Quick links:


Main content:

Global Challenges


This is the 2008 draft synopsis of global challenges. You will get the newest version of the synopsis here.

Global challenges


This survey gives an overview of the most urgent global challenges for human needs and life. All these challenges are of existential importance for human life, since these challenges are concerned with overcoming or reducing to the extent possible the large-scale damages and/or risks that affect many people. The addressed challenges mainly originate in man-made influences, but to the lesser extent in the individual behaviour of the affected people, instead the challenges are more due to larger-scale human activities.

The global challenges have been weighed and prioritized as far as available data and risk assessments allow. They are considered with regard to the questions: Are they paid enough attention? Are efforts taken that are needed to overcome them? For selecting and weighing the challenges indicators are used which relate to damages and risks to life and health, to economic and social development, and to natural foundations of human life. Data, risk assessments, goals, targets and recommended measures are all taken from trusted sources such as scientific institutions, UN (United Nations) organizations, national administrations, and foundations. Due to data issues the order of challenges described below should not be seen as a strict type of hierarchy. In particular, some challenges characterized primarily by risks may be underestimated due to lacking data.
  In order to avoid misconceptions, it should be pointed out that the survey does not aspire to give a complete description of all global challenges or the state of the world. Instead only the most urgent challenges shall be identified. By no means does this claim that further challenges are irrelevant or negligible. Furthermore, this survey on most urgent challenges does not rate different countries or groups of countries as high or low, but rather takes a global perspective.
  Within this synopsis the various connections between, and overlapping of, the global challenges can only be indicated. They are described more precisely in the separate pages on the specific global challenges.

Although many of these challenges seem to be too burdensome for people to become involved in, progress can be seen and some other severe problems have already been solved. Every progress in terms of saving human lives, improving health and other bases of our existence is worth the effort.

Annotations | Methodology | Sources

Synopsis of Challenges

World Nutrition and Poverty Eradication

Pie chart: 14% of world population affected by malnutrition (963 millions), 23%-40% by poverty Bar chart: 4.7-5.0 million deaths per year, 20-40 million lives at risk Negative trend

Although there is enough food to feed every person on the planet, 963 million people suffer from chronic hunger (increasing). Roughly almost five million per year die, among them 3.5 million children under 5 (decreasing). The highest death toll of the worst famines in human history were claimed between 20 and 40 million lives. Extreme poverty is one of the main causes, affecting the 1.4 billion people living below 1.25 dollar per day (rising). The members of the United Nations have agreed upon the targets of halving the proportions of undernourished and of extreme poor people from 1990 to 2015. In order to reach the nutrition target 30 billion $ (dollar [United States]) are needed per year. Recommended measures include: school meal programmes, food for work projects, microcredits, etc. (and so on)
(Sources: FAO [Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations] 2008a; Black et al. [ and others] 2008, p. [page] 243, 254, UNICEF [United Nations Children's Fund] 2008, WFP [World Food Programme] 2004, 4, The Hunger Project; CBC [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation] 2008; WB [World Bank] 2008, 30, and 2008c; UN 2000, § 19.1; FAO 2008, 6.)

... more on world nutrition and poverty eradication

Stop Epidemics

Pie chart: 4.5% of world population affected (294 millions) Bar chart: 4.3 million deaths per year, over 100 million lives at risk Steady/negative trend

About 33 million people suffer from HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)/AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) (increasing). Circa 14.4 million people are sick from tuberculosis (rising), 247 million from malaria. Together, these diseases kill around 4.3 million people per year. There are also global risks of resistant germs and new diseases, characterized by a very large damage potential as well as uncertain probabilities of occurrence. In our time, an event similar to the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic could result in over 100 million deaths. The UN targets to halt the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other major infectious diseases by 2015. Information and antiretroviral therapy against HIV/AIDS need at least 20 billion $ in 2009. Further measures consist of anti-malaria bed nets, insecticide use and new treatments.
(UNAIDS [Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS] 2008, 16; WHO [World Health Organization] 2008b, 19, and 2008c, 10; WBGU [German Advisory Council on Global Change] 1998, 62; MA [Millennium Assessment] 2005, 89; UN 2000, § 19.4; UNAIDS 2008, 185.)

