State of the World

Sometimes you need to get general background information on a foreign country—not laws and regulations, but just a general overview with pertinent details on history, politics, customs, business environment, etc. Applications include immigration cases, foreign business opportunities, and travel (“I have to go to Indonesia for a client and I know nothing about it!”) The following links provide helpful sources to gain a quick overview of the current state of countries around the world.

CIA World Factbook
http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html

Presents basic statistical information on demographics and economy, as well as short descriptions of government, economy, international relations, etc. Also includes a map of the country. Only updated annually, but a good starting point for an overview.

State Department Background Notes
http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/

“Background Notes are factual publications that contain information on all the countries of the world with which the United States has relations. They include facts on the country’s land, people, history, government, political conditions, economy, and its relations with other countries and the United States.”

The Background Notes have more in-depth information on the current political situation and foreign relations than the CIA World Factbook. They are also update more frequently, although the currency of any given country’s notes varies.

State Department Travel Warnings & Consular Information Sheets
http://travel.state.gov/travel/travel_1744.html

“Travel Warnings are issued when the State Department decides, based on all relevant information, to recommend that Americans avoid travel to a certain country. “

“Consular Information Sheets are available for every country of the world. They include such information as location of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the subject country, unusual immigration practices, health conditions, minor political disturbances, unusual currency and entry regulations, crime and security information, and drug penalties. “

A combined collection, these are essential to consult before travelling to a foreign country. Updated as needed, these are packed full of useful tips and cautions.

State Department Country Commercial Guides
http://www.usatrade.gov/website/ccg.nsf/ccghomepage?openform

“The Country Commercial Guides (CCG) are prepared by US Embassy Staff once a year and contain information on the business and economic situation of foreign countries and the political climate as it affects U.S. business.”

These guide are very useful for information on tariffs, import/export restrictions, potential markets for American businesses, and even some forecasting information.

Amnesty International
http://www.amnesty.org/

Collects information on human rights in countries around the world, which can be very useful for asylum cases. Amnesty International tends to focus more on news reports.

Human Rights Watch
http://www.hrw.org/

Collects information on human rights in countries around the world, which can be very useful for asylum cases. Human Rights Watch has more in-depth reports on country conditions.

Google News
http://news.google.com/

Google’s news site collects and tracks related news stories from over 4,000 web sources. Search on a country’s name, and you will get a list of news stories ranked both for relevance and by date.

Compiled by Allen Rines of Foley Hoag LLP in 12/03.

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