Encyclopedia of World Problems - Archived Information

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1.8 Background and acknowledgements

1. Background

The first edition of this publication appeared in 1976 under the title Yearbook of World Problems and Human Potential. It was produced as an experiment arising from a joint project initiated in 1972 between the Union of International Associations (UIA) and the group Mankind 2000.

For the UIA it was then, and remains, a logical extension of its function as a clearinghouse for information on the networks of international agencies and associations, as documented annually in its 3-volume Yearbook of International Organizations.

For Mankind 2000, as catalyst of the international futures research movement, it was a means of bringing into focus its prime concern with the place and development of the human being in the emerging world society. The project was jointly financed by the two transnational non-profit bodies, with Mankind 2000 supporting the editorial costs, whilst the UIA funded the publishing and administrative costs.

Work on the second edition was initiated in 1983 and was completed in 1986. The third edition work was initiated in 1988 and completed in December 1990. Work on the fourth edition was initiated in 1992 and completed in 1994. From the second edition it was published under the present title. As with the present edition, the publication was jointly funded by the UIA and K G Saur Verlag, current publisher of the UIA's 3-volume Yearbook. It was decided to extend the 1994 two-volume Encylopedia by the addition of a third volume on strategies to appear in 1995, cross-referencing the problems in Volume 1 and the Yearbook.

Originally founded in Brussels in 1907, partly on the initiative of two Nobel Peace Laureates (Henri La Fontaine, 1913; Auguste Beernaert, 1909), the UIA as an international nongovernmental organization had activities prior to 1939 which illustrate its long-term interest in relation to the current project. These include publication of the Annuaire de la Vie Internationale, Vol I (1908-1909, 1370 pages), Vol II (1910-1911, 2652 pages) which included information on problems with which international organizations were concerned at that time. Also published was a Code des Voeux Internationaux; codification générale des voeux et résolutions des organismes internationaux (1923, 940 pages, under the auspices of the League of Nations). This listed those portions of the texts of international organization resolutions which covered substantive matters, including what are now regarded as world problems and what amount to plans or strategies for their solution. It covered 1216 resolutions adopted at 151 international meetings. The subject index lists some 1200 items.

Paul Otlet, co-founder of the UIA, produced in 1916 a book entitled Les Problèmes Internationaux et la Guerre which identified many problems giving rise to and caused by war, and proposing the creation of a League of Nations. In 1935 he attempted a synthesis, Monde, which touched upon many problems and their solution within a society in transformation. The preface bore the title "The Problem of Problems", a topic he had first explored in 1918.

2. Acknowledgements

This publication is above all the fruit of continuing collaboration with a considerable number of the 20,000 international governmental and nongovernmental organizations listed in the Yearbook of International Organizations of the Union of International Associations. Such bodies make available a wide range of material on the areas of their concern. This is processed for all the publications of the UIA. Special requests were however made with regard to this particular publication.

Without this range of material from the complete spectrum of ideological and disciplinary perspectives, already structured to give a world focus rather than a national one, the editorial task would have been much more difficult, if not impossible, considering the resources available for a project of this kind.

Thanks are due to the United Nations and its associated bodies, especially the:

  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
  • International Labour Organisation (ILO)
  • United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)
  • United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
  • United Nations Conference on Trade and Development
  • World Health Organization (WHO)
for the documents which they regularly send to the UIA and for those which were supplied in support of this project, either on a complimentary basis (regulations permitting) or at a discount on the normal sales price.

Thanks are equally due to other intergovernmental bodies which have supported this project in a similar manner:

  • Commonwealth Secretariat
  • Council of Europe
  • Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
  • World Bank group
Special thanks are due to the United Nations Library (Geneva) for facilitating access to other material, and especially to Theodor Dimitrov (as Deputy Chief Librarian), for his support over two decades in making such access possible. Thanks also to Christian de Laet for his continuing enthusiasm and support (most recently manifested in the production of a doctoral thesis on the Encyclopedia).

This project benefited extensively from the participation of the Union of International Associations in the Goals, Processes and Indicators of Development project of the United Nations University's Human and Social Development Programme (1978-82), which was coordinated initially by Johan Galtung and subsequently by Carlos Mallman. A number of sections reflect the influence of that exercise, as well as from UIA participation in the subsequent UNU projects on Information Overload and Information Underuse, and on Economic Aspects of Human Development.

This edition would not have been possible without the continuing confidence of a unique phenomenon amongst publishers of international reference books. Where no international organization or funding agency has been prepared to recognize the opportunity of a project of this kind, Dr Klaus Saur has taken the risk, for the third time, in supporting this endeavour. Furthermore, late in the editorial cycle, he accepted that its scope be expanded into the current 3-volume format. The UIA is much beholden to him, and to Manfred Link, his Director of Production, for their creative flexibility in responding to the challenge of this publication. By the same token, the editors are grateful to Elizabeth Gale of Reed Information Technology for her continuing proactive response to the complex challenge of computer typesetting an evolving publication.

Thanks are finally due to the staff of the UIA for adjusting to the disruption of this project, over and above their normal tasks. Special thanks are due to the principal editors of different editions over the years, including most recently: John Jenkins, Owen Victor, Jacqueline Nebel and Nadia McLaren.

And, not to be forgotten, are the many disks of the UIA computer system which, over long years, have spun together the human problems and potentials they held. At many revolutions per second -- has any prayer wheel done more?

This project was originally conceived in 1972 by James Wellesley-Wesley with Anthony Judge. The first edition was made possible by the former's support through the foundation Mankind 2000. This has continued in the form of supplemental support in certain cases.