... more on stopping epidemics

Keeping Climate Liveable

Bar chart: 154 000 deaths per year, 182 million lives at risk Bar chart: 83 billion $ in damages per year, 5-20% of per-capita consumption at riskNegative trend

Man-made climate change will likely include a global warming of 1.1-6.4°C (degree Celsius) by 2100 and weather extremes, harming agriculture, biodiversity, freshwater, coastal zones, health, etc. About 154 000 annual deaths are attributed to climate change, possibly mounting to a total of 182 million people by the end of this century. Costs of disasters related to climate change reached 83 billion $ in 2005. They could rise to between 5% and 20% of per-capita consumption within this century. Linear climate change is a risk with quite a high extent of potential damage and quite a high probability of occurence; non-linear changes have a higher damage but an unknown probability. There are 38 industrialized countries and countries in transition who have agreed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 to 2012 by 5%. Although they have achieved this in average, regardless global emissions have increased by 24.4%. Efforts in mitigation of and adaptation to climate change should be intensified.
(IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] 2007, 7f. [and following page]; WHO 2002, 72; Christian Aid 2006, 9; Munich Re 2006, 4, 7, 13; Stern 2006, 143; WBGU 1998, 62; UNFCCC [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] 2008, part 2; IPCC 2007, 4.)

... more on keeping climate liveable

Safe Birth Conditions

Pie chart: 4.9% of world population affected (300 millions) Bar chart: 3.7-4.5 million deaths per year Positive trend

About 39% of deliveries in countries of the South take place without assistance by skilled attendants (decreasing). Furthermore, 300 million women are suffering from illness brought about by pregnancy or childbirth. Every year there are between 3.7 and 4.5 million infant and maternal deaths. The UN members have set the targets of reducing the mortality rate of children under the age of 5 by two thirds and the maternal mortality rate by three quarters from 1990 to 2015. Furthermore universal access to reproductive health and family planning shall be achieved. Comprehensive measures to reduce child mortality would require 52.4 billion $.
(UN 2008, 25; WHO 2005, 10; WHO 2008a, 54, UNICEF 2008, 1, WHO 2008, 9; UN 2000, § 19.3; UN 2006a, 6; WHO 2005, xvii [roman 17].)

... more on safe birth conditions

Clean Indoor Air

Pie chart: 49% of world population affected (3 billions) Bar chart: 1.5 million deaths per year Positive trend

Each year, 1.5 million people – primarily women and children – die due to respiratory diseases resulting from indoor air pollution (decreasing). This is due to cooking inside with an open fire; the underlying cause can be seen as predominantly a lack of access to modern energy. Three billion people live in such households. The WHO air quality guideline for respirable particulate matter with a diameter less than 10 m (PM10) applies also to indoor air pollution. Interventions are more efficiently vented stoves or rooms, and cleaner fuels. Appropriate stoves for all affected households would cost about 30 billion $. 112 governmental and non-governmental actors have joined in the Partnership for Clean Indoor Air.
(WHO 2007 and 2002, 69, 226; WHO 2002, 70; WHO 2006, 10; ITDG [Intermediate Technology Development Group] 2003.)

... more on clean indoor air

Road Safety

Pie chart: 0.4% of world population injured (24.3 millions) Bar chart: 1.28 million deaths per year Bar chart: 518 billion $ in damages per year Negative trend

About 24.3 million people are injured or disabled, and 1.28 million people die in road traffic per year. The global economic costs of road crashes have been estimated at $ 518 billion annually. There is no international target. Measures: safe road design, traffic management, seat belts, helmets, day-time running lights, speed limits, and restrictions on drinking and driving.
(WHO 2008a, 28, 58 and 117; WHO 2003, 96; WHO 2002, 72.)

... more on road safety

Access to Safe Water

Pie chart: 38% of world population affected (2.5 billions) Bar chart: 1.63 million deaths per year Positive trend

About 879 million people do not have access to hygienic water and 2.5 billion are missing basic water sanitation (both decreasing). As a result this leads to 4.6 billion cases of disease as well as to 1.63 million deaths annually, most of them children. The UN members agreed to halve, from 1990 to 2015, the proportion of people lacking access to safe drinking water, as well as the proportion of those having no access to basic sanitation. To achieve the targets, 10 billion $ per year are needed. Measures range from disinfection at the point of consumption up to rainwater collection and household connections to water.
(UN 2008, 41f.; WHO 2008a, 28; WHO 2007 and 2004b, 1344, 2146; UN 2000, § 19 [1]; UN 2002, § 24, 7; UNDP [United Nations Development Programme] 2006, 42.)

