The Year in Review

Articles That Had an Impact

From the State Department to the U.N. to Turkey, India, and Pakistan, Foreign Policy’s reporting helped make a difference.

Syrian civilians flee villages amid fighting in the countryside of Tal Abyad
Syrian civilians flee villages amid fighting in the countryside of Tal Abyad, as Turkey-backed fighters take over the area between the northeastern town and Kobane on Oct. 24. Bakr Alkasem/AFP/Getty Images

Some articles resonate with readers and get lots of traffic. Others might not get quite so many clicks but end up changing the world—sometimes in little ways, sometimes quite dramatically. Over the years, many Foreign Policy news pieces have broken exclusive stories that have drawn the attention of Congress or presidential candidates, helped change laws, or spurred investigations.

This year was no exception. Foreign Policy’s news team delivered a steady diet of impactful stories on everything including alleged battlefield atrocities by Turkish troops in Syria that riled up Congress and a fresh look at the United Nations’ struggle to come to grips with Rwanda’s genocide a quarter-century ago that could yet prompt a reckoning with justice.

Here are five of the Foreign Policy news stories that had the biggest impact—not just on internet traffic, but on the country and the world.

1. State Department Failed to Shield Its Diplomats from Political Reprisals, Officials Concede

by Colum Lynch and Robbie Gramer, Sept. 3

For more than a year, Lynch and Gramer reported how Trump administration political appointees ran roughshod over the State Department, belittling, tormenting, and even firing employees who fell afoul of their loyalty lists. That reporting culminated in a scathing inspector general’s report that excoriated the State Department, and a few top officials by name. Both officials eventually left—because of the dogged reporting that documented the repeated leadership failures that have so demoralized Foggy Bottom.

2. Greed and Graft at U.N. Climate Program

by Colum Lynch and Amy Mackinnon, Aug. 14

With Secretary-General António Guterres at the helm, the United Nations sought to galvanize international efforts to combat climate change. But for nearly a decade, former U.N. employees and auditors have raised the alarm about mismanagement and alleged misappropriation of international funds from a multimillion-dollar project for the U.N. Development Program intended to reduce Russia’s greenhouse gas emissions. Their concerns were largely dismissed or ignored. Lynch and Mackinnon found further evidence to back up their claims, showing how reluctant the U.N. was to support and protect whistleblowers—yet, because of the reporting, that troubled U.N. program now appears to be squarely in the organization’s crosshairs.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves at a public rally in Kolkata, India, on April 3. (Atul Loke/Getty Images)

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves at a public rally in Kolkata, India, on April 3.Atul Loke/Getty Images

3. Did India Shoot Down a Pakistani Jet? U.S. Count Says No.

by Lara Seligman, April 4

India and Pakistan had earlier this year one of their sharpest conflicts in years, with both countries sending jets into each other’s airspace and one Indian pilot shot down—amid impressive claims that he’d shot down one of Pakistan’s vaunted, U.S.-made F-16 fighters. The claim was and is fundamental to India’s belief that it can stand up to Pakistan’s military—but it seems to have been nothing more than wishful thinking. Seligman’s exclusive story, based on access to U.S. accounting of Pakistani jets, showed India’s claim of a victorious dogfight doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, and the report is still echoing on the subcontinent today.

4. U.S. Bureaucratic Blunder Could Cost Somalia Desperately Needed Debt Relief

by Robbie Gramer and Keith Johnson, with Colum Lynch, Dec. 11

Somalia, one of the world’s poorest countries, is also deeply in debt, which makes it hard to battle the Islamist militants who for years have wrestled for control of the country with the central government. Major international donors, including the United States, were all set to approve a World Bank debt-relief plan for Somalia that could offer a new path forward—until a bureaucratic misstep by the Trump administration put it all in jeopardy. As a result of the article, it seems, Somalia in fact got a last-minute reprieve from Congress and secured its much-needed debt relief.

5. Turkish Proxies Appear to Be Using White Phosphorus in Syria

by Lara Seligman, Oct. 17

The Trump administration’s decision to abandon its Kurdish partners and greenlight a Turkish invasion of northern Syria set off the expected firestorm of carnage, killing, and displacement, as Seligman chronicled throughout the past few months. But the most chilling part of Turkey and its proxy forces’ campaign against Syrian Kurds came with the use of white phosphorous, a chemical agent that causes horrific burns—a ghastly development Seligman was the first to report. Her article got U.N.-backed investigators and top U.S. lawmakers on the case, hoping to hold Turkey accountable.

Keith Johnson is a senior staff writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @KFJ_FP

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