In many places in the world today there are civil violence and war-like conditions such that the people there live under the constant threat that each day may be their last. The strain of living in constant fear exacts a heavy emotional toll. People who might be healthy under peaceful conditions often develop severe emotional and psychosomatic illnesses. Sleep disorders, depression, suicide and stress-related medical problems are widespread. The most vulnerable and tragic victims are children born into an environment where death and destruction are the norm. Some children develop severe learning disabilities and become pathologically frightened and withdrawn.
Lebanon, El Salvador and Northern Ireland are examples of such zones of random violence. In the Balkans in 1993 gratuitous cruelly has characteristically accompanied the racial purging and persecution of civilians. Frequently this takes the form of frenzied sexual atrocities, mutilations and orgiastic killings. These are usually committed while the perpetrators are experiencing the effects of severe long-term, high-adrenalin stress and while under the conflicting "upper" and "downer" influences of alcohol and marijuana. Many men in war zones discover that sexual desire and performance deteriorate rapidly under sustained stress, in contrast to the experience of women. It has been suggested that massive chemical imbalances in the body could be inducing men to perform greater excesses in a bid to stimulate their dulled senses to some semblance of normality.
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.