More than twenty years after its implementation, the North American Free Trade Agreement continues to spur debate over its impact on economic growth and jobs.
Foreign policy issues regularly come to the fore at the national political conventions, especially during periods of global instability. Sometimes the events are marked by bitter disagreements within the parties, explains this Backgrounder.
The costs of hosting the Olympics have skyrocketed in recent decades, while the economic benefits are far from clear. This has caused a shrinking of states interested in playing host and a search for options to lighten the burdens of staging the big event.
The Zika virus, which has been found to cause severe birth defects, has spread across the Americas, prompting the World Health Organization to declare a global health emergency.
The Colombian government and FARC rebels have signed a historic bilateral cease-fire. This Backgrounder traces the origins of the country's civil conflict and prospects for peace.
Modern vice presidents can trace much of their political influence to the broad reforms that Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale made to the second-highest elected office in the late 1970s, explains this Backgrounder.
Violence and rampant crime have triggered the flow of asylum seekers from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to the United States, which is seeking to help address the root causes, as this Backgrounder explains.
One of the leading sources of refugees in Europe is the impoverished east African nation of Eritrea. Many fleeing describe chronic human rights abuses in the country, as this Backgrounder explains.
An escalating migration crisis is testing the European Union's commitment to human rights and open borders.
Tens of thousands of Rohingya are fleeing persecution in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. This Backgrounder explores the plight of the Muslim ethnic minority group and the deepening migration crisis in Southeast Asia.
Tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors, mostly from Central America, are arriving in the United States illegally, adding severe stress to an immigration system already in need of major overhaul.
Geopolitics of Southern Asia
China and India increasingly vie for strategic advantage in the Indian Ocean, while also cooperating on some transnational security issues.
Asia’s major rivers depend on water flows from the Himalayas, and regional demand continues to grow. This Backgrounder explores a looming water crisis.
China, India, and Pakistan have relatively small but growing nuclear arms programs. This nuclear competition is raising concern because of long-simmering tensions and a lack of efforts at minimizing the risk posed by these weapons.
The United States and China have developed competing visions for reviving ancient trade routes connecting Asia and Europe. The U.S. diplomatic strategy focuses on Afghanistan, while China hopes to economically integrate Central and South Asia. India and Russia also have regional ambitions.
Russian aggression in Ukraine has breathed new life into the Cold War-era security alliance, prompting allies to reinforce defenses in Eastern Europe and expand cooperation with nonmembers.
Eurasia's Shanghai Cooperation Organization has expanded its agenda to include wide-reaching security and economic initiatives, but it remains to be seen if the bloc's members can develop and implement unified policy.
The seventieth session of the UN General Assembly will be dominated by debates over instability in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and development issues.
The UN Security Council is the premier global body for maintaining international peace and security, but faces steady calls for reform to better meet twenty-first–century challenges.
The recently reconstituted G7 is poised to serve as a forum for highly industrialized democracies to coordinate economic, security, and energy policy, but critics say that its membership is outdated, undermining its relevance to global governance.
Founded as a loose confederation of states in 1945, the Arab League has struggled to overcome dysfunction and disunity among its members. The Arab revolts of 2011 offer the League a new opportunity to pursue necessary reforms, increase legitimacy, and prove its relevance.
The International Monetary Fund, both criticized and lauded for its efforts to promote financial stability, finds itself again in the forefront of global economic crisis management.
Since its founding in 1944, the World Bank has evolved from a lender focused on European reconstruction into the preeminent international institution for economic development and poverty reduction.
With Iraq weakened and a civil war raging in Syria, it’s unclear whether local forces and a U.S.-led international coalition can roll back the self-proclaimed Islamic State, explains this Backgrounder.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has emerged as one of the most dangerous al-Qaeda affiliates, strengthening amid political unrest in Yemen. This Backgrounder examines the group and U.S. counterterrorism operations.
Algerian and Western counterterrorism efforts, along with an African-led peacekeeping force in Mali, have shifted the North African al-Qaeda franchise's criminal and terrorist activities to remote areas of the Sahara and Sahel, explains this Backgrounder.
Some experts believe al-Shabab is at its weakest point in years following an African-led counterinsurgency campaign, but others warn of the group's resiliency in an unstable Somalia.
Nigeria's Islamist group Boko Haram has evolved from a local insurgency to a brutal militant group that the United States has designated a terrorist organization.
Hamas is the main Palestinian armed resistance group, but the Islamist movement has struggled with governance since assuming control of Gaza.
Hezbollah's long-standing resistance to Israel gained this Lebanon-based Shiite political party and militant group broad support, but its involvement in Syria's civil war may jeopardize its domestic standing.
Pakistan has emerged as a sanctuary for some of the world's most violent groups, including al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and homegrown militants, that threaten the stability of Pakistan as well as the region.
Governance in India
After decades of underinvestment and mismanagement, India's infrastructure is posing a significant threat to its economic growth.
It remains unclear whether mounting public anger and flagging growth can catalyze India to address widespread official corruption.
Several high-profile sexual assault cases in India have sparked a national debate over women's rights and the need for social reform in a rapidly modernizing country.
China’s mounting environmental crisis is endangering the pace of its economic growth and threatening the legitimacy of the ruling party, explains this Backgrounder.
The Chinese Communist Party faces a host of pressing domestic and international policy issues as it transitions to a new generation of leaders.
As religious observance in China grows, the Chinese Communist Party continues to use religious policy to assert its authority and increasingly to coopt state-sanctioned religious organizations to promote a stable society.
Tens of millions of Chinese now identify as Christians and the number has grown rapidly, posing challenges for a government that is officially atheist and wary of threats to its power.
China has increased its economic ties with Africa as it seeks to fulfill its growing energy demands. But China's way of doing business has prompted international criticism, even as its policy of noninterference faces new challenges.
China's central government has cracked down on press freedom as the country expands its international influence, but in the Internet age, many of its citizens hunger for a free flow of information.
As the United States pivots to Asia, disputes over territories in the South China Sea have escalated tensions and threatened regional stability.
Hydraulic fracturing has unlocked huge reserves of shale gas and oil, transforming the energy outlook in the United States and the world, even as local opposition and falling world prices threaten the industry.
Comprehensive immigration reform has eluded Congress for years, moving controversial policy decisions into the executive and judicial branches of government, explains this Backgrounder.
U.S. space exploration inspired a generation of students and innovators, but NASA's role has diminished, and the number of global space competitors is growing. This Backgrounder explores U.S. competitiveness in space.
Tech and auto companies in the United States, Europe, and Asia are moving forward rapidly with efforts to develop driverless cars and street networks. The benefits appear tantalizing, but roadblocks loom.
Postsecondary education has significant public and private benefits, but debate continues over the extent of federal student lending.
With the economic benefits of broadband access rising, experts continue to debate how U.S. digital infrastructure compares to its international peers.
Spending on research and development is cited as important to a globally competitive economy. But a crucial U.S. advantage appears to be eroding.
The Obama administration's 2013 budget plan has revived debate over the sustainability of U.S. spending. As the United States emerges from a deep recession, it must maintain a tricky policy balance.