THE TERM third world is said to have been coined by demographer Alfred Sauvy in a 1952 article in the French magazine L’Observateur, which he ended by comparing the underdeveloped nations of the world to the peasants who led the French Revolution: “this ignored Third World, exploited, scorned.” Some say French President Charles de Gaulle first used it; however, Sauvy’s article is generally cited as the first documented usage. It began to be generally used after a 1955 conference of developing nations at Bandung, INDONESIA. A year later, a group of French social scientists published a book, Le Tiers-Monde (The Third World), and in 1959, economist Francois Perroux began publishing a journal of the same name examining problems of economically underdeveloped countries.
Sauvy explained that in coining the phrase, he was making an analogy to the peasants of prerevolutionary FRANCE, who were called the third estate and were scorned by the ruling classes—nobility being the first estate and the French church the second estate. Sauvy wrote that third world countries are considered insignificant and worth “nothing,” although such countries “want to be something.”
Are there first or second worlds? When Sauvy coined the term, World War II had just ended and the world had split into two large blocs of contrary views. On one side were the democratic-industrial countries within the American and Western sphere of influence. On the other were the Eastern bloc of communist-socialist states. The remaining majority of the world’s states were not aligned with either group.
Thus, the first world was the leading industrialized nations, including what became the Group of Seven (G7) major powers: the UNITED KINGDOM, France, GERMANY, ITALY, JAPAN, CANADA, and the UNITED STATES. The second world was made up of the Soviet Union and the eastern Europe Warsaw Pact nations. But with the close of the Cold War, the differences between the two worlds became less distinct, particularly with Russia joining G7 and causing it to become the Group of Eight, and with former communist nations joining the NORTH ATLANTIC TREATY ORGANIZATION (NATO) and the EUROPEAN UNION.
Indeed, with the new economic power of the European Union, the riches of the oil-producing states and the ambitions of the emerging Pacific Rim nations, the original worldwide alignment has changed significantly. How, then, should such industrialized and increasingly prosperous and emerging nations as South KOREA, TAIWAN, SINGAPORE, and MALAYSIA be classified? What about the tiny oil-rich emirates of the PERSIAN GULF? Does their vast wealth put them in the first world? Or does their dependence on the industrialized world leave them in the maligned category of the third world?
Following is a list of the nations of the first, second, and third worlds as tabulated by the Nations Online Project in 2004:
THE FIRST WORLD
(Nations within NATO and/or the European Union or their spheres of influence) ANDORRA; AUSTRALIA; AUSTRIA; BELGIUM; Canada; CYPRUS; DENMARK; FINLAND; France; Germany; GREECE; Holy See (VATICAN CITY); HUNGARY; ICELAND; IRELAND; ISRAEL; Italy; Japan; LIECHTENSTEIN; LUXEMBOURG; MALTA; MONACO; NETHERLANDS; NEW ZEALAND; NORWAY; PORTUGAL; SPAIN; SWEDEN; SWITZERLAND; TURKEY; UNITED KINGDOM; and the United States.
THE SECOND WORLD
ALBANIA; AZERBAIJAN; BELARUS; BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA; BULGARIA; CHINA; CROATIA; CZECH REPUBLIC; ESTONIA; GEORGIA; Hungary; KAZAKHSTAN; KOREA (North); KYRGYZSTAN; LATVIA; LITHUANIA; MACEDONIA; MOLDOVA; MONGOLIA; POLAND; ROMANIA; RUSSIA; SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO; SLOVAKIA; SLOVENIA; TAJIKISTAN; TURKMENISTAN; UKRAINE; UZBEKISTAN; VIETNAM; and the former states of Yugoslavia.
