The Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential

Access The Encyclopedia

This project is currently available as an open source online publication. You can view it at the link below:

About the Project

The Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential is a unique, experimental research work of the Union of International Associations. It is currently published as a searchable online platform with profiles of world problems, action strategies, and human values that are interlinked in novel and innovative ways. These connections are based on a range of relationships such as broader and narrower scope, aggravation, relatedness and more. By concentrating on these links and relationships, the Encyclopedia is uniquely positioned to bring focus to the complex and expansive sphere of global issues and their interconnected nature.

The initial content for the Encyclopedia was seeded from UIA’s Yearbook of International Organizations. UIA’s decades of collected data on the enormous variety of association life provided a broad initial perspective on the myriad problems of humanity. Recognizing that international associations are generally confronting world problems and developing action strategies based on particular values, the initial content was based on the descriptions, aims, titles and profiles of international associations.


This long-term project was initiated in 1972 as a collaboration between the UIA and the foundation Mankind 2000. At the time it was judged to be an "impossible project", but the first work based on this research was published in 1976 under the title Yearbook of World Problems and Human Potential.

Prior to this collaboration, the UIA had activities, starting before 1939, which illustrate its long-term interest in relation to the Encyclopedia project. These include the publication Annuaire de la Vie Internationale (1908-09 & 1910-11) 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) which listed those portions of the texts of international organization resolutions that covered substantive matters, including what are now regarded as world problems and what amount to plans or strategies for their solution.

In 1916, Paul Otlet, the co-founder of the UIA, also produced a book entitled Les Problèmes Internationaux et la Guerre which identified many problems giving rise to and caused by war. In 1935 he attempted a synthesis, Monde: essaie d'universalisme -- connaissance du monde; sentiment du monde; action organisée et plan du monde, which touched upon many problems and their solutions within a society in transformation. The preface bore the title The Problem of Problems, a topic he had first explored in 1918.

After the initial publication in 1976, the Encyclopedia was published in two further independent print editions in 1991 and 1995, as an interactive CD-rom in the late 1990s and is now an open-source website and public data API.

A ‘living’ dataset

It is tempting to assume that a full cataloging of world problems and strategies is an impossible task. The Encyclopedia operates in a constant state of change and improvement, and should be considered experimental and perpetually incomplete. As the work of international associations evolves, the content in the Encyclopedia continues to expand. UIA is currently developing ways in which the data can be both populated and utilized by the associations world and researchers at large.

Access the Encyclopedia

The Encyclopedia is available as a free, open-source public resource. It contains profiles of some 56.000+ world problems, 31.000+ action strategies, 3200+ Human Value profiles and more. You can visit the website and explore the content at the link below:

4th Print Edition 1994 - 1995

Published from 1976 to 1995
Editor: Union of International Associations
Publisher: K. G. Saur Verlag

Out of Print
Please see online version
Hardback (approx. 1264 pp.)
ISBN: 3 598 11225 4

The print edition of the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential is the result of an ambitious effort to collect and present information on the problems humanity is confronted with, as well as the challenges such problems pose to concept formation, values and development strategies. With a total of nearly 20,000 entries, linked by over 158,000 cross-references, this edition is more comprehensive than any of the previous editions. Entries themselves have been rigorously updated and extended in both quantity and content.

  • Encyclopedia Volume 1: World Problems

    The first volume of the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential describes over 12,000 world problems, which are linked by some 120,000 relationships of 7 types. Problems included are those identified in international periodicals but especially in the documents of some 20,000 international non-profit organizations profiled in the Yearbook of International Organizations.

    This volume is divided into 5 sub-sections containing descriptive entries, and 2 further sub-sections corresponding to entries which are indexed and cross-referenced, but are not printed.

  • Encyclopedia Volume 2: Human Potential: Transformation and Values

    Volume 2 of the Encyclopedia is divided into 5 sections: Human Development - 4,475 cross-referenced entries; Integrative Knowledge - identifies over 600 symbols considered significant in traditional and modern cultures; Metaphors and Patterns - over 1,300 metaphors and the 4,500 relationships between them; Transformative Approaches; Values and Wisdom - over 3,200 values, and maps over 120,000 relationships between them.

