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The Great American Withdrawal: Trump’s Version Of ‘America First’

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The United States of America, under the leadership of President Donald Trump, has seen a drastic shift in its traditional line of the policy followed in terms of foreign affairs. Since the end of WWII and during the Cold War, U.S. and U.S.S.R. were in a bipolar conflict for global superiority, which ended with the fall of U.S.S.R. and the beginning of a unipolar world under U.S. hegemony.

Under the Trump administration, the United States has seen the withdrawal from almost every manner of multilateral agreements and international organisations in the name of going at it alone.

The 21st century saw the emergence of alternative centres of power with growing influence at par with U.S. There were two commonalities throughout this timeline. Firstly, America’s dominant presence in all major international platforms. Secondly, the existence of unilateralism as a distinct part of its foreign policy for advancing national interests such as global prominence and possession of natural resources.

The foreign policy doctrine pursued by every president is given a name; the one famously given to Trump’s policy by the Washington Post is “The Withdrawal Doctrine”. It is so because, under the Trump administration, the United States has seen the withdrawal from almost every manner of multilateral agreements and international organisations in the name of going at it alone. As mentioned above, unilateralism is not new to American foreign policy, seeing its history and what’s happening right now, it’s not difficult to conclude that Trump’s unilateral approach focuses on deconstructing everything that previous presidencies have worked hard to build.

Most recent action in this direction includes U.S.’s withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty, an agreement signed in 2002 to act as a confidence-building measure between the signatories. It allowed aerial reconnaissance over signatory nations to collect data on troop deployment and military activities. This act of withdrawal will hurt the interests of all the parties of the treaty many of whom are members of the NATO.

The decision to cut-off funding for W.H.O. during a global pandemic seems to be a very ‘Un-American’ decision; if there were issues or call for reforms, they should have been addressed after the crisis was over. A reduction in the budget for W.H.O. is only going to harm poverty-stricken nations of Africa and Asia that are heavily dependent on global assistance. There have been multiple other withdrawals including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (T.P.P.) agreement, Paris Climate Deal, the Iran Nuclear Deal of 2015, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (I.N.F.), withdrawal from the UNESCO and the U.N. Human Rights Council.

As mentioned by Thomas Wright, Director of Centre on the United States and Europe in one of his articles, “A Trump administration would pose the greatest shock to international peace and stability since the 1930s. This is not because Mr Trump would invade other countries but because he would unilaterally liquidate the liberal international order that presidents have built and defended since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. If the word “isolationist” has any meaning, he qualifies as one.”

President Donald Trump attends a meeting of the North Atlantic Council during the NATO summit in Brussels in 2018, demanding NATO allies to double their commitment to defense spending. (via NBC News)

The Great American withdrawal that the world is witnessing right now is not limited to treaties and organisations but reaches out to instruments of security as well. Military withdrawal from Syria after declaring the defeat of ISIS, the United States abandoned its most important ally in the war, the Kurdish Peshmerga, without whom defeating ISIS would not have been possible. The mere presence of U.S. forces could have safeguarded the Kurds from an aggressive Turkish advancement.

A similar type of retreat is underway in Afghanistan where the United States has bilaterally come into an agreement with the Taliban keeping the Afghan government out of the loop, hoping that it would bring the long sought after peace in the rugged country. However, what we actually have on ground is a very fragile deal, an overly aggressive Taliban that has increased the intensity of its attacks, a fractured Afghan government with an ongoing power struggle in Kabul and herculean armed forces of the United States looking for a face-saving exit from an 18-year-old war.

Under Trump, the United States has also embarked upon a systematic destabilisation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). During the NATO Summit of 2018, it became evident to the world that this alliance was seen as a bad deal for the American exchequer by Mr Trump. According to him, members of NATO are not paying enough for maintenance of the force, i.e. only 2% of their G.D.P.s, as their defence budgets while maintaining a presence of more than 62,000 American troops along with air defence missile systems in Europe is costing America a lot of money. Since then, the United States has given an informal ultimatum to NATO members for increasing their defence spending with a threat of reducing American presence and money in the alliance.

A few weeks ago, Mr Trump took a step in that direction by announcing the withdrawal of 9,200 troops from Germany, a very important ally that hosts the highest number of U.S. troops and bases in Europe. It is understandable that NATO members should increase their share in funding the alliance since most of the load is borne by the American treasury. However, the way Trump pursued this agenda was very erratic and abrupt, which created suspicion in the minds of allies, not only in Europe but all around the world. For its allies, the United States is slowly transitioning from a sure-footed confidante to an unpredictable friend, making them increasingly doubtful of their safety in American hands.

The world today is witnessing Mr Trump’s own version of ‘America First’ which is leading to a gradual decline in America’s presence in the global sphere. Only time will tell whether the withdrawal symptoms of his actions will create an opportunistic vacuum for unilateral countries like China and Russia or pave the way for a new multilateral world order.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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