Backgrounders

Authoritative, accessible, and regularly updated primers on hundreds of foreign policy topics.

Pharmaceuticals and Vaccines

A Guide to Global COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

Only a year after the new coronavirus emerged, distribution of the first vaccines to protect against it began. But production challenges, vaccine nationalism, and new virus strains are all presenting hurdles.

Middle East and North Africa

What Is U.S. Policy on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict?

The United States has long tried to negotiate a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but several factors, including deep divisions between and within the parties and declining U.S. interest in carrying out its traditional honest-broker role, hurt the chances of a peace deal.

Explainers Video Filters and Cards

Haiti
Haiti’s Troubled Path to Development
Hobbled by foreign interventions, political instability, and natural disasters, the former French colony has long suffered from underdevelopment.
Afghanistan
The Taliban in Afghanistan
The Taliban have returned to power in Afghanistan twenty years after their ouster by U.S. troops, sparking concerns that they will impose harsh rule, neglect to provide basic services, and abuse human rights.
Health
What Is the FDA’s Role in Public Health?
The U.S. health agency regulates the country’s foods and drugs, among other products. The COVID-19 pandemic and controversy over vaccines and treatments have highlighted the FDA’s role.
Public Health Threats and Pandemics
The U.S. Opioid Epidemic
Opioid addiction in the United States has become a prolonged epidemic, threatening not only public health but economic output and national security.
International Organizations
The IMF: The World’s Controversial Financial Firefighter
The International Monetary Fund, both criticized and lauded for its efforts to promote financial stability, continues to find itself at the forefront of global economic crisis management.
Middle East and North Africa
Yemen’s Tragedy: War, Stalemate, and Suffering
Yemen’s internal divisions and a Saudi-led military intervention have spawned an intractable political, military, and humanitarian crisis.
Mexico
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.
Iran Nuclear Agreement
What Is the Iran Nuclear Deal?
The fate of the arms control agreement is in doubt following the United States’ withdrawal and Iran’s noncompliance, but newly elected leaders in both countries in 2021 have signaled a willingness to mend the deal.
Palestinian Territories
What Is Hamas?
The Palestinian armed group has struggled to govern Gaza. Yet, it remains committed to resisting Israel and shows little desire to reconcile with Palestinian leadership in the West Bank.
United Nations
The UN Security Council
The UN Security Council is the premier global body for maintaining international peace and security, but it faces steady calls for reform to better meet twenty-first-century challenges.
Infrastructure
The State of U.S. Infrastructure
Amid an economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, debate continues over how to improve the nation’s infrastructure, as analysts say U.S. transportation, water, and other systems face major shortfalls.
United States
Corporate Taxes in a Globalized World
A group of more than one hundred countries has agreed on what would be a historic rewrite of global tax rules. Here’s what to know.
United States
U.S. Gun Policy: Global Comparisons
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 is on track to be the United States’ deadliest year for gun violence in two decades. How do other countries regulate firearms and respond to mass shootings?
Cuba
U.S.-Cuba Relations
Communist Cuba has long been a major foreign policy challenge for the United States. The bilateral relationship thawed considerably under President Obama, but many restrictions were reimposed by the Trump administration. 
Energy and Environment
How Green-Party Success Is Reshaping Global Politics
Once a fringe movement, green parties are increasingly shaping the debate in countries around the world. How influential are they, and what comes next?