This section of the Encyclopedia groups together the major multi-sectoral, worldwide problems which tend to be prominent on the agendas of the major international organizations and in the media. Such problems also tend to group, or focus, many of the more specialized problems which are described in subsequent sections. Indeed in many debates discussion of the more specialized problems may be subsumed under discussion of these major problems.
Note that further information relevant to an understanding of the problem may be present in other problems cross-referenced in the entry consulted.
Many of the problems in this section are of such proportions and complexity that no single organization or discipline can claim to encompass any one of them in all its aspects. The scope and implications of such problems tends to be a matter of continuing debate. They are not sufficiently well-defined to respond to well-defined solutions. The nature of an appropriate solution to such problems is also a matter of continuing debate.
This section groups 170 problems for which there are 5,000 cross-references.
Inclusion of such problems calls for no comment because of their widely recognized importance.
The entires are based on information obtained from international organizations, from a wide variety of reference books, or as reported in the international media. The procedures for identifying world problems are described in the Notes.
A keyword index to entries is provided. Entries are also cross-referenced from the section on Human Values and Wisdom on the basis of the negative value words in the principal or alternative names of the problems. It is such value operators which render the problem "problematic".
Detailed comments are given in the Notes.
The emphasis throughout this volume has been placed on providing descriptions of less well-known problems, particularly when the extensive material available on the better known problems contained neither succinct descriptions of them nor descriptive material which could easily be reduced to succinct descriptions. The problem descriptions here represent a compilation of veiws from published documents (usually from interantional organizations). A description does not necessarily constitute the best possible description of the problems since a compromise has had to be struck between availability of information, the resources to process it, and the space available in this volume.
In a number of cases a problem could have been allocated to another section. Inclusion of a problem in this section, rather than in a preceding or following section, has been based on a number of factors. The position of the problem in one or more heirarchies of cross-references was a major factor in determining its allocation to this section.
Possible future improvements
There is much scope for improving the quality of problem entries through feedback from interested bodies. More bibliographic references could be included where appropriate, as well as references to major resolutions concerning those problems recognized by the United Nations. There is also much scope for improving the pattern of cross-references, both between problems, to other sections of this volume (eg values) and to the thousands of internationally-active bodies in the companion series Yearbook of International Organizations).