... more on access to safe water

Annotations (and methodology) | Sources

Clean Outdoor Air

Pie chart: 30% of world population affected (1.84 billions) Bar chart: 960 000 deaths per year Bar chart: 74.3 billion $ in damages per year Negative trend

Outdoor air pollution causes respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. About 1.84 billion people of urban population are exposed to levels of particulate air pollutants above 20 g/m3 (micrograms per cubic metre). This is the international health related guideline for PM10 (particulate matter less than 10 m [micrometre] in diameter). Resulting in 960 000 deaths per year (increasing). The atmosphere's ability to cleanse itself of pollutants has declined by about a tenth since preindustrial times. Annual damages by air pollution in the US (United States (of America)) are about 74.3 billion $. Advisable measures consists of: filtering or avoidance of exhaust fumes from vehicles, power plants, and industry, the switch to renewable energy, traffic reduction, as well as expansion of public transport and bicycle traffic.
(OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] 2008, 183ff. [and following pages], and 2008a, Data, world; WHO 2006, 9; OECD 2008, 257ff.; MA 2005, 42; OECD 2008, 260.)

... more on clean outdoor air

Work Safety

Pie chart: 7% of world population affected (428 millions) Bar chart: 2.2 million deaths per year Unknown trend

There are about 268 million occupational accidents and 160 million victims of work-related illnesses per year. Annually, 2.2 million people die by work-related diseases or accidents. There is no international target. Occupational cancers are entirely preventable through hygiene measures, substitution of safer materials, enclosure of processes, and ventilation.
(ILO [International Labour Organization] 2005, 3, 7 and 1; WHO 2002, 75.)

... more on work safety

Peace and Security

Bar chart: 172 000-310 000 deaths per year, 191 million lives at risk Positive trend

Between 172 000 and 310 000 people per year are killed by violence in recent armed conflicts (decreasing). Within the 20th century, there were about 191 million deaths in armed conflicts. Since armament started to include weapons of mass destruction we are confronted with the danger of man-made devastation on mankind. Production and storage of NBC (nuclear, biological and chemical) weapons as well as nuclear weapon early-warning systems pose risks similar to nuclear energy facilities and large chemical facilities, but with varying probability of occurrence. The UN has demanded the disarmament of weapons of mass destruction, some treaties ban chemical and biological weapons, as well as the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The implementation of these restrictions pose a considerable problem. In 2009 the expiring Strategic Arms Reductions Treaty I (START I) should be renewed.
(WHO 2008a, 58, 2004, 124 and 2002, 80, UCDP [Uppsala Conflict Data Program] 2006; WHO 2002a, 21, 5; WBGU 1998, 73f.; UN 2004.)

... more on peace and security

Protect Soils

Pie chart: 19% of world population affected (1.2 billions) Pie chart: 33% of soils degraded Negative trend

Soils deliver more than nine tenths of all food. More than 1.2 billion people and about one third of all land usable for agriculture in more than 110 countries are affected by soil degradation. Moreover large areas are threatened with being turned into steppe or deserts. Major causes are overgrazing, intensive or inappropriate methods of agriculture, and deforestation. Suitable plantings can improve the quality of soils. The UN has agreed on the goal to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought. UNCCD (United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification) has initiated various action programmes.
(MA 2005a; UNCCD 1994; unccd.int.)

... more on protect soils

Protection from Disasters

Pie chart: over 7.9% of world population affected (over 521 millions) Bar chart: 113 000 deaths per year, 850 000 to 4 million lives at risk Bar chart: 200 billion $ in losses per year Negative trend

Annually, 521 million people are exposed to floods, 344 million to tropical cyclones, 130 million to meteorological drought and 118 million to major earthquakes. From 1998 to 2007, 113 000 died on average per year by disasters with a natural or technological trigger. In 2008 more than 220 000 people died as a result of natural disasters. The deadliest natural disaster in recorded history, the flood of the Huang He (Yellow river), has caused 850 000 to 4 million casualties. Economic losses by natural catastrophes totalled some 200 billion $ in 2007. Since the fifties annual losses from natural catastrophes have increased tenfold. While there is no international target, the UN has started the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction with the goal of reducing human, social, economic and environmental losses due to natural hazards and related technological and environmental disasters. A framework for action from 2005 to 2015 has been developed, which is concerned e. g. (for example) with early warning systems and the risks of climate change.
(Red Cross 2008, 144; Red Cross 2008, 205; NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] 1999, Encyclopædia Britannica Online 2008, CBC 2008; Munich Re 2008; MA 2005, 54, 9; www.UNISDR.org.)

