Encyclopedia of World Problems - Archived Information

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Entry content and organization

Ordering of entries

Entry numbers have been allocated randomly; they have no significance other than as a permanent point of reference to facilitate indexing, cross-referencing, and updating between editions. Entries in the book version are in numeric order.

Index access to entries

In the book, the location of an entry in this sub-section may be determined from the Index (Section SX) on the basis of keywords in the name of the entry or its alternate titles.

Structure of entries

Entries may be composed of the following descriptive elements:

  • Entry number: This number has no significance, except as a convenient method of identifying the entry (particularly for indexing purposes), of filing information on it, and as an identifier to which cross-references from other entries (possibly in other Encyclopedia sections) may refer in the current and future editions. The first letter of the entry number refers to the section of this volume in which the sub-section, denoted by the second letter,  is located.
  • Strategy name:  The name selected as best indicating the nature of the strategy. This is printed in bold characters. It may be followed by alternative strategy names.

    • Unless unambiguously a strategy (eg Capitalism, Moral rearmament), a strategy name must include a word establishing its action orientation. Most often this is best achieved by the use of the gerund form (eg  Decentralizing, Discriminating  against ethnic groups).
    • When other information is lacking, "name-only strategies" provide a location for future descriptive information; a name also enables cross-references to be made from and to other strategies, even in the absence of text.
    • Alternative names are included to hold keyword synonyms through which the strategy may also be known. These may include colloquial or shorthand expressions.
    • Both "positive" and "negative" strategies are included (as described elsewhere). Different constituencies have different views of appropriate and inappropriate strategies. A seemingly "positive" strategy may be seen as "negative", just as a seemingly "negative" strategy may have its role for some under certain circumstances.
    • See extended comments on  strategy naming, as well as on  concept refinement and related challenges of language games.
  • Websites: A selection of relevant websites containing further information (where available).

    • Priorities should be given to international organizations specifically employing or advocating the strategy except where the organization is already cross-referenced in the entry.
    • Other useful websites provide fact sheets, URL indexes, web resource pages, treaty texts, bibliographies and online references.
    • Website references can provisionally substitute for absent descriptive text.
  • Description: Text attempting to define the generic core of the strategic processes involved.

    • The information included here and in following paragraphs is compiled directly, to the extent possible, from available published documents in the public domain. Much of it is reproduced, in a minimally edited form, from the publications of international organizations, such as those of the United Nations or its Specialized Agencies.
    • Descriptions emphasise the essential strategic action focus of the strategy, sharply focussed, rather than discursive theoretical, philosophical or administrative ways of approaching the strategy.
    • Where the strategy is in a hierarchy, care must be taken that information common to the entire hierarchy is placed in the broadest strategy and not repeated in each narrower strategy; conversely, that details of specific strategies are not lost in vague and unfocused descriptions at higher levels.  No attempt should be made to develop a vague description at a broader level when the strategy can be better explicated through descriptions of its narrow strategies.
    • Length of description may vary considerably.  It is a function of the importance of the strategy and the quality of the available text:  namely, no matter how important the strategy, avoid extensive, unfocused descriptions; conversely no matter how good the text, avoid length, especially if the strategy is very specialized.  Exceptions may be made for strategies that are rarely documented elsewhere or poorly understood.
    • Widely experienced, complex or multi-dimensional strategies, such as Making decisions, Saving souls, Thinking globally, and Making friends, do not lend themselves to useful descriptions.
  • Context: Provides supplementary information, notably on the history of how the strategy's importance was recognized initially and how this recognition has evolved over time. This paragraph may also present the strategy's raison d'être in the form of the problematic setting or challenge from which the strategy arose

    • If the description under "Description" is rather long, consider transferring portions of it into "Context".
  • Implementation: Describes how the strategy is used or could be used, who is using it and otherwise concerned with it, together with specific examples of the strategy as implemented.

