Developing policies to halt and reverse the two major harbingers of unsustainable development -- massive resource degradation and population growth. These include cross-sectoral issues (particularly trade, financial mechanisms, structural adjustment and technology transfer) and sectoral issues (including biodiversity, forests, agriculture and pesticides).
At the Earth Summit in Rio (1992), the phrase "sustainable development" became a vital instrument in focusing attention on the need for better environmental stewardship. The concept of sustainability, however goes well beyond the protection of natural resources. It also encompasses human welfare in the broadest sense, including education, health, equality of opportunity, and political and civil rights.
The Society for Development Alternatives recommends a seven-point programme to which all future development action be directly assigned above all other priorities: (a) satisfying the basic needs of every citizen; (b) fulfilling the potential of children; (c) raising the status and self-determination of women; (d) creating meaningful work and living wages for all; (e) enlarging the possibilities for social advancement; (f) enhancing the personal security of old people; (g) facilitating access to the means of family planning.
Too often, action to achieve objectives for sustainable development in one policy area hinders progress in another, while solutions to problems often lie in the hands of policy makers in other sectors or at other levels of government. This is a major cause of many long-term unsustainable trends. In addition the absence of a coherent long-term perspective means that there is too much focus on short-term costs and too little focus on the prospect of longer term "win-win" situations.
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.