Problems of Third World Countries

Report was made by

Gabieva A., Dekhtareva A.

School 1591, Moscow

Third World countries


The First, Second, and Third World terminology is an outdated means of categorizing the world’s nations. It refers back to the Cold War when all the world’s nations were either allied with NATO (First World), the USSR (Second World), or were so economically undeveloped that their input to world forum at the time was considered insignificant (Third World).

With the breakup of the Soviet Union, and even now, as the Russian Federation considers outright joining the NATO forces it once opposed, there really isn’t a definable «Second World».

Today, a Third World country is loosely defined as any country that is undeveloped, or is still so early in process of developing that it has not yet entered the world stage as an important economic power.

The goal of the project

To investigate social and economic problems of Third World countries through studying its reasons and ways of decision.

Tasks of the project

Aim is achieved through the following tasks:

to study problems Third World countries faces on UN (The United Nations) site

to investigate electronic versions of mass media (The Times, The Guardian, BBC, etc.)

to take opinion polls among different aged people

to read literature devoted to the topic

to make a publication of scientific article (we were working on the internet)

to visit and discuss the topic with deans and student of economic faculties of leading universities and institutes of Moscow

to increase popularizing Third World countries topic.

The actuality of the project

Nearly 75% of people live in Third World countries. They suffer from starvation, lack of drinkable water, inadmissible conditions, and illnesses. Consequences of these problems can be found in their economics, politics and culture. Here, we tell about social and economic problems of those countries, what they were caused by and ways of decisions.


During our investigation we found that a number of Third World countries were former colonies. Having gained independence many of these countries, especially smaller ones, were faced with the challenges of nation and institution-building on their own for the first time. Due to this common background, many of these nations were «developing» in economic terms for most of the 20th century, and many still are. This term, used today, generally denotes countries that have not developed to the same levels as OECD countries, and are thus in the process of developing.

In the 1980s, economist Peter Bauer offered a competing definition for the term «Third World». He claimed that the attachment of Third World status to a particular country was not based on any stable economic or political criteria, and was a mostly arbitrary process. The large diversity of countries considered part of the Third World—from Indonesia to Afghanistan—ranged widely from economically primitive to economically advanced and from politically non-aligned to Soviet or Western leaning. An argument could also be made for how parts of the U.S. are more like the Third World. The only characteristic that Bauer found common in all Third World countries was that their governments «demand and receive Western aid,» the giving of which he strongly opposed. Thus, the aggregate term «Third World» was challenged as misleading even during the Cold War period because it had no consistent or collective identity among the countries it supposedly encompassed.

Recently the term Majority World has come into use, since most people of the world live in poorer and less developed countries.

Foreign aid and development

We found that all scientific and internet resources make a stress that during the Cold War, unaligned countries of the Third World were seen as potential allies by both the First and Second World. Therefore, the United States and the Soviet Union went to great lengths to establish connections in these countries by offering economic and military support to gain strategically located alliances (e.g., United States in Vietnam or Soviet Union in Cuba). By the end of the Cold War, many Third World countries had adopted capitalist or communist economic models and continued to receive support from the side they had chosen. Throughout the Cold War and beyond, the countries of the Third World have been the priority recipients of Western foreign aid and the focus of economic development through mainstream theories such as modernization theory and dependency theory.

By the end of the 1960s, the idea of the Third World came to represent countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America that were considered underdeveloped by the West based on a variety of characteristics (low economic development, low life expectancy, high rates of poverty and disease, etc.). These countries became the targets for aid and support from governments, NGOs and individuals from wealthier nations. One popular model, known as Rostow’s stages of growth, argued that development took place in 5 stages (Traditional Society; Pre-conditions for Take-off; Take-off; Drive to Maturity; Age of High Mass Consumption).W. W. Rostow argued that Take-off was the critical stage that the Third World was missing or struggling with. Thus, foreign aid was needed to help kick start industrialization and economic growth in these countries.

