Explainers

Backgrounders

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

Explainers Video Filters and Cards

World Health Organization (WHO)
What Does the World Health Organization Do?
Since its postwar founding, the UN agency has garnered both praise and criticism for its response to international public health crises, including the pandemic of a new coronavirus in 2020.
China
Democracy in Hong Kong
As China’s power continues to grow, some fear that the considerable autonomy Hong Kong has enjoyed over the last three decades could slip away.
Pharmaceuticals and Vaccines
What Is the World Doing to Create a COVID-19 Vaccine?
The race to find a vaccine for the new coronavirus is well underway. Governments and researchers are aiming to provide billions of people with immunity in eighteen months or less, which would be unprecedented.
State and Local Governments
How the Coronavirus Will Harm State and City Budgets
The coronavirus pandemic is placing enormous budget pressure on state and local governments, threatening deep and potentially lasting cuts to education, infrastructure, and other important investments.  
Coronavirus
Coronavirus: How Are Countries Responding to the Economic Crisis?
The coronavirus pandemic is slowing global commerce to a crawl, but many of the world’s largest economies are taking extraordinary actions to propel them through the crisis.
United States
The National Debt Dilemma
Emergency spending in response to the coronavirus pandemic, after years of steadily increasing debt, is projected to take U.S. debt to levels not seen since World War II.   
Yemen
Yemen in Crisis
Yemen’s mounting internal divisions and a Saudi-led military intervention have spawned an escalating political, military, and humanitarian crisis.
Public Health Threats and Pandemics
What Is the Ebola Virus?
Endemic to the African tropics, the Ebola virus has killed thousands in recent years, putting the World Health Organization and major donor countries in the limelight as they’ve grappled with how to respond to outbreaks.
European Union
How Does the European Union Work?
The European Union has navigated a thicket of external and internal crises in recent years, including mass migration and Brexit. What are the union’s core institutions, and what roles do they play?
Singapore
Singapore: A Small Asian Heavyweight
Singapore, one of the world’s wealthiest and most trade-dependent countries, punches above its weight in regional and global affairs.
Coronavirus
Comparing Six Health-Care Systems in a Pandemic
Here’s how different health-care systems, including single-payer and government-run, have contended with the coronavirus.
Oil and Petroleum Products
OPEC in a Changing World
Western leaders have long criticized OPEC’s power to raise oil prices, but the bloc’s influence is on the wane as U.S. oil production has soared and alternative energies have come to the fore.
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 as well as federal funding. In 2020, it faces complications due to the coronavirus pandemic, as well as controversy over immigration, cybersecurity, and rising costs.
Monetary Policy
What Is the U.S. Federal Reserve?
Over the past decade, the Fed has deployed trillions of dollars in stimulus while expanding its regulatory oversight. Under the Trump administration, the central bank is back on the front lines to fight the coronavirus crisis.
Coronavirus
What You Need to Know About the Coronavirus Pandemic
A new coronavirus that originated in China has spread worldwide, sickening hundreds of thousands and halting economic activity. Many countries have imposed unprecedented measures to stop local outbreaks.