A good information system is essential for all aspects of economic management. Systematic adjustments in policies and programmes, necessary in a fast-changing world, are not possible without reliable monitoring of current developments. As a rule, better information-especially about key performance indicators-brings bigger dividends for economic management than do sophisticated techniques of long-term forecasting. Although senior officials may readily agree on the need to improve statistics, genuine commitment (as evidenced by the provision of adequate resources) and sustained efforts are often lacking.
The problems of planning without facts have been well documented in Africa, but they are serious in many other countries as well. Lacking sectoral statistics, governments have not been able to address sectoral issues. This proved particularly damaging when oil prices rose sharply in the 1970s, because few developing countries had the data they needed to reassess their energy requirements and to develop conservation programmes. For years the lack of good agricultural statistics has seriously handicapped the analysis of agricultural development programmes and the formulation of policies. And the whole world has now learned of the dangers of ignorance about a country's financial position. In several countries -- notably Indonesia, Mexico, and Turkey -- the external debt crisis was compounded by the lack of comprehensive data.
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.