THE THIRD WORLD
AFGHANISTAN; ALGERIA; ANGOLA; ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA; ARGENTINA; BAHRAIN; BANGLADESH; BARBADOS; BELIZE; BENIN; BHUTAN; BOLIVIA; BOTSWANA; BRAZIL; BRUNEI; BURKINA FASO; Burma (MYANMAR); BURUNDI; CAMBODIA; CAMEROON; CAPE VERDE; CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC; CHAD; CHILE; COLOMBIA; COMOROS; CONGO (Brazzaville); CONGO (Kinshasa); COSTA RICA; COTE D’IVOIRE; CUBA; DJIBOUTI; DOMINICA; DOMINICAN REPUBLIC; EAST TIMOR; ECUADOR; EGYPT; EL SALVADOR; EQUATORIAL GUINEA; ERITREA; ETHIOPIA; FIJI; GABON; GAMBIA; GHANA; GRENADA; GUATEMALA; GUINEA; GUINEA-BISSAU; GUYANA; HAITI; HONDURAS; INDIA; Indonesia; IRAN; IRAQ; JAMAICA; JORDAN; KENYA; KIRIBATI; KOREA (North); KOREA (South); KUWAIT; LAOS; LEBANON; LESOTHO; LIBERIA; LIBYA; MADAGASCAR; MALAWI; Malaysia; MALDIVES; MALI; MAURITANIA; MAURITIUS; MEXICO; MICRONESIA; Mongolia; MOROCCO; MOZAMBIQUE; NAMIBIA; NAURU; NEPAL; NICARAGUA; NIGER; NIGERIA; OMAN; PAKISTAN; PALAU; PALESTINE; PANAMA; PAPUA NEW GUINEA; PARAGUAY; PERU; PHILIPPINES; QATAR; RWANDA; SAINT KITTS AND NEVIS; SAINT LUCIA; SAINT VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES; SAMOA; SAO TOME AND PRINCIPE; SAUDI ARABIA; SENEGAL; SEYCHELLES; SIERRA LEONE; Singapore; SOLOMON ISLANDS; SOMALIA; SOUTH AFRICA; SRI LANKA; SUDAN; SURINAME; SWAZILAND; SYRIA; Taiwan; TANZANIA; THAILAND; TIBET; TOGO; TONGA; TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO; TUNISIA; TUVALU; UGANDA; UNITED ARAB EMIRATES; URUGUAY; VANUATU; VENEZUELA; Vietnam; YEMEN; ZAMBIA; and ZIMBABWE.
A quick glance of the list finds that several countries appear twice. Hungary is classified as both first and second world. China, Mongolia, North Korea and Vietnam are listed under both second and third world. Some nations, such as tiny NIUE in the South Pacific, are omitted altogether.
What makes a nation third world? Despite everevolving definitions, the concept of the third world serves to identify countries that suffer from high infant mortality, low economic development, high levels of poverty, low utilization of natural resources, and heavy dependence on industrialized nations. These are the developing and technologically less advanced nations of Asia, Africa, Oceania, and Latin America. Third world nations tend to have economies dependent on the developed countries and are generally characterized as poor with unstable governments and having high rates of population growth, illiteracy, and disease. A key factor is the lack of a middle class—with impoverished millions in a vast lower economic class and a very small elite upper class controlling the country’s wealth and resources. Most third world nations also have a very large foreign debt.
THIRD WORLD FOREIGN DEBT
Trying to pay off large foreign debt has become a serious problem for many third world countries and causes great hardship for their people. Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, pays $10 billion every year in debt service. That is about four times as much as the countries in the region spend on health care and education combined.
How did they get into such debt? At the end of the 1970s, many oil-exporting countries had large amounts of extra money. They put it into first world banks, which then loaned it to third world countries for big development projects. However, a rise in world interest rates, global recession, low commodity prices and other factors caused many countries to fall behind in their payments. Today. the amount of money owed by developing countries has increased dramatically since the early 1980’s. These countries now owe money to commercial banks and also to organizations like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and to first world governments. How does the debt keep growing? Because it is especially difficult for developing countries to repay. Most loans to the third world have to be repaid in hard currencies—stable currencies whose value does not change very much throughout the year. Developing countries have soft currencies that go down in value. Therefore, when the value of a developing country’s money goes down, its debt rises. Thus, it takes more of the country’s own currency to pay back the same amount of hard currency. This makes it much more difficult for the country to repay its loans.
