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

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
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?
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.
Sub-Saharan Africa
Africa’s ‘Leaders for Life’
Sub-Saharan Africa is home to many of the world’s longest-ruling heads of state. Pro-democracy advocates have at times successfully stopped presidents from extending their mandates, but the authoritarian trend could be accelerating.
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.
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.
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.