The term "Third World" arose during the Cold War to define countries that remained non-aligned with either NATO or the Warsaw Pact. The United States, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Western European nations and their allies represented the First World, while the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, and their allies represented the Second World. This terminology provided a way of broadly categorizing the nations of the Earth into three groups based on political and economic divisions. Since the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, the term Third World has decreased in use. It is being replaced with terms such as developing countries, least developed countries or the Global South. The concept itself has become outdated as it no longer represents the current political or economic state of the world and historically poor countries have transited different income levels.
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- There was a time when people of the rich nations of the world regarded poverty as a "natural condition" for those living in the poor nations of the world. ... Today we have largely been stripped of this pseudo-innocence. We know that the poor are so poor because the rich are so rich, that the causes of poverty can be traced to deliberate decisions and deliberate economic and political policies designed to benefit the rich and powerful. We know that poverty and unemployment are not just accidents of history but deliberate, even indispensable, components of capitalism as an economic system.
- Allan Boesak, Comfort and Protest (1987), p. 67
- The majority of the Third World debt has to be written off. There is no possibility that these nations can repay what they owe, but in fact they have repaid it over and over again in interest on the loans. It is not ‘aid’ that the Third World countries receive, although that is what it is called; it is really ‘usury’. Some 80 per cent of the aid given to Third World countries returns to the developed world from which it came in repayment of, and interest on, the loans — so they can never become solvent. They are having to compete, through market forces, with the developed Western countries in order to receive the aid in the first place. It would be far better if they could withstand the blandishments and refuse the aid from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Western banks who have squeezed them dry for years.
- Benjamin Creme in Maitreya's Mission Vol. III (1997) p. 116
- Mr. Speaker, we know that our alliance -- if it holds firm -- cannot be defeated, but it could be outflanked. It is among the unfree and the underfed that subversion takes root. As Ethiopia demonstrated, those people get precious little help from the Soviet Union and its allies. The weapons which they pour in bring neither help nor hope to the hungry. It is the West which heard their cries; it is the West which responded massively to the heart-rending starvation in Africa; it is the West which has made a unique contribution to the uplifting of hundreds of millions of people from poverty, illiteracy and disease. But the problems of the Third World are not only those of famine. They face also a mounting burden of debt, falling prices for primary products, protectionism by the industrialized countries. Some of the remedies are in the hands of the developing countries themselves. They can open their markets to productive investment; they can pursue responsible policies of economic adjustment. We should respect the courage and resolve with which so many of them have tackled their special problems, but we also have a duty to help. How can we help? First and most important, by keeping our markets open to them. Protectionism is a danger to all our trading partnerships and for many countries trade is even more important than aid. And so, we in Britain support President Reagan 's call for a new GATT round. The current strength of the dollar, which is causing so much difficulty for some of your industries, creates obvious pressures for special cases, for new trade barriers to a free market. I am certain that your Administration is right to resist such pressures. To give in to them would betray the millions in the developing world, to say nothing of the strains on your other trading partners. The developing countries need our markets as we need theirs, and we cannot preach economic adjustment to them and refuse to practise it at home. And second, we must remember that the way in which we in the developed countries manage our economies determines whether the world's financial framework is stable; it determines the level of interest rates; it determines the amount of capital available for sound investment the world over; and it determines whether or not the poor countries can service their past loans, let alone compete for new ones. And those are the reasons why we support so strongly your efforts to reduce the budget deficit. No other country in the world can be immune from its effects -- such is the influence of the American economy on us all.
- Third World indebtedness is more than just a humanitarian issue. The other problems... namely unemployment, global warming and drugs, are all affected by it. By taking action on debt they could effectively address four issues at the same time. At present the developing world spends $270,000 million annually on debt servicing. After deducting aid there remains a net transfer back to the industrialized nations of more than $200 billion... At the heart of the problem are the Structural Adjustment Programs imposed by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank when nations get into financial difficulty. The goal of these programs is for a nation to increase its savings and earn more hard currency so that it can pay off its debt. Thus, when the debt crisis engulfed the developing world in the 1980s, government spending was slashed, state assets were privatized, and public sector employees laid off. National currencies were devalued and export earnings were increased at any cost. This called for the cashing in of natural assets such as forests and fisheries, and the conversion of land to large-scale export farming. Urban dwellers lost their jobs... peasant farmers were forced off their land, creating an exodus of people in search of a means of survival. This growing population of economic refugees stripped forests bare to make firewood and space for growing food... in addition to the rapid increase in commercial logging and clearing of land for large cattle farms... government conservation programs were cancelled.
- The Third World's largest debtor, Brazil, also contains the largest proportion of the world's remaining tree cover, and it is busily clearing it at the rate of 50,000 square kilometers a day. Debt is clearly connected to deforestation, which in turn contributes to global warming. The debt connection also shows up in other environmental problems. Studies of 33 counties in the United States that take their drinking water from the Rio Grande river show significantly higher rates of liver and bladder cancer than the US national average. It is just one side-effect of an ecological disaster area across the Mexican border, known as the maquiladora zone. As part of its drive for export earnings, Mexico has encouraged 1,800 foreign-owned factories to be built near its northern border. Among the incentives is an almost total absence of environmental regulations, which leads to, among other things, the dumping of huge quantities of toxic wastes. This pollution is no respecter of national boundaries and soon makes its way into the US.
- When the Third World debt crisis began in 1982, the industrialized countries were essentially faced with the same scenario that America had faced after the War. Unfortunately our leaders lacked the vision of their predecessors and the end result has been pain and misery for the whole family of nations. We can, however, reverse the effects of this terrible blunder but first we must sacrifice our complacency. In 1947 the US was facing the collapse of its export markets as a war-torn European economy ran out of the means with which to continue paying for its imports. They created the Marshall Plan and (in today's money) spent $90,000 million priming Europe's economic pump. Not only was collapse avoided but peace and prosperity were created for both donor and recipient: the global boomerang (or Law of Cause and Effect) had been wielded effectively.