Refinancing then can occur with more money borrowed to pay off the earlier loans. In theory, this should help developing countries. However, the reality is that they are merely taking on new debt loads in order to service existing obligations. The result is that countries have gotten deeper and deeper into debt with organizations like the IMF that carry strict conditions with them, such as forcing debtor governments to make cuts in spending on health care, education and food subsidies. These cutbacks in social services make life even worse for needy people in the indebted countries.
THIRD WORLD CLASSES
Throughout the third world, millions live in a vast lower economic class while an exclusive upper class elite controls the nation’s resources and political power. Frequently absent is a significant middle class. This can be seen in the Central American nation of Guatemala, where the indigenous native population lives in poverty while “colonial families” descended from the Spanish conquistadors control vast tracts of farmland, the political infrastructure, and the banking system. Although Spain granted Guatemala independence in 1820, indigenous farmers still rent the land of their ancestors from the descendants of the colonists. On the positive side, a middle class is emerging.
That same trend is seen in China and India. Millions of citizens in India can now shop in malls, talk to each other on cell phones, and eat vegetarian fare at McDonald’s. Millions increasingly have a level of wealth that is approaching the middle classes of the West in buying power. Such encouraging signs are rare elsewhere in the third world. No significant middle class is emerging in strife-torn nations such as Somalia, Zimbabwe, or Liberia. But the trend can certainly be observed in Argentina, Chile, and Brazil and throughout the emerging Pacific Rim nations, such as South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia—and in Africa in Tunisia, Egypt, and Botswana.
THIRD WORLD INSTABILITY
Throughout the third world, governmental instability is a common factor. Unpopular regimes are ousted by military coups, popular uprisings, public scandals and elections by populations weary of increasing poverty, austerity, hardship, and unemployment. The instability and turnover in government have a variety of causes. Political and economic power can encourage corruption and nepotism. Cultural, language, and ethnic communities sometimes are artificially separated by national borders, prompting territorial challenges, local resentment, insurgencies, and secession. Territorial boundaries inherited from colonial periods cause disputes over access to the sea and to oil and other raw materials. Ruling ethnic, regional, or military groups hold a monopoly on power, denying effective democratic representation and prompting revolt.
A look at South America shows a variety of case studies of governmental instability. In the first world, citizens generally experience orderly, constitutional transitions of power. Not so in the third world. In Venezuela, a combination of revolts and military coups saw the fall of the elected government in 1994. The scene was the same in nearby Ecuador with the collapse of the governments of Abdala Bucaram in 1997 and Jamil Mahuad in 2000. In adjacent Peru, President Alberto Fujimori was driven from office in 2000. In neighboring Argentina, Presidents Carlos Menem and Fernando de la Rua fell amid threats of a default on foreign loans. In Bolivia, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada was deposed by the military, and in Brazil, the national assembly impeached Fernando Collor de Melho. All of these national leaders left office amid economic crises, corruption accusations, and widespread public protests. Bucaram, Sanchez de Lozada, and Fujimori all had to seek refuge out of their native countries.
In 2000, Ecuadorian president Lucio Gutierrez led a group of disgruntled junior army officers and 5,000 Indian protesters in an uprising that drove the highly unpopular Mahuad from power in the midst of the country’s worst economic crisis in decades, with 70 percent of the population in poverty and the national economy showing little sign of recovery.
Fujimori’s rule in Peru ended with his fleeing the country amid a series of scandals and crises. He had been elected to office in 1990 as a prominent entrepreneur outsider. The nation was fascinated with the idea of a Spanish-speaking politician with an Asian heritage and ethnicity. However, he dissolved the national congress and implemented tough austerity measures cutting back the most basic public services. He was accused of authoritarian and draconian measures to enforce his will, corruption, and even charges that he used death squads to eliminate opponents. Amid street protests, he fled to his family’s ancestral home, Japan, where he was put under virtual house arrest.
