The shift to technology has left many Third World rural communities behind. Villagers are still using the practical skills and information that were appropriate to another age. They may have been taught some skills - modern machines, chemical fertilisers, power saws and birth control pills are all commonly used. But the information on their use is often incomplete, and villagers lack the understanding necessary for their full application. Such partial knowledge results in villagers being unable to realize the new economic possibilities open to them, and agricultural production and small businesses are impeded by gaps in technical information. Programmes for nutrition, sanitation and preventive medicines need explanation, information and instruction on how applications for assistance must be submitted. For example, despite the general availability of building materials, old methods of extraction, preparation and shipping represent an overwhelming task; other methods may be available through government programmes, but residents are unaware of how to profit from such programmes. In general, the acquisition of functional information that could transform everyday life has resulted in only confusion.
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.