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, the first vaccines to protect against it are being administered. 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

China
The Chinese Communist Party
The Chinese Communist Party faces a host of domestic and international challenges as it aims to bolster China’s great-power status.
Human Rights
Marriage Equality: Global Comparisons
A growing number of countries are legalizing same-sex marriage amid a steady advance in rights for LGBTQ+ people, but opposition remains strong in many countries.
Diplomacy and International Institutions
Where Is the G7 Headed?
The Group of Seven (G7) serves as a forum to coordinate global policy, but experts are increasingly questioning the group’s relevance.
World Trade Organization (WTO)
What’s Next for the WTO?
In the wake of President Trump’s combative approach to trade, and with major negotiations stalled, the future of global trade rules is in doubt.  
Israel
What to Know About the Arab Citizens of Israel
Arab citizens of Israel represent one-fifth of the population and could be poised to gain a larger voice in the country’s domestic affairs.
Latin America
Central America’s Turbulent Northern Triangle
The U.S. government is responding to another wave of migrants fleeing poverty, violence, and other challenges in the Central American region.
Coronavirus
Will the World Ever Solve the Mystery of COVID-19’s Origin?
It is crucial to learn the facts about how COVID-19 emerged to prevent future outbreaks. Yet China is rebuffing U.S.-led calls to launch new investigations focusing on Wuhan.
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.
Somalia
Al-Shabab
Al-Shabab remains capable of carrying out massive attacks in Somalia and surrounding countries despite a long-running African Union offensive against the Islamist terrorist group. 
China
China’s Fight Against Climate Change and Environmental Degradation
China’s carbon emissions threaten global efforts to fight climate change. Its broader environmental degradation endangers economic growth, public health, and government legitimacy. Are Beijing’s policies enough?
Health
What Does the CDC Do?
The federal agency has a broad mandate to protect Americans’ health and an expansive global reach. But the COVID-19 pandemic has emerged as one of its most daunting challenges.
Energy and Climate Policy
How Does the U.S. Power Grid Work?
Experts say big investments are needed to protect the U.S. energy grid from the growing threats of climate change and cyberattacks.
Cuba
U.S.-Cuba Relations
Communist Cuba was a major foreign policy challenge for the United States during the Cold War. The bilateral relationship thawed considerably under President Obama, but the Trump administration reimposed restrictions.  
United States
Why Does the Census Matter?
The U.S. census, one of the few in the world to directly count every resident, is used to distribute political power and federal funding. The 2020 count has faced pandemic-related complications and a suite of controversies.
Taiwan
Why China-Taiwan Relations Are So Tense
Differences over Taiwan’s status have fueled rising tensions between the island and the mainland. Conflict over Taiwan also has the potential to be a flash point in U.S.-China relations.