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Problems of information


Union of International Associations: a profile (Part #2)


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The tremendous scale and rate of growth of international work today presents a serious problem. It is hard enough for the international civil servant, or executive officer of an international N.G.O., to visualise clearly, as a whole and in perspective, the true shape and scale of international co-operation. When an effort is made to convey the extent of this international activity to the man in the street, sheer volume hinders understanding.

There is a sense in which adequate information is available. A multitude of books, documents, periodicals and reports are published by international N.G.O.'s. The difficulty lies not so much in the presence or lack of this information but in the task of making it available as a comprehensible unity. Basically there are insufficient general reference works to make it possible to become easily familiar with the main aspects of international life today. This difficulty would be just as great for workers and officials in the international field as it is for private individuals if it were not for the work done by the Union of International Associations.

It was at the turn of the century that two Belgians, Henri La Fontaine, Nobel Prize winner (1913), and Paul Otlet became conscious of the problems and opportunities in this field. These men, pioneers among those who worked for a world community, aimed to bring into closer relationship all international organisations and create, as they called it, a real 'diplomatic corps' of the world of science and social progress. They had formed the International Office of Biblio graphy (1892) and were among the principal promoters of the First Congress of International Associations (1910) in which 132 international bodies took part. It was this congress that gave official birth to the Union of International Associations (U.I.A.)