However, despite decades of receiving aid and experiencing different development models (which have had very little success), many Third World country’s economies are still dependent on developed countries and are deep in debt. There is now a growing debate about why Third World countries remain impoverished and underdeveloped after all this time. Many argue that current methods of aid are not working and are calling for reducing foreign aid (and therefore dependency) and utilizing different economic theories than the traditional mainstream theories from the West. Historically, development and aid have not accomplished the goals they were meant to and currently the global gap between the rich and poor is greater than ever.

Over the last few decades, global population growth has largely been focused in Third World countries (which often have higher birth rates than Developed countries). As populations expand in poorer countries, rural people are flocking to cities in an extensive urban migration that is resulting in the creation of massive shanty towns and slums. A lot of times there is a clear distinction between First and Third Worlds. When talking about the Global North and the Global South, the majority of the time the two go hand in hand. People refer to the two as «Third World/South» and «First World/ North»; because in theory the Global North is supposedly more affluent and developed, whereas the Global South is less developed and often more poor.

Third-Worldism is a tendency within left-wing political thought to regard the division between First World developed countries and Third World developing countries as being of primary political importance. Third-Worldism supports Third World nations and national liberation movements against Western nations and their proxies. Third-Worldism is in many cases connected with movements such as Irish republicanism, Ba’athism, Pan-Africanism, Pan-Arabism, Maoism, African socialism, Arab socialism and communism.

The New Left led to an explosion of support for Third-Worldism, especially after the perceived failure of revolutionary movements in the First World. Among the New Left groups and movements associated with Third-Worldism were Monthly Review and the New Communist Movement.

From the 1970s, national liberation movements such as the Palestine Liberation Organization and the African National Congress have been causes célèbres of the movement. More recently, Third-Worldism has become a powerful force in the World Social Forum, (particularly since the 2004 forum in Mumbai) and in the Cairo Anti-War Conference.


Today, the Third Worldist movement is most associated with the Maoist-Third Worldist trend and organizations such as the Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement and Maoist Internationalist Ministry of Prisons.

Fragano Ledgister from Atlanta, USA says:

«The original distintion among First, Second, and Third Worlds (modelled on the old French Estates) was this: First World: Developed industrial capitalist countries such as Britain, France and the US. Second World: Developed industrial socialist (i.e., Marxist-Leninist) countries such as the USSR, Poland, and Romania. Third World: Underdeveloped countries. To this categorisation was added the Fourth World: Underdeveloped countries with few, if any, natural resources»

It is important to criticise, as Priyamvada Gopal does (The Third World should not become a term of abuse, 21 September), the negative essentialisation of the term «third world». But it is equally necessary not to fully equate the term with poverty, inequality and marginalisation, since there are other geopolitical factors that give the third world its key meaning.

At the core of the first world/third world distinction is the politics of imperial power. Societies of the third world have been subjected to three interrelated aspects of western imperial power: a) invasiveness in relation to resources, raw materials, military bases and cultural validity; b) the imposition of western values, organisational forms and political practices, most clearly expressed in the projection of western «democracy»; and c) a lack of respect and recognition for the cultural and political histories of societies of the south. These features have not been transcended, as we can see today in Iraq and Afghanistan.

At the same time, the peoples of the third world offer us an example of a continuing geopolitics of resistance, of alternative political thinking (eg the Zapatistas) and of alternative philosophies of global reflection. In this sense we have much to learn from the societies of the third world, and equally we need a more rigorous and concerted opposition to the relations of imperial power that are at the root of international injustices.

Starving people in drought-stricken west Africa are being forced to eat leaves and collect grain from ant hills, say aid agencies, warning that 10 million people face starvation across the region.

With food prices soaring and malnourished livestock dying, villagers were turning to any sources of food to stay alive, said Charles Bambara, Oxfam officer for the west African region.

People are eating wild fruit and leaves, and building ant hills just to capture the tiny amount of grain that the ants collect inside.