    • Implementation should preferably reflect world-wide scope.  However, good information on world-wide implementation may be rare, or out of date, expecially in the case of strategies that are difficult to articulate in conventional programmatic terms (eg Making love, Praying, Honouring ancestors)
    • This paragraph may also be used to provide some statistical, geographical or other information indicative of the scope of application of the strategy.
    • In many cases, good information on a strategy may only be available in one or two countries where research and reporting have been undertaken, or where its use has first been explored.  When it is acknowledged that the strategy is also used in other countries, such single country data may be used as an example to clarify wider implementation.
    • Where a strategy is applied in different ways or to different degrees in different regions of the world, then the description of implementation can usefully be done in separate paragraphs under appropriate regional or geopolitical headings.
    • It is not useful to give too many statistics, particularly if they are dated or date quickly.  Indicative information is better that none where authenticated information is not available.
    • Exaggerated or unsubstantiated reporting from interested parties should preferably be used in the "Claim/Counterclaim".
  • Claim: Stresses, in the language of protagonists and vested interests, the special importance of this strategy and why its implementation is particularly urgent.

    • This text may deliberately exaggerate claims for the unique importance of the strategy, as found in statements generated for public relations, press release, fundraining and budget protection purposes, for example.
    • Claims should preferably be pithy, for example "Paying taxes is proof of civic responsibility".
    • Numbering claims conveys appreciation of their heterogenous source.
  • Counter-claim: Stresses the relative insignificance or erroneous conception of the strategy, or the dangers of its implementation.

    • Use for well-reasoned statements showing how the strategy is a false strategy, non-existent, poorly formulated or analyzed by its protagonists, unsusbstantiated or merely subjective or misunderstood.
    • Can also be a critique of the strategy as described, drawing attention to hidden assumptions or blind spots in its formulation.  This is expecially valuable in the case of perceptions arising from alternative ideologies.
    • This text may deliberately exaggerate the arguments refuting the relevance of the strategy.
    • Counter-claims are not easy to locate since they are seldom given in the documents of those most preoccupied by the strategy.  Absence of such arguments from the text does not mean that they do not exist.

Cross-referencing of entries

At the end of any entry, there may be cross-references to other entries. These indicate the number and name of the cross-referenced entry, whether within this section of the Encyclopedia or in other sections (eg World Problems).

There are 3 types of hierarchical cross-references between strategies:

  • Broader: More general strategy of which the strategy described may be considered a part. The described strategy may be considered an aspect of one or more broader strategies. (In the example below, Protecting marine birds has two broader strategies: Protecting birds and Protecting marine animals, not shown). Care is taken to ensure that a strategy is not linked directly to a strategy that is too broad (see example below: Protecting birds is not the preferred broader strategy of Protecting the spotted owl -- when Protecting birds of prey is a direct intermediary link).  Another example: Establishing safe traffic flow might be an aspect of both Improving traffic systems (notion of efficiency) and Making safer cities (security notion).
  • Narrower: More specific strategy which may be considered a part of the described strategy. Care is taken to ensure that a strategy is not linked directly to a strategy that is too narrow (see example below: Protecting whales is not the preferred narrower strategy of Protecting mammals --when Protecting marine mammals is a direct intermediary link).
  • Related: A strategy that is associated in a hierarchically undefined way with the described strategy. Care is taken to ensure that a strategy is not linked directly to a strategy that is too distantly related (see example below: Protecting marine mammals is related directly to Protecting marine birds --but not directly related to Protecting freshwater birds). The related category may also be used as a temporary catch-all in those exceptional cases when the relationship cannot immediately be expressed through any of the other cross-reference types.

An example of a hierarchy is:


    • Protecting birds

      • Protecting birds of prey

        • Protecting the spotted owl
      • Portecting marine birds
      • Protecting freshwater birds
    • Protecting reptiles
    • Protecting  fish
    • Protecting  mammals

      • Protecting  marine mammals

        • Protecting  whales

Clarifying complex hierarchies may usefully serve to point to absent strategies.  The number of levels it is worth including in the hierarchy is a matter of judgement.  Clearly the more there are, the greater the risk of "opening up" excessively detailed strategies for which no descriptive information is readily available.  Hierarchies are indicative but not definitive; relationships are subject to change in the light of further information.