  • Encyclopedia Volume 3: Actions - Strategies - Solutions

    Volume 3 of the Encyclopedia contains descriptions of over 15,000 international strategies and action plans, and cross-references the world problems in Volume 1 and the international organizations described in the Yearbook of International Organizations. Profiled are the strategies currently employed by international bodies, whether in response to world problems or to enhance particular values or modes of development. It also provide the first systematic identification of several thousand vicious problem cycles to which such strategies need to respond, but provides the necessary remedial focus to balance this information and identifies mutually reinforcing strategic cycles.

    This volume is divided into 9 sub-sections, of which 5 contain descriptive entries, and a further 3 correspond to entries which are indexed and cross-referenced but are not printed.

  • Encyclopedia Past Editions

    The Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential has also been published in three previous editions, beginning in 1986, and one edition under the title Yearbook of World Problems and Human Potential, published in 1976.

    All print editions of the Encyclopedia are out of print. The online version is freely accessible, however. For more information, please see the 'Online Version' tab above.

    More Encyclopedia Information


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Quotes from Encyclopedia Reviews

"No limit exists to the application of this Encyclopedia - it is an excellent data source for any type of theoretical and practical research."
- Journal of Documentation

"The term "awesome" is prone to overuse. Nevertheless, its use is entirely appropriate to describe this massive, rich, yet easily accessible work."
- Current Issues In Criminal Justice

"A really extraordinary help for mankind, could be of tremendous help for decision makers."
- Knowledge Organization

"The most comprehensive source of information on world problems, on how they are perceived to be interrelated, and on the human resources and strategies which can be used to challenge them."
- Scientific and Medical Network

"Many local, regional and global problems can only be solved through an integrative, holistic approach involving the identification of several hundred EFPVs. Here, the Encyclopedia is an invaluable conceptual and applied tool."
- Journal of Documentation

"Radically different perspectives are offered by this really exciting source of descriptions of human capabilities to policy-makers, social researchers and those concerned with development strategies."
- Knowledge Organization

"This is a valuable and important collection of information, and should not be missed."

"The insight and stimuli to be found in the Encyclopedia should be made accessible to as many people as possible."
- International Social Science Review

"If political bodies would really like to see citizens actively doing something about world problems, the Encyclopedia is the educational work which will give them the means to this end."
- International Social Science Review

"Occasionally a powerfully outstanding piece of work reminds us of what can, and should be achieved. This is one of them."
- Futures - Oxford

"The authors and the compiler of this Encyclopedia have tried to solve a problem that seems to utterly defy solution. Nevertheless they have solved it in some way."
- IC International Classification

"The Encyclopedia is a wonder that could only come from superhuman dedication, unremitting toil, a bit of genius, and, yes, a madness upon which the gods have smiled."
- The Futurist

"Like no other encyclopedia. Its subject-matter is unique: the problems facing humanity, the way international organisations and networks perceive those problems, and the ideas that exist about human potential."
- World Goodwill

"The Encyclopedia is full of fascinating, quite deadpan information about every conceivable problem, presented in an impartial manner, with both sides of every argument side by side."

"The healthiest challenge to problem thinking one could hope to find, a radical departure which sheds insight and sense."
- Inquiry Magazine

"A real treasure trove providing multiple insights into problem perceptions which both reflect and shape realities."
- Yehezkel Dror

"There is nothing like it, either in depth or scope. A unique contribution to our understanding of the global problematique."
- Peter Russell, author of Global Brain

"What an idea! Warmly recommended, a fresh approach that hopefully will stimulate more creativity in all of us."
- Johan Galtung, Olof Palme Professor of Peace Studies

"A powerfully outstanding piece of work ... as a research tool, a source of material and a continuing inspiration. We would all be better off if there were more works of this stature."
- Richard A Slaughter, Futures

"The Encyclopedia introduces the user gently to a highly unsatisfactory state of world affairs, providing him with an improved insight into the many contradictions in which world problems are ensnarled, and the reasons that they have come about."
- Robert Jungk, Zukunft