The Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential is a collaboration between UIA and Mankind 2000. It is the result of an ambitious effort, since 1972, 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. It is a response to the fact that many institutions are trapped in inadequate policy metaphors.
Encyclopedia of World Problems
It might easily be assumed that social problems exist since the dawn of history. However this does not appear to be the case, especially if it is assumed that for human suffering to qualify as a problem there should be a recognition that something should be done about it.
1. Previous UIA initiatives
The Union of International Associations, an international non-governmental organization founded in Brussels in 1907 partly on the initiative of two Nobel Peace Prize laureates (Henri La Fontaine, 1913; Auguste Beernaert, 1909), had activities prior to 1939 which are of historical interest in relation to the current project. These include:
1. Phenomenological approach
1. Need for a common frame
Before achieving consensus for purposes of action, some framework needs to be developed within which the different problems can be interrelated prior to the determination of their relative importance. Geoffrey Vickers argues that: "The changes that will flow from all of these impacts are unpredictable and perhaps unimaginable, but we can prepare to recognize and understand them more quickly as they emerge, by finding some common frame within which to comprehend them."
2. Myth of consensus
A number of arguments against a problem-focused approach have been encountered during the course of this project. Although the arguments overlap, in that they are based on common conceptions, they are examined separately below.
1. Major problems versus minor problems
The flood of documents produced by international organizations contains a very large number of facts, preoccupations, statements of belief, programme proposals and criticisms of other initiatives. Faced with this flood, most bodies survive by ignoring all but a small fraction of it. They endeavour to carve out a small niche, cultivating a support network of similarly minded bodies and formulating the most powerful strategy possible for them in order to act on the problems they perceive.
- as cross-references of entries in earlier sections