Special Projects

CFR produces a range of special resources, including trackers and data visualizations, for policymakers and citizens to get up to speed on major foreign policy and security challenges.

Interactives Filters and Cards

Women and Women's Rights
Women’s Power Index
Find out where women around the world wield political power—and why it matters.
Cyber Operations Tracker
The Digital and Cyberspace Policy program’s cyber operations tracker is a database of the publicly known state-sponsored incidents that have occurred since 2005. Know of an incident not listed in the tracker? 
Why China Would Struggle to Invade Taiwan
Although China’s ambition to gain control of Taiwan is clear, doing so through force would prove enormously difficult and costly.
Judging How U.S. States Performed in the COVID-19 Pandemic Depends on the Metric
The United States struggled with COVID-19, but some states managed to keep deaths and infections relatively low without shutting society down or ignoring the crisis.
Conflict Prevention
Women’s Participation in Peace Processes
Peace negotiators often overlook a proven strategy to reduce conflict and advance stability: include women.
Wars and Conflict
Global Conflict Tracker
The Center for Preventive Action’s Global Conflict Tracker is an interactive guide to ongoing conflicts around the world of concern to the United States.
How New Tobacco Control Laws Could Help Close the Racial Gap on U.S. Cancer
This interactive examines how nationwide bans on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, as proposed by the Biden administration on April 28, 2022, could help shrink the racial gap on U.S. lung cancer death rates.
Belt and Road Tracker
This tracker shows how the Belt and Road Initiative changed countries’ bilateral economic relationships with China over time.
Noncommunicable Diseases
Noncommunicable Diseases Kill Slowly in Normal Times and Quickly in COVID-19 Times
Why addressing chronic diseases is crucial for future pandemic preparedness
China's Digital Silk Road
A Transformative Approach to Technology Financing or a Danger to Freedoms?
Elections and Voting
President-Elect Biden on Foreign Policy
President-Elect Joe Biden will face a suite of challenges on the global stage, from nuclear tensions with North Korea to coordinating a response to the ongoing pandemic. 
Tracking Currency Manipulation
Currency manipulation is one way countries can shift patterns of trade in their favor. By buying foreign currency in the market, a country can artificially change the price of its imports and its exports. Countries do so to boost their own exports, especially if they otherwise have trouble generating the demand their economies need to grow. But currency intervention by U.S. trading partners leads to job losses in parts of the U.S. economy, which is one reason why the United States has run persistent trade deficits. Because of these concerns, in the 2015 Trade Enforcement Act the U.S. Congress required that the Department of the Treasury lay out specific indicators it would use to determine whether a country should be named a currency manipulator. The Treasury has subsequently identified three criteria: a trade surplus with the United States of more than $20 billion a current account surplus (the current account is a broader measure of trade that includes foreign debt payments and investment income but is usually close to a country’s overall trade balance) of more than 2 percent of the economy’s gross domestic product (GDP) intervention—government purchases of dollars in the foreign exchange market—of over 2 percent of the economy’s GDP, with purchases of foreign exchange in six of the last twelve months Somewhat confusingly, President Donald J. Trump named China a currency manipulator in August 2019, even though the country did not meet the three criteria of the Trade Enforcement Act. To do so, Trump drew on an older definition of currency manipulation set out in the 1988 Omnibus Foreign Trade and Competitiveness Act that remains on the books. Rather than using specific criteria, the 1988 trade act defines manipulation as action with the purpose of “preventing . . . balance of payments adjustments” or “gaining an unfair competitive advantage in international trade.” This tracker, however, focuses on using the indicators set out by the U.S. Treasury in 2015, as that information provides a clearer nonpartisan guide to currency manipulators. How to Use the Tracker The tracker highlights indicator values in red when they exceed the Treasury threshold. Select a fiscal quarter, going back to 2000, to compare twenty-five economies across three indicators. Scroll down to select an economy to view its historical data. Scroll further down to read about the data and view additional resources.     