit from an international exchange with other planners. In fact, many associations and networks already exist and trade knowledge and ideas between planners, who are curious about what goes on in other countries and other planning systems. Among these associations are the Association of African Planning Schools (AAPS; www.africanplanningschools.org.za), the Asian Planning School Association (APSA; http://apsaweb.org/), the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP; www.acsp.org), the Association of European Schools of Planning (AESOP; www.aesop-planning.eu) and other members of the Global Planning Education Association Network (GPEAN). Not in all, but in many discussions within these networks, English is the working language of choice. Italian or German are not. Appreciating this fact is not evidence of ignoring differences, it merely acknowledges that most congress hosts cannot afford to hire translators.