Traditionally wealthy Argentina saw a repeat of the same. President Carlos Menem ruled the country following International Monetary Fund-imposed austerity programs blamed for putting Argentina’s economy into recession and near collapse. Street protests and general strikes drove his successor, Rua, from office, and in a presidential election the nation faced the unprecedented situation of no candidate willing to step forward to take office. National morale was at rock bottom after years of military rule and repeated coups to depose politicians accused of incompetence and even of looting the national treasury. Under Rua, poverty hit 60 percent, unemployment went up to 21.5 percent, inflation rendered the Argentine currency worthless, per capita income fell 18 percent in one year, and foreign debt appeared to be strangling the county’s ability to recover, prompting highly public talk of an outright default as the struggling Argentine government threatened to make no more payments.
Such third world instability is not unique to South America. Off the eastern coast of Africa, the picturesque Comoros Islands have endured 18 coups and attempted coups since the nation received independence from France in 1975. Decades of such instability have left the islands desperately poor and unable to capitalize on picture-postcard beaches that could develop an economy-boosting tourist industry. A crisis in August 1997 began when the people of the island of Anjouan announced intentions to break away from the main federation, complaining of economic neglect by the government on the main island of Grand Comore. Their resentment was fueled by the relative prosperity of the nearby island of Mayotte, which is part of the Comoros island chain, but which opted in 1976 to remain part of France. Troops from Grande Comore landed on Anjouan’s palm-fringed beaches to prevent its secession, only to be repelled by armed rebels. The Organization of African Unity attempted to mediate, but hopes were dashed when fighting broke out between rival separatist groups on Anjouan.
Nearby on the African continent, events can only be viewed with incredulity and despair. In Sierra Leone, rebels took revenge by cutting off civilians’ arms and legs—and prohibiting doctors from practicing. In the Congo (Brazzaville), war seems to follow war; when parts of the capital had been overrun by armed militias for five years, the government ordered troublesome neighborhoods “cleaned up” with mortar and artillery fire. In Central Africa and Guinea-Bissau, fighting has been continuous for two years, despite numerous cease-fires and peacemaking efforts.
Somalia has no formal government, just alliances between local warlords. Armed civil strife seems a constant in Angola, the site of one of the worst East-West conflicts in the 1970s and 1980s, where millions of land mines remain on the countryside.
Mining resources, especially control of diamond mines, were a key motivation for the conflicts in Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. In Angola and Mozambique it was ivory, in Rwanda, drugs.
Ethnic hatred was also a factor in Rwanda where more than 500,000 members of the ethnic Tutsis were murdered in a months-long mass genocide perpetrated by rival Hutu citizens often armed only with machetes, led by government radio broadcasts calling for the nation to be cleansed of Tutsis. In that horror, religious places of worship were packed with desperate civilians believing traditional sanctuary would be respected. Instead, the holy sites saw grisly murder of hundreds of men, women, children, and elderly—which spread to neighboring Burundi, where another 200,000 died.
In Liberia, armed civil conflict and charges of government-backed criminal activities prompted activist Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at a 2002 international conference to describe her native land as a “dysfunctional, autocratic kleptocracy,” meaning a regime devoted to stealing. At that same conference, the U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African affairs, William M. Bellamy, remarked that in many ways the Liberian government resembled a gang more than a legitimate government. Sirleaf charged that running water and electricity could not be found in the capital. She said a crisis existed in the state of schools, hospitals, and other vital social services around the country, but not because of inadequate natural resources.
Instead, she accused her government of large discrepancies between the national budget and actual income from various revenue sources, such as timber harvested from the nation’s RAINFORESTS. She charged that while exploitation of natural resources had dramatically increased, Liberia’s national budget had shrunk since the early 1980s from about $500 million to roughly $70 million, an 85 percent decrease. Profits were being pocketed by corrupt government officials, she charged. Furthermore, she accused the government of using the breakdown of civil society and security as a tool to control the people in an effort to “create an environment of total fear and intimidation.”
However, it is noteworthy that 40 of Africa’s 53 countries, as well as vast regions in the interior of wartorn countries, are peaceful. A dozen countries have had a growth rate of at least 5 percent in the last few years. Between 1995 and 1997, per capita income increased significantly in over 30 of Africa’s 53 countries. Mauritius and Tunisia are regarded as economic miracles.
