Richard Falk, the United Nations Special Reporter on Palestinian human rights
U.N. Representative Richard Falk is calling for the creation of a world capital, and wants it to be in Istanbul, Turkey. Falk, the Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton and a Visiting Distinguished Professor in Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, says Istanbul meets his criteria for a world capital, pointing to its move away from secularization. What Falk failed to point out in his essay is that Turkey is 99.8 percent Muslim and suppresses non-Muslim voices and non-Muslim viewpoints.
Nevertheless, Falk says the idea of a world city is most often associated with being a centre of world trade and finance, but it usually also has cultural and tourist destinations that attracts visitors. He points out that the rankings of world cities shift over time, reflecting economic and political times. He says places like Rome, Alexandria, Baghdad, Vienna, Venice and Athens were world cities during their peaks of power. But Falk states that the terminology of “global cities” is assigned without any agreed criteria, lacks diplomatic relevance from the perspective of international law, and the idea that there exists one or more “global capital” is nowhere referenced on standard world maps and remains a completely constructed category of status and identity.”
Falk claims there is a “new phenomenon that is particularly associated with economic globalization and the main technological innovations of the past century that has given rise to the idea of designating one city as the centre of the world, as the world capital”. He says “the claim and perception of being “the world capital” is both a social and political construction that is connected with the realities of global leadership” (i.e. one world government and one world leader). He says the idea of “a world order” that was basically constituted by the principal cities of the world does suggest an alternate pathway to peace, sustainability, justice and world order that is at fundamental variance from the preoccupation of sovereign states with national security.”
Falk says that some are now insisting that Beijing be a world capital more or less equivalent, in status, to Washington. He adds that proposals have also been made to establish Jerusalem as an international city, not only because such a step would contribute to a sustainable and just peace between Israel and Palestine, but because of its sacred and historical engagement with the three Abrahamic religions. He believes the geographical seats of the great world religions do have a centrality for the more devout among the faithful as illustrated by the great pilgrimages to Rome to visit the Vatican or the journey taken by religious Muslims to their most holy site of worship.
He further states “that the idea of proposing a global capital is a defensible endeavor if we take into account the degree of integration that has been achieved by markets, by globally constituted battlefields, by changing geopolitical patterns, by struggles to generate global policy that is commensurate with such collective goods problems as climate change and nuclear weaponry, by global travel and globalization of political identity and the dispersion of families throughout the planet by migration and forced displacement.”
He also states that though Turkey has some severely troublesome internal problems, especially its inability to accommodate the grievances of 12-15 million Kurdish minority and important international unresolved issues such as its relationship with the Armenian diaspora and its various tensions with Israel, Greece, Cyprus, Syria and Iran, that even so, Istanbul’s candidacy for a global city should be considered. He also points to the fact that Istanbul has had a spectacular building boom in recent years, with shopping malls and upper income restaurants and hotels.
Falk asks “How can Istanbul be seriously considered for a global capital?” He answers that increasingly, “Istanbul is a city of choice for international travelers. It has also become a secure and acceptable place to hold the most delicate diplomatic discussions, whether involving such regional issues as Syria and Iran, or wider concerns about Afghanistan and Africa. Istanbul is convenient to reach for global gatherings, and Turkish Airlines was recently selected as the best in Europe. Important, also, is the fact that Turkey is not Europe, which is more than a geographic description, being a cultural and religious reflection, as well. It may be perceived more favorably by non-Western constituencies. Turkey also has gained economic and political credibility at a time when so many important states have either been treading water so as to remain afloat.”
Falk then asks, “But is not such acclaim for Turkey irrelevant to the advancement of Istanbul as global capital?” and answers, “Istanbul was a treasure trove of cultural eminence unmatched elsewhere and a subtle reminder, through its extraordinary mosque architecture, of its former religious stature as the home of the Islamic Caliphate. Turkey also geopolitically and geographically provides a unique set of linkages between Europe and Asia, Europe and the Middle East, Europe and Africa, and offers the world a more cosmopolitan understanding of the Mediterranean world.”
Falk believes that by considering Istanbul as a possible future capital of the world, we are heralding the advent of soft power geopolitics, as well as responding to the receptivity of Turkey as a state willing to provide the peoples of the world with a safe haven for dialogue, negotiation, empathy and the satisfactions of a post-Western world civilization. We are also recognizing the geographical and geopolitical convenience of Istanbul as a crossroads connecting several civilizations and religious traditions.” He ends saying that such a proposal can be put “forward partly in response to an interpretation of trends in our globalizing world, and also as an expression of the kind of flourishing future that will most likely be of most benefit the peoples of the world.”
According to Falk, the world needs a global capital and it should be the capital of Islamic Turkey, Istanbul. He wrote his Nov. 1, 2012, opinion piece for the controversial al Jazeera English site calling for the “global capital.” While Turkey is a longstanding U.S. ally and a member of NATO, its nearly 80 million population is almost completely Muslim, according to the CIA Factbook. Its Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has verbally attacked Israel over access to Gaza and is very critical of Israel in general when it comes to Israeli and Palestinian relations. And as recently as March of 2012, Erdogan urged Israel to “stop the brutal attack against Palestinians and stop the massacre and bloodshed.” Speaking at Egypt’s Cairo University on Saturday, Erdogan said Israel has once again committed every type of inhumane act to turn the region into a bloodbath, adding that Turkey strongly condemns such acts, the Anatolia news agency reported. He also vowed to support the Palestinians and demanded that Israel end the assaults.
The U.S. Embassy in Turkey also recently sent out an “emergency message” for U.S. citizens warning of “a planned anti-American march/protest” in Istanbul. The march was a protest against the YouTube video claimed by critics to be anti-Islamic. “The Department of State strongly recommends avoiding the march/protest location as well as any other large crowds that may gather in Istanbul to protest against the controversial video that has created other demonstrations throughout the world,” explained the warning. With these things understood, it seems the suggestion of a world capital in Istanbul is not very feasible. Falk recommended what al Jazeera called a “modest proposal” that should move the world past “the persisting tendency to view the hierarchy of global cities from a West-centric perspective.” Falk said choosing Istanbul as a world capital would be good because Turkey could provide the “satisfactions of a post-Western world civilization” (i.e. the fall of America and Europe from world powers?)
Istanbul’s location astride two continents has afforded it the title Capital of the World more frequently than any other city. In the 21st century, Istanbul’s claim is legitimized by more than mere geography. The city today is at the forefront in adapting to the great changes of globalization and modernity. As global populations continue to migrate to urban areas and megacities become the norm in developing countries, some believe that Istanbul has managed to become one of the best models, though an imperfect one. In 2010, the EU anointed the city with the prestigious European Capital of Culture award.
In terms of being a political or economic powerhouse, Istanbul has not been compared to ancient Rome since the Middle Ages, and will not likely approach the status of Washington or London in the immediate future. But it is an interesting point that Constantine, when founding his capital city, christened it Nea Roma, “New Rome.” I find that an interesting side note, considering that many believe the Biblical Babylon of Revelation is Rome.
- UN Representative Calls For Establishing A ‘World Capital’ – In Islamic Istanbul (lynleahz.com)
- Further Reflections on Istanbul as Global Capital (richardfalk.wordpress.com)
- Istanbul: A Modest Proposal (richardfalk.wordpress.com)
- U.N. rep calls for ‘world capital’ … in Islamic Istanbul (wnd.com)