Explainers

Backgrounders

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

Pharmaceuticals and Vaccines

What Is the World Doing to Distribute COVID-19 Vaccines?

Governments and researchers have been working with an extremely ambitious timetable to provide billions of people with immunity to the new coronavirus. Now, the first vaccines are being distributed, spurring hope that the pandemic’s end is in sight.

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
How Police Compare in Different Democracies
Killings by U.S. officers in 2020 have sparked widespread calls for police reform and an end to systemic racism. Here’s how U.S. policing compares with other countries’ approaches.
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.
Ethiopia
Ethiopia: East Africa’s Emerging Giant
Ethiopia’s prime minister promised an aggressive reform agenda, but renewed turmoil threatens to throw the country’s democratic transition off course.
Americas
U.S. Detention of Child Migrants
Tens of thousands of unaccompanied children have been arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border each year, leading the Trump administration to expand child detention policies and sparking debate over how to handle the flow of asylum seekers.
Climate Change
Envisioning a Green New Deal: A Global Comparison
The Green New Deal has motivated those who want the United States to undertake unprecedented climate action, but it has also drawn backlash. How is the rest of the world grappling with decarbonization?
United States
The Dollar: The World’s Currency
The dollar’s role as the primary reserve currency for the global economy allows the United States to borrow money more easily and impose painful financial sanctions. But some experts say the costs to areas such as the Rust Belt are too high to bear.
China
Religion in China
As more people in China practice religion, the government continues to toughen oversight, increase religious persecution, and attempt to co-opt state-sanctioned religious organizations.
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.
Coronavirus
How Countries Are Holding Elections During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The experiences of dozens of countries offer lessons for U.S. officials as they prepare for the presidential election during the coronavirus pandemic.
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.
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.   
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.
Lebanon
What Is Hezbollah?
Military experience gained from fighting in Syria’s civil war and decades of clashes with Israel have made the Iran-backed group stronger than ever, but the biggest threat it faces may be upheaval in its own backyard.
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. For the first time in the assembly’s seventy-five-year history, leaders of member states will not gather in person due to the coronavirus pandemic.
United States
U.S. Disaster Relief at Home and Abroad
The U.S. government responds to scores of disasters each year, coordinating closely with state, local, and foreign partners. However, more frequent and severe storms, fires, and floods are straining resources.