THIRD WORLD POVERTY
In his book The Elusive Quest for Growth, the World Bank’s William Easterly documents how the West has sent $1 trillion in foreign aid as grants, debt relief and concessionary loans to the third world since the 1960s. Despite the money, poverty has not been eradicated. Why not? How should we define third world poverty? Money income or consumption can be an imperfect measure of poverty or wealth. A rural third world family may have no cash but be considered wealthy because it has a large herd of cattle.
A South American gold miner working at a remote site may have an income five times that of what he has made in years past but may remain in poverty because of the exorbitant cost of living in the mining area. An employee receives a paycheck for 20 million palos, but remains in poverty since a loaf of bread cost 500,000 palos yesterday and will cost 2million palos by the end of the month because of runaway inflation.
Thus, possession of cash cannot be the only measure of poverty or wealth. And what is the worth of selfesteem or personal fulfillment? Albert Schweitzer, Mother Theresa, and Mohandas Gandhi gave up material possessions. But were they poor? In a need for statistics, governmental agencies want simple, universal measures, such as the international poverty line of $1 per day. This is a convenient tool, but is it accurate? Most of the world’s people do not use U.S. dollars to purchase what they need, and a dollar’s worth of currency in one part of the world can buy more in another place. Because of exchange rates, $5 might buy a steak dinner in Argentina that would cost $25 across the border in Chile. The American dollar is not an international constant.
Also, basic goods are often more expensive in poor nations than they are in rich ones, while services tend to be much cheaper, since the wages of the people providing them are significantly lower. A jar of American maple syrup might be extravagantly expensive in the third world, about the same as a week’s wages for a cook, a housekeeper, and a driver.
A statistician might assert that someone in possession of the cost of a jar of maple syrup in the third world has the same purchasing power as someone in possession of three service providers’ weekly wages in America. But the extremely poor, of course, do not purchase American maple syrup, nor the services of cleaners, drivers, or cooks.
So measurement of third world poverty is not simple. It is difficult to quantify life in which 10,000 people live in a capital city’s municipal dump, competing for the right to sort through garbage. Such a scene is common throughout the third world. So are scenes of abandoned elderly living in cardboard boxes or abandoned display areas at the national zoo. Or a mother who has walked 30 miles across a desert with her sick child to a clinic that has no more of the out-of-date antibiotics that could cure her baby’s pneumonia.
THIRD WORLD POPULATION GROWTH
In 1980, the Earth’s population was estimated at 4.4 billion, 72 percent of it in the third world. By the turn of the millennium, it had passed 6 billion, with 80 percent of it in the third world. Such growth pressures impede progress in improving living standards. However, the solutions are not simple. Religious, cultural and traditional factors impede imposition of such measures as birth control. Ethics and moral issues challenge such practices as forced sterilization or mandatory abortion. Some question the reality of “the population bomb” projections of the 1960s or the accuracy of the planet’s estimated limits.
Population control has also had unexpected effects. In 32 countries containing 14 percent of world population, population growth has stopped—primarily in first world societies. In sharp contrast, Ethiopia’s population of 62 million is projected to more than triple to 213 million in 2050. Pakistan will go from 148 million to 357 million, surpassing the U.S. population before 2050. Nigeria is projected to go from 122 million to 339 million, giving it more people in 2050 than there were in all of Africa in 1950. India is projected to add another 600 million by 2050, thus overtaking China as the most populous country.
Declining birth rates in developed nations have resulted in a shortage of labor in the first world, prompting large migrations from the third world. Europe is seeing a massive infusion of workers from the Islamic sphere of influence. The United States is grappling with dramatically new demographics as Spanish speakers from Latin America fill labor needs and constitute a new community larger than the historic African American minority.
Population growth is causing many third world countries to struggle with the simultaneous challenges of educating growing numbers of children, creating jobs for swelling ranks of young job seekers, and dealing with the environmental effects of population growth, such as deforestation, soil erosion, and falling water tables. When a major new threat arises—such as AIDS or aquifer depletion—such third world governments have difficulty responding. Problems routinely managed in industrial societies become full-scale humanitarian crises in developing nations.
