The severity of disasters caused by natural phenomena could be largely mitigated, and the actual occurrence of disasters caused by inappropriate human activities could be prevented, if adequate measures were taken before the event. However, little attention is given to long-term policies and plans: the identification of disaster-prone areas is incomplete; public information is scarce; early-warning systems are undeveloped; training of personnel is inadequate; and new legislation and environmental measures are either insufficient or non-existent. Often the effects of a disaster on a population are far greater than need be because of ignorance, neglect, poverty, and sometimes corruption and deceit.
Developing countries are especially vulnerable to disasters because they are generally not at all equipped to handle the resulting problems, nor do they have the resources to devote to prevention.
Although a disaster can provide the impetus not only to rebuild what was lost, but to build in such a way as to mitigate or prevent a re-occurrence, such lessons are seldom learned. As result, needless suffering continues.
Disasters like the near-meltdown of the nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania and the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger cannot be traced to discrete errors or blamed solely on "operator error," as has been the typical approach in the past. They are the natural result of the systems themselves. They are accidents that are inconceivable -- until they happen.
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.