Human social systems are open systems interacting with their environments through the exchange of matter, energy, and information deriving both from the system itself and from the environment. The behaviour of such systems is typically purposive and directed toward a goal. Such systems, including subsystems such as individuals and groups within them, interact as communication systems in the form of a dynamic that tends to lead to a steady state situation whose disruption they resist. Within relatively narrow limits they are capable of adjusting and adapting to their environments, as well as changing them. Such systems are characterized by functional unity, namely a condition in which all parts work together with a certain degree of harmony or internal consistency, and without producing persistent conflicts which cannot be resolved or regulated.
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.