The emphasis of this project is on providing descriptions of less well-known problems, and the problem descriptions here represent a compilation of views from published documents (usually from international organizations). The text provided does not necessarily constitute the best possible description of the problem, since a compromise has had to be struck between availability of information, the resources to process it, and the space available.
The Encyclopedia necessarily includes some problems which appear "positive" (at least to some constituencies) and may indeed be treated separately as strategies (this topic is explored in more depth in another area of research relating to the Encyclopedia, titled Global Strategies and Solutions). Some 'problems' which are of great concern to one group, may be seen as a solution by another group. Similarly the strategies of one group may be seen as problems for another group. Problems of today may have been governmental policy in an earlier period, as in the case of the drug and slave trades. "Abortion" is an example of a highly controversial problem as defined by some that is also treated and perceived as a strategy by others. "Thieving", and even "blinding children" (to improve their income as beggars), may be amongst the few strategies open to the impoverished. On the other hand, many seemingly "positive" strategies (such as 'the Green Revolution') may be criticized for their "negative" consequences by significant constituencies.
This collection of problems should NOT therefore be considered as a simple list of "negative" problems identified by the organizations providing the information. The data presented challenges the user to exercise discrimination in determining under what circumstances a problem is defined and in what way it may be "positive" or "negative" in its nature. This is often the dilemma faced by leaders and policy makers. Some problem profiles have explanatory texts, where available, to clarify conflicting claims as to the "positive" or "negative" aspects of each problem from different perspectives. Many problems are perceived to have both "positive" and "negative" consequences in aggravating or alleviating other problems. The data therefore represent one attempt to depict the "ecosystem" of interrelated problems active in society, whether actually or potentially. Inclusion of "problems" on this list should not be considered to imply that they are advocated by the UIA.