A major objective of development is the growth of per capita income in the developing countries, as one of the means to improve living conditions and reduce international disparities in income and wealth. Further, the inadequacy of housing, and the lack of basic amenities such as drinking water and sanitation, not only affect the quality of life but also the rates of morbidity and mortality. An improvement in quality of life requires not only population policies, but also programmes to improve nutritional intake, provide new and renewable sources of energy, and to improve living conditions. While there is probably no single index of the level of living that can be applied in internationally, there are four recognized demographic variables associated with a better quality of life: longer life expectancy, lower mortality rates for all age groups of the population, lower morbidity rates, and lower fertility rates.
Income or output per capita is generally taken as the main indicator of the quality of life. In 1981 the per capita income of the richest country was nearly 220 times that of the poorest country and under present growth trends, international disparities will almost certainly widen. At present growth rates, it will take 70 to 90 years for the poorest countries to double their per capita income; even this will only slightly improve their standards of living. Meanwhile, their populations will double in 35 years or less.
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.