The Encyclopedia of World Problems is a long-term project, initiated in 1972. It is a resource which attempts to present the world as people experience it, whether negatively or positively. The phenomena described are those which inspire both hopes and fears about the world's future, whether real or imaginary. The world is complex and rapidly changing so that anticipating and planning in the face of a myriad of interconnected problems is becoming increasingly challenging. Our ability to conceive adequate solutions is often undermined by our lack of understanding of the nature of problems in their wider context.

The Encyclopedia is a unique tool that offers an holistic approach to problems and strategies. It not only systematically identifies recognized world problems, but also maps the complexity of their inter-relationships. The Encyclopedia also has the potential to identify the strategies and solutions that humanity actually or potentially uses to confront problems, as well as mutually reinforcing strategic cycles.

The Encyclopedia allows policy makers, researchers and other users to discover new approaches to understanding and action, and to challenge unquestioned patterns of response to the crises of the times. It helps clarify the conceptual challenge of interrelating and disparate, or even contradictory information, within our complex societies. It provides a framework to hold the variety of existing perspectives at a global level and to provide means for exploring their relationships. The Encyclopedia can also empower individuals and societies in their response to the problematic conditions of the moment by facilitating an alternation between cultural perspectives, ideologies, beliefs and even "facts".