... more on protection from disasters

Availability of Water

Pie chart: 19% of world population affected (1.2 billions) Pie chart: 5-25% over-use of freshwater Negative trend

More than 1.2 billion people live in areas of physical water scarcity, lacking enough water for food production, health, and development (increasing). Between 5% and 25% of global freshwater use likely exceeds long-term accessible supply. Water quality, on global average, is declining, too. This issue raises the risk of conflicts. The UN members have agreed to stop the unsustainable exploitation of water resources by developing water management strategies. The Global Water Partnership supports their implementation.
(IWMI [International Water Management Institute] 2007, 10; FAO 2007, 135; MA 2005, 106f., 43.; UN 2000, § 23 [4]; GWPforum.org.)

... more on availability of water

Stabilizing Finance

Bar chart: 3.8 trillion $ in losses within 20-35 years, 20.4 trillion $ in risk potential of derivatives Negative trend regarding financial crises/positive trend regarding debt relief

Since 1970 financial crises have increased and caused fiscal costs in the 1980s and 1990s of more than 1 trillion $. In 2007/08 the worst crisis since 1929 has occured. Losses are 2.8 trillion $ (5% of global GDP [gross domestic product]), and there are governmental interventions of some 8 trillion $ (chiefly guarantees). The potential scale of market risk in derivatives transactions has amounted to 20.4 trillion $ in outstanding gross market values. Countries of the global South are in debt to industrialized countries by a total of more than 2.7 trillion $. Their debt service paid is five times the received development assistance and nearly double the direct investments. Risks could be reduced by a far-sighted regulation of financial markets (regarding transparency, equity, risk management etc.), better international cooperation and curbing global account imbalances. The UN has been striving for a debt relief, which has cumulated to 59 billion $ in 2006.
(Laeven/Valencia [IMF (International Monetary Fund)] 2008, 7 and 56; WB 2006; BoE [Bank of England] 2008, 12, 14, and 33; CRS [Congressional Research Service] 2008, 15; BIS [Bank for International Settlements] 2008, 5; WB 2007, 187; G-20 [Group of Twenty] 2008; FSF [Financial Stability Forum] 2008; IIF [Institute of International Finance] 2008; UN 2006, viii [roman 8]; IMF 2008a; UNDP 2007, 293; EK [Enquete-Kommission "Globalisierung der Weltwirtschaft – Herausforderungen und Antworten"] 2002, 115f.; UN 2000, § 15.2; UN 2007b, 15.)

... more on stabilizing finance/economy

Safe Injections

Pie chart: 0.2%-0.4% of world population affected (10-26 millions) Bar chart: 501 000 to 1.3 million deaths per year Bar chart: 535 million $ in costs per year Unknown trend

Between 501 000 and 1.3 million deaths are caused by unsafe injection practices in medical settings per year. Reuse of injection equipment without sterilization leads annually to 8 to 20.6 million cases of new hepatitis B infections, 2.0 to 4.7 million cases of hepatitis C infections and 80 000 to 260 000 cases of HIV infections. This may cost more than 535 million $ per year in direct medical expenditures. There is currently no international target. Measures include the communication of risks associated with unsafe injections to patients and health care workers as well as ensuring access to sufficient quantities and quality of injection equipment in health care facilities.
(WHO 2008, 44, 2004, 1831, and 2002, 78; Miller/Pisani 1999, 808f.; WHO 2004a, 1831; Kane et al. 1999, 803; WHO 2008, 44, Miller/Pisani 1999, 808f.; WHO 2004a, 1840, and 2002, 130f.)

... more on safe injections

Maintaining Biodiversity

Pie chart: 28% of species abundance lost Bar chart: 50-100 billion $ in benefits at risk Negative trend

Twelve of the fourteen indicators for biodiversity, which is important for ecosystem stability, show a negative trend. The Living Planet Index points out a decline of species abundance of about 28% since 1970. The worth of benefits from biodiversity, for example a successful pharmacological product, can amount to 50-100 billion $. The global risks of ecosystem destabilization and anthropogenic affects on mass developments of species have a high potential for damage, with high resp. unknown probabilities of occurrence. The UN members target to reduce the rate of loss of biodiversity significantly by 2010. Measures include: establishing more, as well as improving, protected areas; using more environmentally sound methods in agriculture; storing seeds and genes; and protecting species threatened by extinction.
(CBD [Convention on Biological Diversity] 2006, 4, 25; WWF [World Wide Fund For Nature] 2008, 6, 8; OECD 2008, 215; WBGU 1998, 62; CBD 2002, § 11; UN 2002, § 42, and 2006a, 6.)

