In view of the earlier maturity of young people and their increasing involvement in all fields of social activity, the age of political majority in many countries is high, and is therefore an obstacle to active participation by young people in political or parliamentary affairs and to their standing for election. It is significant that the ages at which young people are placed under heavy obligations - for example, the age of criminal responsibility, the age of admission to employment, the call-up age for military service - are generally lower than the age of political or civil majority. In a number of countries the right to stand for election is not granted until an even later age.
In many countries the age of political majority is still twenty-one, for example in Belgium, Italy, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, Turkey, Colombia, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Australia, India, Pakistan, the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Mauritius, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. It is even higher in Italy for senate elections, for which the right to vote is not granted until twenty-five.
Thirty million students are enrolled in the world's higher institutions of learning. Many are acquiring knowledge and skills to enable them to contribute to the solution of the social and technical problems facing humanity. At any time, the students own working and living conditions are determined by the existing social and economic system's characteristics. Therefore their interests are linked at all times with working youth in general, whether students or not, and all classes of people, professionals or labours who are the productive element in society. However, particularly in the free-market economies, the political responsibilities and roles of students are not incorporated in the social dialectic, either at the national or, where it should have entered naturally, at the local level.
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.