Mass media may be used to influence or manipulate public opinion in favour of a political ideal or government policies. Such governmental 'information', official or unofficial, may be false or misleading. It may intensify conflict and intolerance, and lead to war or to terrorist activities. It may strengthen government control, dictatorship and repression, inequality, injustice and exploitation. It may create confusion or induce apathy, conformism, fear, cultural stagnation and alienation through ignorance. Non-governmental propaganda may emanate from opposition political parties, ideological groups, or from business interests.
Propaganda is contriving conditions where people's critical resistances are so weakened and their freedom of choice so severely reduced as to make acquiescence all too likely. As distinct from education, it is a systematic attempt to influence people by reducing the amount of information available for discussion and encouraging them to act on impulse. Those to be persuaded are led to believe that only one line of action in a particular situation is possible.
Governments may use effective communications to encourage citizen health, family planning, and energy conservation; caution in the use of dangerous products; or advise of the need of civilian defence or war-time resistance against an aggressor. This type of propaganda, including persuasion to take advantage of educational opportunities, or to support international agencies and international cooperation and development activities, is beneficial.
The Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential is a collaboration between UIA and Mankind 2000, started in 1972. It is the result of an ambitious effort to collect and present information on the problems with which humanity is confronted, as well as the challenges such problems pose to concept formation, values and development strategies. Problems included are those identified in international periodicals but especially in the documents of some 60,000 international non-profit organizations, profiled in the Yearbook of International Organizations.
The Encyclopedia includes problems which such groups choose to perceive and act upon, whether or not their existence is denied by others claiming greater expertise. Indeed such claims and counter-claims figure in many of the problem descriptions in order to reflect the often paralyzing dynamics of international debate. In the light of the interdependence demonstrated among world problems in every sector, emphasis is placed on the need for approaches which are sufficiently complex to encompass the factions, conflicts and rival worldviews that undermine collective initiative towards a promising future.
Non-profit, apolitical, independent, and non-governmental in nature, the UIA has been a pioneer in the research, monitoring and provision of information on international organizations, international associations and their global challenges since 1907.