About the Data This interactive tracks twenty-five global economies for evidence of currency manipulation. These economies were selected based on their membership in the Group of Twenty (G20), the scale of their trade with the United States, and the size of their current account surplus as a share of their GDP. (Singapore is a small economy, but it runs one of the world’s largest current account surpluses.) The tracker analyzes data on the three variables the U.S. Treasury uses to assess countries for manipulation. Bilateral trade in this interactive tracks trade in goods between the United States and another country. The U.S. Treasury also uses goods trade, as data on services trade is not available on a timely basis for many of the economies covered, and generally speaking the services trade data is much more poorly measured than goods trade. Services trade generally cannot be directly measured by customs officers at ports and airports.   The current account measures an economy’s trade in goods and services and its cross-border interest and dividend payments. It differs from an economy’s overall trade balance (goods and services) largely because it captures interest payments on debt (or interest earned on cross-border lending) and the profit earned on cross-border investment. Foreign exchange intervention is in many ways the most difficult variable to assess. The U.S. Treasury looks narrowly at the foreign currency purchased or sold by a country’s monetary and fiscal authorities for its formal reserves, together with any disclosed changes in the forward position of that economy’s central bank. (Many countries buy foreign currency and then swap the foreign currency with their banks for local currency; the commitment in the swap contract to buy the foreign currency back at a fixed price appears in the International Monetary Fund’s reserve disclosure template as a “forward” purchase of foreign exchange.) This definition leaves out the foreign currency bought or sold by sovereign wealth funds, sovereign pension funds, and state banks. As many governments do not disclose their actual intervention, the U.S. Treasury generally estimates intervention in the market by subtracting an estimate of the interest income on existing reserves from the reported increase in the countries’ reserves. That increase can be gleaned from the balance of payments (BOP) data, which should be adjusted to avoid changes in reserves that stem from changes in the valuation of existing reserves, or the reported increase in reserves can be adjusted for estimated valuation changes. This tracker tries to replicate the Treasury’s methodology, but it potentially leaves out “shadow” intervention—purchases or sales of foreign currency by state banks and sovereign wealth funds. In order to calculate interest income, this tracker assumes that two-thirds of each country’s stock of reserves is composed of U.S. dollar–denominated assets and the rest is in euro-denominated assets. The dollar-denominated assets grow by the implied interest rate paid on foreign holdings of U.S. Treasury securities; the euro-denominated assets grow by an average of the European Central Bank’s effective deposit and marginal lending rates. The resulting interest income is then subtracted from that quarter’s BOP reserve flow data. When possible, this tracker includes changes in a central bank’s forward position. But such data is unavailable in a few important cases, most notably Taiwan. This tracker is updated quarterly, on a trailing four-quarter basis. The U.S. Treasury also looks at the data on a trailing four-quarter basis but assesses the United States’ major trading partners only twice a year. Additional Resources Make the Foreign Exchange Report Great Again Macroeconomic and Foreign Exchange Policies of Major Trading Partners of the United States (January 2020) [PDF] Asia Still Lags When It Comes to FX Market Transparency Looking for the Mysterious Hedging Counterparty of Taiwan’s Lifers
China’s Approach to Global Governance
Learn about China's evolving approach to global governance and how it has shifted strategy under President Xi Jinping related to trade, the belt and road initiative, and the coronavirus pandemic.