... more on maintaining biodiversity

Annotations (and methodology) | Sources

Low Pollution and Toxicity

Pie chart: over 3.4% of world population affected (over 200 millions) Bar chart: 234 000 deaths per year Steady/negative trend

Over 200 million people have blood lead levels of at least 5 µg/dl (microgram per tenth of a litre). Lead causes annually 234 000 deaths. Human activities have already doubled the entry of nitrogen, affecting freshwater, coastal waters, and soils. It's similar with phosphates, sulphur emissions, acid deposition, ammonia, etc. The risks due to persistent organic pollutants and hormonally active substances are uncertain, but have a high persistence. The Stockholm Convention restricts or forbids production and use of 12 persistent organic pollutants. The UN members aim to minimize adverse effects of chemicals by 2020 and supports chemicals management in the South.
(WHO 2002, 71, 226; MA 2005, 15; MA 2005, 122; WBGU 1998, 119f.; WBGU 1998, 66; www.POPS.int; UN 2002, § 23.)

... more on low pollution and toxicity

Keeping Forests Usable

Bar chart: 15 billion $ in losses per year Positive trend

Deforestation has heightened the risk of malaria in Africa and South America by increasing the habitable environments for mosquitoes that transmit malaria. Each year 18% to 25% of greenhouse gas emissions are due to deforestation. The net loss of forests has decreased in the last years to 7.3 million hectares annually. Deforestation contributes to biodiversity loss. Each year illegal logging causes losses in assets, revenue and royalties of more than 15 billion $. The UN strives to reverse the loss of forest cover worldwide by sustainable forest management. Trading of illegally harvested timber has to be supervised and restricted. Poverty reduction, soil protection, and access to modern energy can open up alternatives to depletion.
(MA 2005, 114; UN 2007, 23; UN 2007, 23; WB 2006, 1f.; UNFF [United Nations Forum on Forests] 2006, 3.)

... more on keeping forests usable

Sustainable Resource Use

Bar chart: 4 trillion $ in costs at risk Negative trend

Global resource extraction is 55 billion tonnes (increasing). Maintaining resource supply depends on whether the success in exploration for and extraction of deposits that are currently uneconomic or unknown will be continued or increased beyond next decades. The material flow, energy use and pollution caused by resource extraction will likely rise. In the early 2010s production of oil will not meet the demand. The assumed onset of a maximum in oil extraction ranges from 2005 to 2020 (or, including non-conventional oil, not before 2030). Subsequent oil supply disruptions could cost the US economy alone about 4 trillion $. UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) recommends a long-term reduction of resource consumption by a factor of 10. Approaches are substitution, savings, and resource efficiency: dematerialization, miniaturization, durability, reusing of products respectively components, and recycling of material.
(OECD 2008, 240; RWI [Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung]/ISI [Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung]/BGR [Bundesanstalt für Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe] 2006; IEA [International Energy Agency] 2007, 5; ASPO [Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas] 2008, EWG [Energy Watch Group] 2008, BGR 2005, IEA 2004, 2008, 6, and 2008a, 8; Birol 2008; DOE [United States Department of Energy] 2005, 4, 31 and 71; UNEP 1999, 2.)

... more on sustainable resource use

Safe Technologies

Bar chart: 32 500-442 500 lives at risk Unknown trend

Safe technologies are, for example, renewable energies, recycling-based economy, bionics, etc. High risk technologies include: (1) nuclear power, large chemical facilities, and dams (potential for very extensive damage with a very low probability of occurrence), (2) certain genetic engineering applications (potential for very extensive damage but unknown probability), and last but not least, (3) any climate damaging technology. The three most severe accidents by such risk technologies have caused about 32 500 to 442 500 deaths in total. Nanotechnologies need ongoing assessment. The UN has addressed technological risks. Measures consist of: support of research, development and market launch of safe technologies, research on risks, regulation and reduction of technological risks, including the option of prohibition.
(WBGU 1998, 62; People's Daily Online 2005, Asia Times Online 2003, Chernobyl Forum 2006, 16, Greenpeace 2006, 10, 26 and 48, WBGU 1998, 71; OECD 2008, 386; UN 1992, chap. [chapter] 34 and 22; CBD 2000; WBGU 1998, 218, 220.)

