Cultural barriers, a result of a lack of appreciation of cultural differences and the reasons behind different customs, bolster misunderstanding and conflict. One of the most solid cultural barriers is language. Ideological conflicts due to different economic, political, religious or social systems also divide cultures. Customs and traditions can vary so widely between cultures, that, for example, a gesture which would elicit a favourable response in one place may be considered insulting in another; consequently, many cross-cultural development programmes, having a "one-sided" design, are doomed to failure.
In every country where there has been immigration, there are likely to be cultural barriers between the original and the new population. Immigrants often react to discrimination and isolation by clinging to their former culture as a source of unity and strength, thus feeding the misunderstandings between the two groups.
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.