Expressed commitment to affirmative action so often fails to translate into meaningful reform largely due to the reinforcement of dominant representations. Debates around affirmative action have played themselves out through 'category politics' -- the political use of conceptual and identity categories (such as 'equal opportunity' or 'women') in ways that delegitimize affirmative action and keep reform within limits. In addition, proponents of affirmative action too often make the mistake of refashioning the reform in response to attacks upon it, in the process reducing its potential impact. An example is the insistence by some that their form of affirmative action does not undermine 'merit' because they wish only qualified women to be appointed. This effectively removes the opportunity to challenge existing concepts of what constitutes merit. The result is that affirmative action (where it exists) is understood as a species of philanthropy, a reform which acknowledges the need to 'assist' the 'disadvantaged'. This view constitutes affirmative action targets as the problem and leaves the privilege of those in positions of influence and authority unchallenged. In fact, it enhances that authority by putting into their hands the power to decide who needs 'assistance', when and in what form.
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.