... more on safe technologies

Maintaining the Ozone Layer

Positive trend

Damage to the ozone layer by fluorinated hydrocarbons has already been considerably reduced by measures undertaken even before the damaging effect could be clearly proved by science. This is a success story for the application of the precautionary principle. Nevertheless, there are still risks of heightened ultraviolet radiation and the associated increase of skin cancer. The recovery of the ozone layer is not expected until the mid-21st century. Stopping production and use of ozone depleting substances (CFCs and FCs) has been achieved to more than 90%. There are still problems with regard to some substitutes, CFCs produced and traded illegally, and the management of stockpiles.
(UN 2005; UN 2007, 25.)

... more on maintaining the ozone layer

Annotations (and methodology) | Sources

Challenges on capacity building:

Cooperation, Citizenship and Democracy

Positive trend

In order to overcome the global challenges several capacities for action can be used or built up, which can contribute to practical progress: (1) cooperation in partnerships by persons and/or institutions, enterprises or organizations; (2) civic commitments of people or the "corporate citizenship" of enterprises or institutions; (3) options for democratic participation in public affairs, including transparency and good governance. The Agenda 21 and the Millennium Declaration of the United Nations rely on the principle of cooperation. Partnerships are on the rise, and the number of parliamentary democracies is increasing as are the institutional, social and technical possibilities for participation.
(UN 1992, 2.1, 23; UN 2000, § 20; Economist 2008, 10, Freedom House 2008, Polity IV (roman 4) 2008.)

... more on cooperation, citizenship and democracy

Human Rights and Gender Equality

Positive trend

Getting involved with improving conditions of life is made easier by rules and guarantees that are stipulated in universal, civic, political, economic, social, and cultural human rights. This kind of empowerment can strengthen activities, too. Gender equality, rooted in human rights, is a key to many global challenges. The UN members target to end disparities between boys and girls in all levels of education. Of the children in the less developed countries, 11% of the boys and 14% of the girls are not enrolled in primary school. The share of women in parliaments has increased from 13% to 18% globally. The share of world population assessed to be participating in a high level of political and civic rights has increased as well.
(UN 2000, § 19.2, 20.1, 24, 25; UN 2008a, Indicator 2.1b; UN 2008, 19; Freedom House 2008.)

... more on human rights and gender equality

Information and Education, Research and Innovation

Positive trend

Capacity building also includes access to information and education. This enables people in understanding problems and influencing politics and markets on the base of solid information as well as choosing options concerning lifestyles. Furthermore, it assists in creating and accelerating new solutions in research and development and thereby shaping our paths to the future. Agenda 21 and the Millennium Declaration emphasize strengthening education and science along with the role of private business and information technology. The target for 2015 is that all children shall be able to complete primary schooling – to date 88% of the children in the South are enrolled in primary school (increasing). Additionally, the UN has maintained that information and communication technologies shall be available to all. Today, in the North 53% have Internet access, in the South it is only 9% (increasing). Patent activity is rising, too.
(UN 1992, 30, 35, 36; UN 2000, 19.2, 20.5; UN 2008, 12; UN 2008, 48; OECD 2008, 59f.)

... more on information and education, research and innovation


The base year of all target data is 1990, unless other stated.

Trends specified by +, 0 or refer to the current direction of development, but not to whether the development is on track to meet a given target.

For numeric names the short scale is used:
1 billion = one thousand million = 109 = 1 000 000 000
1 trillion = one thousand billion = 1012 = 1 000 000 000 000

1 m = 1 micrometre (micron) = 0.001 mm = 10-6 m

Almost all available data on global conditions is of low precision. Most data on the largest problems of mankind only partially relies on actual measurements of specific cases, but often on estimates based on modelling and extrapolation. So the data base is far from meeting the motto of the WHO Report 2005: Make every mother and every child count.

For detailed information on the selection and weighing of challenges, data quality and the order of challenges, trend data and trend symbols, as well as interlinkages of challenges, please refer to the methodology page.


Draft (2008)