Risk is an inherent component of life; we are all at risk, every moment of our lives, even if we simply stay at home and do nothing. Some risks are self-imposed because we assume that the enjoyment they bring us is worth the risk (cigarette smoking, rock climbing, auto racing); other risks are imposed from natural sources (earthquakes, lightning, floods) or are man-made but considered outside of the realm of the average person's capacity to change (nuclear reactors, satellites falling from space).
It is recognized that the future will be characterized by increasing risks, whether those associated with new technologies, natural or human-caused disasters, or those of irreversible damage to natural systems both regionally (such as acidification, desertification, or deforestation) and globally (such as ozone layer depletion and climate change).
Both private citizens and the public at large are often duped into having risks imposed upon them. The Americans who fought in the Vietnam War were mislead into believing that their presence would curtail the spread of communism; the inhabitants near the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor in Pennsylvania were told that the risk of an accident was virtually impossible; and women who took Thalidomide during the 1950s and 1960s thought that it would stop their early-pregnancy nausea, involving virtually no risk to the foetus.
We accept risks of employment or sport because we consider that the pay, the interest of the activity, or the benefit it gives to others is worth the risk involved.
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.