In July, many of us had the opportunity to meet at the annual AESOP Congress in Lodz, Poland. Under the umbrella of the TG, we organized a track (Track 4 “Integrated Planning over the borders”) with six papers sessions, a roundtable (Roundtable 9 “Planning across borders in times of war and geopolitical conflict”) and an in-person TG meeting. In this message, I want to summarize some of the discussions we had at the AESOP Congress, and give an outlook of the activities for the rest of the year. Please also note that the TG report from 2022 which summarizes previous activities is available to read on the TG website: https://aesop-planning.eu/thematic-groups/transboundary-planning-and-governance
Follow up “Planning across borders in times of war and geopolitical conflict”: The roundtable at AESOP was well attended and highlighted the connections and clashes between transboundary planning and geopolitical events and conflicts. All organisers and speakers voiced an interest in continuing discussion on the subject, and in our TG meeting, we contemplated various strategies and activities to follow-up on the theme:
- Academic reflection on transboundary planning in times of war and conflict: A short academic reflection on the roundtable to share our discussions with a broader audience.
- Planning education acknowledging war and crisis situations: Thinking about “blind spots” related to war and crisis situations in planning education and communicating these ideas to the AESOP community.
- Pan for Ukraine network: This existing network of schools of planning and architecture in Germany supports Ukrainian students and researchers. Please check the website (https://www.panforukraine.de/about/ ) and get in touch if you want to contribute or participate.
- Learning from other disciplines: Planning research (in Europe) seems to have little grasp on conflict and war, and the role of planning therein. There could be opportunities to learn from other disciplines, such as foreign policy, related to how transboundary planning could deal with conflict or even attempt to mitigate it.
- Support regeneration in Ukraine: Although the war is still ongoing, the regeneration of Ukraine will also pose a challenge in the future. How could we support this process from an academic perspective? One idea was to review relevant articles on regeneration and post-war development and organizing an online session aimed at learning about the issue.
- Facing challenging interpersonal situations head-on: As humans, we often tend to avoid interpersonal conflicts and act like they don’t exist, for example by limiting interaction of students from potentially conflicting backgrounds (e.g. Ukraine – Russia, Serbia – Kosovo, …). However, such behavior might just conceal conflicts and in the long run avoid that wounds really heal. Could there be strategies to face challenging interpersonal situations head-on, instead of pretending they don’t exist? It is not yet determined what the concrete format or outcome of this activity could be, but it might be an issue faced by many in the classroom or workplace, and therefore worth discussing.
Communicate concerns to policy maker: While we might be eagerly discussing among academics, communication with policy makers is sometimes still a challenge, also in relation to the theme of geopolitical conflict. A recent communication related to the EU’s adherence to the OECD Council Recommendation on “Regional Development Policy” for example does not acknowledge the war in Europe and potential implications for regional development policy. Could we contribute to an increasing acknowledgement of connections and clashes between transboundary planning and geopolitical events and conflicts in policy circles? The initial idea was to direct comments to and share our discussions with representatives from public actors such as the European Commission.
In Lodz, we agreed that not all of these activities would be led by the TG coordinators, but that we would be happy to help with matchmaking among interested persons. If you are interested in developing a certain idea further or contributing in some way, please be in touch and I will connect you with others who have voiced their interest.
TG meeting: Our next TG meeting will take place in December 2023 online. In due time, I will share a date and agenda for the meeting, as well as a link to participate. Please note that we are more than happy to accommodate additions to the agenda and tailor the discussion to your ideas.
AESOP 2024 in Paris: Together with the Local Organizing Committee, we are currently drafting a track description for our track "BORDERS" at the upcoming AESOP Congress in Paris, taking place July 8-12 2024. We will keep you posted on the details and the call for abstracts. If you have any ideas for roundtables and special session for the upcoming congress, please don’t hesitate to be in touch. We are happy to host relevant activities in our track, or facilitate organization where possible (e.g. suggest speakers from our TG list).
Currently, the AESOP Young Academics network is hosting a call for co-chairs among early career researchers. If you are interested to co-chair our track (Track 4: Borders), please apply here by September 30th: https://aesop-youngacademics.net/news/ya-news/co-chair-call-for-aesop-congress-2024-in-paris
Finally, I want to extend again a big thank you to everyone who contribute to our TG activities in Lodz, especially track co-chairs Annalisa Rollandi and Sylwia Dołzbłasz, roundtable organizers Alois Humer and Jörg Knieling, roundtable speakers Erblin Berisha, Maros Finka, Jens Kurnol, Franziska Sielker and Jacek Zaucha, and of course everyone who presented their work in our track, participated in the lively discussion and attended the TG meeting!
Eva & Alois