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A Critique On Liberal Internationalism

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By Waleed Tariq:

Liberalism is a school of thought in International Relations that emphasizes the rights and freedoms of the individual and the need to limit the powers of government (Britannica Encyclopedia). Liberal Internationalism as a theory emanated in 1919 on the basis of work of two British theorists: Norman Engel and Alfred Zimmon. It is also inspired by the ideas of American President, Woodrow Wilson.

The principles that have classically defined liberalism are that human nature is good altruistic, violence is the product of evil institutions that motivate them to indulge in evil acts and humans are always concerned about other people’s welfare.

Robert Jackson writes that liberals generally take a positive view of human nature. They have great faith in human reason and they are convinced that rational principles can be applied to international affairs. Liberals believe in formation a modern, liberal state that will bring ‘the greatest happiness in the greatest number’. It also outlines the fact that individuals are self-centered and competitive up to a certain point but also share interests and thus engage in collaborative and cooperative social action, domestically as well as internationally, resulting in benefits for everyone.

The belief in progress is core liberal assumption, primarily focusing on individual progress as it will enlarge their capacity and capabilities resulting in greater happiness and contentment. All this enhances the scope of international cooperation as an end result.

In order to gain cooperative international relations, Liberal Internationalists have presented a set of solutions through which these aims and objectives can be achieved.

Transnational relations between private individuals, groups and societies are encouraged for a more peaceful environment. This leads to a security community that is a group of people integrating with each other on the basis of culture and commerce exchange; hence achieving increased social communication, greater mobility of persons and stronger economic ties. This also helps in developing a mutually dependent relationship between its people and governments. Higher level of transnational relations mean higher level of interdependence thus welfare issues become more important.

International institutions promote cooperation between states and alleviate problems concerning lack of trust between states and also reduce states’ fear of each other.

According to Michael Doyle, promotions of Republican Democracies ensure greater peaceful conflict resolution as democracies do not go to war with each other. Also common moral values and economic interdependence act as a hindrance in their act to pursue violence.  Peace and democracy are just two sides of the same coin. Liberal states, founded on individual rights as equality before the law, free speech and other civil liberties, private property, and elected representation are fundamentally against war and when citizens who bear the burdens of war elect their governments, wars become impossible.

Walter Russell Mead in his article: Liberal Internationalism: the Twilight of a Dream Liberals are generally optimistic about human progress, cooperation and peace. This view has been criticized. People argue that human nature is violent and everyone is self-centered pursuing their own interests. Everyone is political. Also, international organizations have failed to safeguard the interests of militarily weak countries such Iraq. States like Kashmir and Palestine are denied justice since long. The increasing complexity of international life combined with the world’s cultural differences make global institutions less and less useful for handling international business as nobody likes the idea of having global institutions interfere with one’s local affairs .

He further states that Global institutions are under too much influence of outside powers and too little familiar to regional preferences and priorities.  While the global financial institutions are ineffective as well as unpopular, the luckless United Nations is a terrible forum for almost all purposes as only the ones who have no other option turn to it; UN peacekeepers are too often poorly led, poorly trained, poorly supported and poorly behaved.

The world economy is developing in ways that weaken the ability of international institutions to administer it and until and unless countries like China are ready to accept international supervision and constraints on their domestic economic policies, such institutions cannot hope to fill the macroeconomic role that Keynes, for example, hoped international institutions would play after World War Two. From the time when the Bretton Woods institutions have been formed, the world economy has been slipping gradually out of their grasp.

In my view, Liberal internationalism is a solution in search of a problem: it is an idea whose time has passed.  Liberals must take a long hard glance at a world that is not moving toward global governance in any serious way and think about how the principles at the heart of the Wilsonian vision can be advanced in a new century in an alternative manner.

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  1. bharathi

    enjoyed reading the write up…
    extensive work 🙂

    1. Waleed

      Thanks Bharathi 🙂

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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