The most worrying feature of the current globalization process is the widening fissure between the very poor - representing approximately 20% of the world's population - and the remaining majority. Despite improvements in life expectancy and standards of living in many parts of the world during the past several decades, there remain enormous and persistent economic differences between regions and countries, and particularly between the industrialized and developing nations. The absolute number of poor people in the world has continued to increase and disparities between the rich and the poor have widened even further. In developing countries, the growth in social demands has been triggered largely by population increases during the last four decades. Coupled with a significant slow-down in population growth in the industrialized nations, this has led to a highly skewed world-wide distribution of social needs and of the capabilities to satisfy them.
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.