Most Recent

Avian Influnenza

A recent avian flu outbreak in the United States has forced agriculture officials to destroy tens of millions of birds and has cost hundreds of millions of dollars. This Backgrounder looks at public health and food safety concerns.

The Future of U.S. Trade Policy

The United States is currently pursuing two of the largest trade deals in history, the Asia-focused Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the U.S.-EU Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), but concerns persist over the effects of trade on employment, inequality, national sovereignty, and safety standards.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)

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.

International Sanctions on Iran

U.S. and international sanctions have battered the Iranian economy and brought Tehran to negotiate over its nuclear program. Lifting them is central to a deal but will be a complex process.

The Rohingya Migrant Crisis

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.

Backgrounder Series

International Organizations

The Group of Seven (G7)

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industrialized democracies to coordinate economic, security, and energy policy, but critics say that its membership is outdated, undermining its relevance to global governance.

The Arab League

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 UN Security Council

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 International Monetary Fund

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.

The World Bank Group

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.

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Terrorist Groups

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)

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.

The Islamic State

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 Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)

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.

Al-Shabab

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.

Boko Haram

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

Hamas is the main Palestinian armed resistance group, but the Islamist movement has struggled with governance since assuming control of Gaza.

Hezbollah (a.k.a. Hizbollah, Hizbu'llah)

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's New Generation of Terrorists

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.

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Governance in India

Governance in India: Corruption

It remains unclear whether mounting public anger and flagging growth can catalyze India to address widespread official corruption.

Governance in India: Women's Rights

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 Rise

Religion in China

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.

Christianity in China

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 in Africa

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.

Media Censorship in China

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.

The Chinese Communist Party

The Chinese Communist Party faces a host of pressing domestic and international policy issues as it transitions to a new generation of leaders.

South China Sea Tensions

As the United States pivots to Asia, disputes over territories in the South China Sea have escalated tensions and threatened regional stability.

China's Environmental Crisis

China's mounting environmental crisis is endangering the pace of its economic growth and threatening the legitimacy of the ruling party.

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Renewing America

Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking)

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.

The U.S. Immigration Debate

Comprehensive immigration reform has eluded Congress for years, moving controversial policy decisions into the executive and judicial branches of government, explains this Backgrounder.

Space Exploration and U.S. Competitiveness

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.

Driverless Cars

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.

Promoting Innovation Through R&D

Spending on research and development is cited as important to a globally competitive economy. But a crucial U.S. advantage appears to be eroding.

U.S. Deficits and the National Debt

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.

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