«The situation here in Chad is desperate. There is not enough food in the country, over 2 million people here are not getting enough,» said Bambara.

In Niger, which the United Nations classifies as the world’s least developed country, starving families are eating flour mixed with wild leaves and boiled plants.

More than 7 million people – almost half the population – currently face food insecurity in the country, making it the hardest hit by the crisis.

According to UN agencies, 200,000 children need treatment for malnutrition in Niger alone.

«Niger is at crisis point now and we need to act quickly before this crisis becomes a full-blown humanitarian disaster,» said Caroline Gluck, an Oxfam representative in the country.

With food prices spiralling, people are being forced to slaughter malnourished livestock, traditionally the only form of income.

«When you walk through the markets, you can see that there is food here. The problem is that the ability to buy it has disappeared. People here depend on livestock to support themselves, but animals are being killed on the edge of exhaustion, and that means they are being sold for far less money. And on top of that, the cost of food basics has risen,» explained Gluck.

Compounding the crisis, thousands of animals have starved to death as villagers use animal fodder to feed themselves.

Oxfam has launched a £7m emergency appeal to try to avert a humanitarian catastrophe, after failed harvests and widespread drought brought severe hunger and malnutrition across the region. Save the Children has launched a separate £7m appeal.

«This is just the beginning of the traditional hunger period, and people have already been forced to sell their livestock. This is very early for the alarm bells to be ringing, before Niger has even reached the start of the most critical part of the food calendar. You can imagine three to four months down the line how shocking the situation will be,» said Gluck.

«Yesterday I saw women sifting through gravel at the side of the road, trying to find some grains that may have been blown from aid trucks,» said Gluck, as hungry and impoverished villagers flocked to the country’s capital, Niamey, in search of food.

Gluck has likened the developing situation to that of the 1984 famine in Ethiopia, during which an estimated 1 million people died due to drought and a slow response to the crisis both within the country and internationally.

«West Africa has traditionally not been very high on the developed world’s priority list. The question now is how many people do we have to see die before the world will act?» she said.

Visiting South Africa and Nigeria last week, David Cameron wrote in a South African newspaper about the benefits of «effective tax systems» – but failed to mention aggressive tax avoidance by multinational corporations, something that South Africa’s finance minister has called «a serious cancer eating into the fiscal base of many countries».

Meanwhile, the British government is locked in battle with South Africa and other developing countries over a controversial global tax deal, which is due to be finalised in Geneva on Wednesday; a deal that could potentially have a large impact on multinational tax schemes. It has become a rather hot potato.

On one side of this fight sit Britain, the US, the EU and other rich countries, which want to maintain the pre-eminence of the OEC (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), a club of rich countries, as the body that dominates the setting of global tax rules. On the other side, along with South Africa, sit Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Mexico and other developing countries, which want developing countries to have a bigger voice.When a multinational from one country invests in another, these global rules form the framework for deciding which country gets to tax which bits of the resulting income, and to what degree. Current OECD-dominated rules tend to skew taxing rights towards richer countries, and do a poor job of stopping multinational corporations (typically from rich countries) setting up schemes to avoid tax, often via tax havens.

The developing countries are seeking to strengthen the UN’s own tax committee – the committee of experts on international co-operation in tax matters – which could potentially represent and advance the interests of developing countries far better than the OECD ever can. And, as Chile’s permanent mission to the UN noted recently, the UN tax committee «is the only body with global membership in which these issues can be discussed».

More than a quarter of G20 member states – including Mexico, its next chair – are on record in favour of a stronger committee, and now, after years of relative quiescence on this crucial issue, developing countries seem to be finding their voice.

«The day is gone,» said a speaker at a recent UN meeting in New York, «when there are rule makers and rule takers.»

Argentina and China tabled the proposal earlier this year to upgrade the status of the committee, but the rich countries are justifying their opposition to this with rather convoluted logic, saying that sticking with a dominant OECD would «maximise synergies» and «avoid duplication.»