A study by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) reports that in India, a country heavily dependent on irrigation, recent growth in food production and population has been based partly on the unsustainable use of water. Nationwide, withdrawals of underground water are at least double the rate of recharge, and water tables are falling by 3 to 9 ft (1 to 3 m) per year. IWMI authors estimate that as India’s aquifers are depleted, its grain harvest could fall by as much as one-fifth.
In a country where food and population are precariously balanced and the population increases by 18 million people per year, such a huge drop in food output could create economic chaos.
THIRD WORLD DISEASE
Throughout the third world, death rates are high and rising. In Africa, a major cause is the HIV/AIDS epidemic. While industrial countries have held HIV infection rates among their adult populations under 1 percent or less, a 1998 World Health Organization survey reported that in Zimbabwe, 26 percent of the adult population was HIV positive. In Botswana, it was a staggering 38 percent; Zambia, 20 percent; Namibia, 19 percent; and Swaziland, 18 percent.
The result will be that these societies will lose one fifth or more of their adult population within the next decade from AIDS alone. These adult deaths, the deaths of infants infected with the virus, and high mortality among the millions of AIDS orphans could bring population growth to a halt or even into decline. However, the loss is great in that the highest mortality rate is among adults, leaving large populations of children behind. In the southern African nation of Swaziland, one out of four 15- to 49-year-olds are infected with HIV. The expectation is that at least a third of all 15-year-olds will die of AIDS. With one in three pregnant women HIV-infected, it can be expected that one in 10 of all babies born will also be infected. The death of parents is also creating an orphan crisis of unprecedented proportions. Already, one in six Swazi children under 15 years of age have lost one or both parents, and it is estimated that this figure will rise to one inthree children. Traditionally, most orphans have been accommodated within the extended family network, usually by uncles, aunts, or grandparents. However, the scale of the current Swazi orphan crisis is stretching this traditional social safety net to the breaking point.
THIRD WORLD ILLITERACY
The United Nations defines illiteracy as the inability to read and write a simple sentence in any language. Figures from 1998 show that 16 percent of the world’s population is illiterate by the UN definition, as are 5 percent of all Americans. However, in the povertystricken central African nation of Burkina Faso, the figure is 73.4 percent of the population and 83.6 percent of the women. In Afghanistan, 64 percent of the country cannot read nor write—including 79 percent of the women. In Laos, the number is 47.2 percent and 61.9 percent for Laotian women. In eastern Africa’s Somalia, 62.2 percent of the population is illiterate and 74.2 percent of the women. In general, the higher the literacy rate of a country, the lifespan increases for such simple reasons as the ability to read prescriptions or understand a physician’s instructions.
A THIRD WORLD SUCCESS STORY
Botswana is a LANDLOCKED country the size of TEXAS that borders Zimbabwe to the northeast and South Africa to the east and south. About 1.6 million people inhabit Botswana. Roughly 80 percent live along the fertile eastern border of the state, since 84 percent of Botswana is the arid KALAHARI DESERT.
That’s just one of the third world problems facing Botswana. It also has the world’s highest known rate of HIV/AIDS infection, with 38 percent of the population infected. But it also has one of Africa’s most progressive and comprehensive programs for dealing with the disease and one of the highest literacy rates in Africa, 79.8 percent. More women (82.4 percent) read and write than men (76.9 percent).
The Botswanan government reflects the nation’s demographics, with members of the Tswana ethnic group (79 percent of the population) dominating national leadership. Formerly the British protectorate of Bechuanaland, Botswana has enjoyed four decades of uninterrupted civilian leadership without any of the military coups found elsewhere in the third world. It also has one of the most dynamic economies in Africa. Botswanans enjoy a per capita income of about $8,500 in U.S. dollars. To put that figure in perspective, Botswana’s per capita income is approximately twice as high as the average emerging Pacific Rim nation’s per capita average. The average individual in Botswana enjoys an income approximately four times that of other sub-Saharan Africans. Nearly every measure of health and social well-being indicates significant improvement in the average Botswanan’s living conditions since independence in 1966.
