Backgrounders

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

Pharmaceuticals and Vaccines

A Guide to Global COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

The swift development of effective vaccines against the new coronavirus was an unprecedented scientific achievement. But production challenges, vaccine nationalism, and new virus strains have all presented 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

United States
Corporate Taxes in a Globalized World
A group of more than one hundred countries has agreed to a historic rewrite of global tax rules. Here’s what to know.
Pharmaceuticals and Vaccines
A Guide to Global COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts
The swift development of effective vaccines against the new coronavirus was an unprecedented scientific achievement. But production challenges, vaccine nationalism, and new virus strains have all presented hurdles.
Trade
The Truth About Tariffs
Tariffs have been applied over the years to protect homegrown industries and target competitors who are seen as using unfair trade practices. They impose costs on both importers and exporters and had been in decline until the recent U.S.-China trade spat.
Peacekeeping
The Role of Peacekeeping in Africa
Africa continues to have more peacekeeping missions than any other continent. As conflict-stricken countries increasingly look outside the United Nations for support, experts say reforms are necessary to improve peacebuilding.
International Organizations
The Role of the UN Secretary-General
The United Nations’ top leadership position has broad authority to steer the organization’s agenda, but its impact has varied widely since 1946.
Budget, Debt, and Deficits
The National Debt Dilemma
After years of steadily increasing debt, emergency spending in response to the COVID-19 pandemic has taken U.S. debt to levels not seen since World War II.   
United Nations
The Role of the UN General Assembly
The UN General Assembly hosts a much-watched debate of world leaders each year but has struggled to make its work more substantive. After an unprecedented all-virtual assembly in 2020, this year’s meeting partially returned to an in-person format.
Technology and Innovation
Cryptocurrencies, Digital Dollars, and the Future of Money
The dizzying rise of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies has created new challenges for governments and central banks. Some are responding by introducing their own digital currencies.
Climate Change
Global Climate Agreements: Successes and Failures
International efforts, such as the Paris Agreement, aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But experts say countries aren’t doing enough to limit dangerous global warming.
Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)
What’s Next for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)?
Though President Trump withdrew from the TPP, the remaining members of the trade pact have forged ahead with a new version, leaving the U.S. role in the Asia-Pacific in question.
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.