Noncommunicable Diseases
Autocracy Is Hazardous for Your Health
Democracy does not die in the darkness so often anymore. It dies in the light, one election at a time, with voters embracing the populists and autocrats who promise to cut the red tape and deliver the better life that democracy has failed to provide. It was not midnight military coups or dark backroom deals that brought strongmen to power in Nicaragua, Turkey, and Venezuela, former democracies that have joined the ranks of the world’s autocracies. Everyday frustrations over high health-care costs, poorly performing schools, and corrupt politicians drove voters in those countries to elect populists. Once in power, those populist leaders openly and steadily undermined the fair elections, free media, and institutional restraints that are the hallmarks of democracy, cheered on by supporters hungry for results. The result of this trend has been the global rise in the number of countries undergoing autocratization, or significant declines in the quality of their democracy. At the same time, the number of nations that are democratizing—or experiencing significant improvements in the quality of their democracy—peaked in 1994 soon after the end of the Cold War and has been falling ever since (see figure below).  In some nations, like Nicaragua and Turkey, the extent of that autocratization has advanced so far that those nations are now considered electoral autocracies, countries in which elections are still held but under conditions that prevent opposition parties from fairly campaigning or that keep votes from being freely cast or accurately counted. According to recent research from Anna Luhrmann and Staffan I. Lindberg from the University of Gothenburg’s Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Project, more than two-thirds of this rise in electoral autocracies is due to the gradual deterioration of former democracies. This year, the V-Dem Project designated twenty-four democracies as autocratizing. The United States is on that list. Voters may turn to autocracy for promises of a better life, but, at least with regard to health, those expectations are not fulfilled. Life expectancy has declined 2 percent on average in former democracies that have recently transitioned to autocracy (Honduras, Nicaragua, Turkey, and Venezuela) relative to democracies that have not made that transition (see figure below). The unhealthful effects of autocracy remain robust even when accounting for economic differences and excluding Venezuela, with its collapsing health system. Without the pressure of fair electoral competition or accountability to a free media, autocratic leaders have less incentive than their democratic counterparts to do the hard work of sustaining health-care infrastructure and improving care for chronic diseases. Instead of adopting measures that improve the health of the population, autocrats in nations such as Turkey have exploited ethnic and class divisions and resorted to patronage to keep power. Autocratization is hazardous to health. Part of its toll on longevity might be the result of missing out on the benefits democracy can make to reduce deaths from noncommunicable diseases, which are rapidly increasing in many low- and middle-income nations. A nation’s democratic experience—a measure of how democratic a country has been and for how long—matters more than its gross domestic product (GDP) in the reductions in deaths from cardiovascular diseases, transportation injuries, cancers, and other noncommunicable diseases. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, killing more than seventeen million people in 2015. Stroke, cancers, and other noncommunicable diseases are responsible for more than two-thirds of deaths globally, including those of eight million people under the age of sixty in poorer countries. By 2040, noncommunicable diseases will affect roughly the same share of the populations in many low- and middle-income countries as they do in the United States.  Previous research estimated that increases in democratic experience averted sixteen million deaths globally between 1995 and 2015 from cardiovascular diseases alone. The figure below indicates which countries benefited from the health improvements associated with democracy. The Baltic states, Brazil, Mongolia, Poland, and South Africa experienced some of the greatest improvements in health as democratizing states. Tragically, some of those nations, including Brazil and Poland, may now be drifting toward autocracy. Free and fair elections appear to be particularly important for these improved adult health outcomes, most likely because they increase government accountability and responsiveness. The health benefits of democracy are greater in nations that maintain genuine electoral competition and have experienced at least one transfer of power. Nations such as Botswana and South Africa that held multiparty-elections between 1995 and 2015 but did not experience a turnover in their ruling party did not fare as well in reducing deaths from cardiovascular disease as those nations such as Uruguay and Zambia that had at least one turnover (see figure below). However, having multiple turnovers of the ruling party did not increase the positive or negative effects of having experienced at least one transfer of power.  Elections and the health of a nation’s people are increasingly inseparable. Democratic institutions and processes, particularly free and fair elections, can improve population health, especially with regard to cardiovascular and other noncommunicable diseases. Voters should remain wary of populists who promise to deliver better health by undermining the accountability, messy compromise, and slow consensus-building that democracy requires.   To understand the methodology used, see this annex [PDF]. This interactive was made possible by a generous grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the authors. We thank Maria Teresa Alzuru and Kevin Lizarazo for their assistance with this interactive. The Council on Foreign Relations takes no institutional positions on policy issues and has no affiliation with the U.S. government.
Diplomacy and International Institutions
Report Card on International Cooperation 2018-2019
https://www.cfr.org/interactive/councilofcouncils/reportcard2019/#!/ Global think tank leaders grade the world's performance and prospects for 2019.