There are 4 types of functional cross-references between strategies:

  • Constrains: Strategies constrained or undermined by the described strategy: a forward or subsequent negative causal link indicative of a negative feedback loop. Strategies that are checked, blocked or limited by the described strategy.
  • Constrained by: Strategies constraining or undermining the described strategy: a backward or prior negative causal link indicative of a negative feedback loop. Strategies checking, blocking or limiting the described strategy.
  • Facilitates: Strategies facilitated by the described strategy: a forward or subsequent positive causal link indicative of a positive feedback loop.Strategies that are furthered, assisted, underpinned or strengthened by the described strategy.
  • Facilitated by:Strategies that facilitate the described strategy: a backward or prior positive causal link indicative of a positive feedback loop. Strategies furthering, assisting, underpinning or strengthening the described strategy.

Most strategies constrain or facilitate some other strategies.  Such links may be difficult to identify, although they may be apparent in "Counter-claims".  As with hierarchical relationships, mentioned above, care must be taken in indicating such functional cross-relationships.

  • It may be that the strategy is mentioned as constraining, for example, another named strategy.   The latter may however be one of a cluster of sub-strategies similarly constrained.  Inserting the cross-reference to one raises the question why the 19 others are not included.  Wherever possible it is better to cross-reference some major strategy of which the 20 are all a part.  Example: Empowering workers may be indicated as facilitating Protecting rights of working women. It is important to determine whether this should not preferably be indicated as Protecting rights of workers, since otherwise there is the question of how such empowerment affects non-female, non-adult workers.
    When a source document does note strategies that are constrained or facilitated, this may have been done with excessive enthusiasm.  Such lists disguise the fact that the effect on those strategies is via other strategies which are more directly connected to them.  The result is that such major strategies become too heavily cited.  It is not useful to note that all European cities are linked by rail to Paris.  It is more useful to note that Amsterdam is linked to Brussels which is linked to Paris.  Amsterdam is not directly linked to Paris. Example: Reducing population growth may facilitate Reducing incidence of malnutrition.  But it might be better to indicate it as facilitating Increasing food security which in turn facilitates Reducing incidence of malnutrition.

It is possible to isolate vicious cycles of problems and corresponding vicious cycles of strategies.  In the case of  problems, in the cycle each problem is aggravating the next -- with the last looping back to aggravate the first in the chain. The more obvious loops may be composed of only 3 or 4 problems. Far less obvious are those composed of 7 or more. An example is:

    •   Alienation > Youth gangs > Neighbourhood control by criminals > Psychological stress of urban environment  > Substance abuse > Family breakdown > Alienation

Such cycles are vicious because they are self-sustaining. Identifying them is also no easy matter and computers are being used for this purpose.  Serendipitous loops of strategies that facilitate one another are also possible. Clearly identification of serendipitous strategy loops are vital to sustainable development strategy -- in order to contain and break vicious problem loops.

Relationships between strategies, other than hierarchical ones, are included either where they were specifically mentioned in the available documents or where they could be reasonably inferred from such material. It is rare for documents to be systematic in their description of the relationships between strategies. Relationship networks have to be built up from several different sources. Often it is not clear whether the relationship applies for the whole of a strategy hierarchy or for only some component part. There is a continuing effort to refine such networks, but even when a relationship is contentious the practice is to retain the relationship provisionally rather than exclude it and lose a  potential link.  This said, it is generally easier to criticize errors of commission than to undertake the extra effort to remedy errors of omission.

There are 3 types of cross-reference to other databases:

  • Organizations: Used primarily to cross-reference international organizations (in the parallel database) specifically advocating or implementing the strategy.

    • Include: organizations concerned solely with the strategy (eg  International Hospice Insitute) and/or using that strategy amongst others.
    • Exclude: organizations claiming concern without action, temporaily acting, or identifying with rather than actually implementing the strategy.
    • If there are numerous organizations implementing the strategy, it is best to cite an umbrella body rather than any one.
  • Problems: Used to note links to problems (in the parallel database) to which the strategy responds
  • Bibliographical references: Used primarily for authorative international publications, preferably produced by international organizations (listed in a parallel database) .

    • More recent publications are preferable, if available.  However, publications produced when the strategy was first advocated or formulated may contain better articulations of the dimensions of the strategy.
    • References should be cited within the entry matching their content, not at a narrower or broader level.
    • The title of a pertinent publication may not necessarily correspond to the strategy name.
    • A seemingly pertinent publication title may disguise a totally unfocused content.