For statistical data from different countries to be useful in international planning of economic and social development, this data must be collected, analyzed and presented in such a way as to permit inter-country comparisons. Despite considerable progress, it is still very difficult to prepare regional and world totals on the basis of information originating from official national sources. Each country may apply a slightly different method of data collection such that each individual statistical figure requires a special qualifying footnote in any international statistical compendium. Another source of incomparability is vast differences in meaning for terms, such as, unemployment, disease and crime.
Of paramount importance are national economic, social and health statistics, which despite their intense study at international levels cannot be subsumed into comprehensive regional or global aggregates to detect levels and trends. Employment, distribution of wealth, crime, human rights and educational statistics are among those presenting difficulties.
The timidity of academicism or some professional statisticians employed by intergovernmental organizations prevents them from assembling probabilistic data, or to engage in forecasting to any considerable extent. In some cases, country data submitted is suppressed from publication because its statistical treatment does not conform to that of the majority of countries, or there is some anomaly or marginally higher level of statistical uncertainty.
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.