There is strong evidence that the people of Botswana are quite content with their government. Their levels of taxation are lower than the sub-Saharan African average, yet they have high levels of public expenditures for such things like education and roads. Of all its neighbors, Botswana has been the only nation free from serious political turmoil. Furthermore, it is not dependent on the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank.
Why is Botswana doing so well? An easy answer is that Botswana is rich in diamonds. However, such wealth has been a near curse in other nations where corruption has looted the nation’s riches. Some would credit Botswana’s nonracial domestic policies. This tolerant approach led to an extensive inflow of political refugees from both neighboring countries when postcolonial European-dominated governments gave way to African-dominated governments. “Expatriates” is a word used in Botswana to refer to the 7 percent of the country’s residents who are not black Africans; they include Europeans, white South Africans, and Asians forced out of the countries of Zimbabwe, Uganda, and South Africa.
Is Botswana’s welcoming of refugee whites the key to its prosperity? No, and neither is another easy answer—that Botswana was a British colony. So were Zimbabwe, South Africa, Nigeria, and Uganda, all of which have experienced significant turmoil. Many of the problems of sub-Saharan Africa can be summarized simply as government failure.
Far too many post-colonial regimes have evolved into corrupted predatory institutions victimizing their citizens rather than protective states benefiting all. The key would appear to be Botswana’s strong precolonial institutions, which on a tribal level placed checks and balances on political elites. British colonialism had only a minimal effect and did not destroy the strongest tribal traditions and infrastructures of the people of Botswana.
Is the term third world out of date? Some critics say the concept of a third world is outmoded and too general. Other terms are suggested, such as “southern non-industrialized countries,” “underdeveloped countries,” “undeveloped countries,” “maldeveloped countries” or “emerging nations.”
The 1955 Bandung conference was seen by many as the beginning of the political emergence of what have been called the nonaligned nations, those not allied with either the first or second worlds. Leading this movement were two nations whose systems were dramatically in contrast, India and mainland China. Both played a major role in promoting the Bandung conference and the nonaligned movement that followed. However, was China truly third world? Or was it second world—given its socialist-Marxist centralized economy? Or was it first world, given its adversarial stance toward the Soviet Union? Or was it third world with its widespread poverty and lack of industrial development? As one can see, even from the beginning, the boundaries were blurred.
Without question, one result of the Bandung conference was the idea that some nations should remain aloof from superpower struggle. Paradoxically, one of the nonaligned movement’s most outspoken proponents, Cuba’s Fidel Castro, was a client state of the second world and actively confrontational against the first world—putting his nonaligned status into question.
The first Conference of Nonaligned Heads of State, at which 25 countries were represented, was convened at Belgrade, Yugoslavia, in September 1961, largely through the initiative of Yugoslavian President Josip Tito. He had expressed concern that an accelerating arms race might result in war between the Soviet Union and the United States. Subsequent conferences involved ever-increasing participation by developing or “third world” countries. The 1964 Conference in Cairo, with 47 countries represented, featured widespread condemnation of Western colonialism and the retention of foreign military installations.
Another organization that emerged as a champion of the third world was the UN, which at first had been dominated by European countries and countries of European origin. Numerically, the third world dominates the world body today, although the true power of the UN is with the Security Council, which includes no third world nations as permanent members.
Today, the third world remains diverse culturally and economically. The oil-rich nations, such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Libya, and the newly emerged industrial states, such as Taiwan, South Korea, and Singapore, have little in common with desperately poor nations such as Haiti, Chad, and Afghanistan. What is being done to resolve the problems of the third world? The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development held in New Delhi in 1971 suggested that one percent of the national income of industrialized countries should be devoted to aiding the third world. That figure has never been achieved. In 1972, in Santiago, Chile, a subsequent session set a goal of a 6 percent economic growth rate in the 1970s for the underdeveloped countries. This, too, was never approached.