This issue has been discussed before, and the UK has long opposed reform. Back in 2008, British diplomats spiked a similar proposal at a UN development conference. In answer to a written question in parliament in March, Treasury minister David Gauke curtly reiterated the UK’s position opposing this route to giving developing countries a greater voice.

To be fair, some argue that while the UN may be the most legitimate forum to deal with international economic issues, it isn’t always the most effective. Even UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon recognised as much last month: «the UN is a universal forum, with unique legitimacy,» he said, «but legitimacy alone is not enough».

The UN’s tax committee is probably one of its more effective bodies. With scant resources, it takes complex global tax standards developed by rich countries through the OECD, and seeks to adapt them to better reflect the needs of developing countries. For example, it produces a model tax treaty used by developing countries when they negotiate tax treaties with rich countries. «Without that UN model [tax treaty], geez, negotiations would be a hard time,» one African tax official told ActionAid earlier this year.

Tax inspectors from developing countries say they need the work of both the OECD and the UN to do their jobs well. But the OECD cannot be allowed to dominate proceedings. As another African tax official said: «The UN should do more. We are losing a lot from the OECD.»

The UK, US and others should listen to developing countries and support the long-needed reform for which they are calling.

Developing countries must avoid a race to the bottom to supply cheap goods to the world’s richest economies, according to a new report from Unctad, the UN’s trade and development arm.

In its annual trade and development report, published on Thursday, the Geneva-based thinktank warns that the traditional model of «export-led development,» which powered many countries in the runup to the financial crisis, is no longer viable.

«Prior to the Great Recession, exports from developing and transition economies grew rapidly owing to buoyant consumer demand in the developed countries, mainly the United States,» writes Supachai Panitchpakdi, Unctad’s outgoing secretary-general, in the report’s foreword. «But the expansion of the world economy, though favourable for many developing countries, was built on unsustainable global demand and financing patterns. Thus, reverting to pre-crisis growth strategies cannot be an option.»

Panitchpakdi adds that relying primarily on cut-price exports to drive expansion leads to a «race to the bottom, with few development gains but potentially disastrous social consequences».

World trade growth has not returned to its pre-crisis rate; it fell to just 2% in 2012, and Unctad points out that imports to developed regions, including the US and Europe, are still below 2007 levels. It suggests this downward trend «highlights the vulnerabilities developing countries continue to face at a time of lacklustre growth in developed countries».

Unctad believes that developing country governments must focus on boosting domestic incomes for the poorest – and hence consumer demand – rather than pinning their hopes on a recovery in export demand among wealthier neighbours.

The report calls for deliberate policies to encourage more generous wages; stronger social safety nets, paid for by better tax collection from those who can afford it; and recalibrating the financial system to focus on lending, not speculation.

Unctad, which has often tended to present a more radical view than other multilateral economic bodies such as the International Monetary Fund or Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, also expresses concern that reform of the financial sector appears to have stalled.

«Five years after Lehman Brothers collapsed, it’s amazing how much of business as usual is back in place,» said Richard Kozul-Wright, a development policy expert at Unctad in London to launch the report.

He added that inequality has risen, global imbalances – the yawning trade and investment deficits and surpluses between many countries – remain untackled, and many of the world’s largest banks are still too powerful.

In the immediate aftermath of the 2008 crash, many believed there had been a decoupling of rapidly-expanding emerging countries from the west. On the contrary, said Kozul-Wright: «A significant reason for success was not so much their own internal dynamics, as a very favourable set of external growth circumstances.»

High commodity prices, rapid capital flows and generous remittances from emigrant workers based abroad all helped to boost growth in export-led developing economies. Those various forces could now go into reverse, argued Kozul-Wright, potentially exposing the weaknesses in many countries. «I’m cautiously pessimistic,» he said.

If, as expected, the Federal Reserve decides to start slowing the pace of its quantitative easing program next week, it could accelerate the withdrawal of funds from emerging markets.