Third World

Updated on April 4, 2024
Article byPriya Choubey
Edited byPriya Choubey
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

Third World Meaning

The Third world comprises economically developing or underdeveloped countries. Additionally, these countries have lower living standards concerning health, education, and quality of life. As a result, hunger, crime, and mortality rates are higher in comparison.

Countries that chose to stay away from the 1945 Cold War, between western Capitalists and Soviet Socialists, are considered the Third world. The war ended in 1990. The majority of these countries are former colonies. After gaining independence, many of these countries faced the obstacles of nation-building.

Key Takeaways

  • The Third world refers to the economically weak countries. They have relatively poor living standards and a high mortality rate.
  • In 1952, Alfred Sauvy introduced the Third world in his article “Three Worlds, One Planet”, published in L’Observateur, a French Newspaper.
  • In Sauvy’s historical representation, the world was divided into three segments based on economic prowess: the first world, the second world, and the third world.
  • The World Trade Organization (WTO) supports the growth of developing countries by offering specific grants.
  • In the 21st century, the term has faced significant backlash and is now considered an outdated classification.
  • Many of the formerly labelled poor countries are flourishing financially. Thus, Sauvy’s ideology is obsolete.

Understanding Third World Countries

Third World countries practised non-alignment politics. However, in the mid of the 20th century, the nations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Warsaw Pact entered into a Cold War.

In 1952, Alfred Sauvy, a renowned French Demographer, wrote an article “Three Worlds, One Planet” for the L’Observateur. On the grounds of geopolitics and financial ability, he divided the countries into three categories: first, second, and third. The distinction between them is as follows.

  • First World: It was led by the U.S, comprising the Capitalist nations. It included economically powerful countries like the U.S., Australia, Western Europe, and Japan. These western countries possessed a stable democracy, strong economy, high standard of living and optimum industrializationIndustrializationIndustrialization refers to the transformation of a manual labor-based economy to a machine labor-driven industrial society.read more.
  • Second World: It comprises the Socialist nations of the Soviet Union like South America, South Africa, China, Cuba, Thailand, Turkey, and others. These nations were focused on peasants and communist workers.
  • Third World: The countries which did not participate in this cold war are called Third world countries. Most of these were the former colonies and were economically underdeveloped. Geographically these countries were situated in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

In the 21st century, though, historical categorization holds no relevance. Therefore, contemporarily the countries are classified as follows.

Additionally, pollution, poverty, mortality rates, crime and corruption are relatively higher in these countries.

Third World

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The World Trade Organization (WTO) let the countries self-nominate, labelling themselves as developing or least developed countries. These positions can be contested between the nations. In addition, the developing countries are eligible for certain grants from the WHO. Therefore, an extended transition period is allowed when a trade or infrastructure agreement is signed between a country and WHO.

The United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO) have recognized 47 Least Developed Countries (LDC). These nations have the lowest per capita incomePer Capita IncomeThe per capita income formula depicts the average income of a region computed by dividing the total income of that area by the total population of the region. It is used to figure out the average income of a city, provision, state, country, etc.read more and do not have a proper sustainable development structure. In addition, these nations failed to meet the minimum two of three criteria required to be labelled as emerging nations. The criteria are economic vulnerability, human asset index, and per capita income.

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List of Third World Countries

During the Cold War, the following countries were labelled as developing countries.

  • Mexico
  • Guatemala
  • El. Salvador
  • Nicaragua
  • Costa Rica
  • Jamaica
  • Honduras
  • Dominican Rep.
  • Grenada
  • St. Kitts and Nevis
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Dominica
  • St. Lucia
  • Barbados
  • Trinidad & Tobago
  • Venezuela
  • Colombia
  • Ecuador
  • Guyana
  • Peru
  • Brazil
  • Bolivia
  • Paraguay
  • Chile
  • Argentina
  • Sweden
  • Finland
  • reland
  • Switzerland
  • Austria
  • Liechtenstein
  • Slovenia
  • Croatia
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Montenegro
  • Morocco
  • Algeria
  • Mauretania
  • Senegal
  • Gambia
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Guinea
  • Sierra Leone
  • Liberia
  • Ivory Coast
  • Burkina Faso
  • Mali
  • Ghana
  • Togo
  • Benin
  • Nigeria
  • Niger
  • Libya
  • Chad
  • Lesotho
  • Swaziland
  • Madagascar
  • Mayotte
  • Botswana
  • Zambia
  • Malawi
  • Dem. Rep. Congo
  • Tanzania
  • Burundi
  • Rwanda
  • Uganda
  • Kenya
  • Cameroon
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Gabon
  • Congo
  • Central African Rep.
  • Sudan
  • South Sudan
  • Egypt
  • Israel
  • Syria
  • Iraq
  • Jordan
  • Bahrain
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Qatar
  • Kuwait
  • Afghanistan
  • Pakistan
  • India
  • Nepal
  • Bhutan
  • Bangladesh
  • Myanmar
  • Sri Lanka
  • Laos
  • Vietnam
  • Cambodia
  • Malaysia
  • Java
  • Indonesia
  • East Timor

Third World Countries List 2020

The list of developing countries in 2020 is as follows.

  • Afghanistan
  • Algeria
  • Angola
  • Bangladesh
  • Benin
  • Bhutan
  • Bolivia
  • Burkina Faso
  • Burundi
  • Cabo Verde
  • Cambodia
  • Cameroon
  • Central African Republic
  • Chad
  • Comoros
  • Congo, Democratic Republic
  • Congo, Republic
  • Côte d’Ivoire
  • Djibouti
  • Egypt, Arab Republic
  • El Salvador
  • Eritrea
  • Ethiopia
  • Gambia, The
  • Ghana
  • Guinea
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • India
  • Kenya
  • Kiribati
  • Korea, Democratic Republic (North Korea)
  • Kyrgyz Republic
  • Lao PDR (Laos)
  • Lesotho
  • Liberia
  • Madagascar
  • Malawi
  • Mali
  • Mauritania
  • Micronesia, Federal States
  • Moldova
  • Mongolia
  • Morocco
  • Mozambique
  • Myanmar
  • Nepal
  • Nicaragua
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Philippines
  • Rwanda
  • São Tomé and Principe
  • Senegal
  • Sierra Leone
  • Solomon Islands
  • Somalia
  • South Sudan
  • Sudan
  • Sri Lanka
  • Swaziland
  • Syrian Arab Republic
  • Tajikistan
  • Tanzania
  • Timor-Leste
  • Togo
  • Tunisia
  • Uganda
  • Ukraine
  • Uzbekistan
  • Vanuatu
  • Vietnam
  • West Bank and Gaza (Palestine)
  • Yemen, Republic
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe

The Controversy Around Using the Word “Third World.”

The third world concept has lost its ideology post-Cold War. However, this term still needs justification on the part of its basis for categorization. The ongoing debate around the terminology is based on the justification of two different criteria. Was the phrase used to describe nations which did not align for the war? Or was it used derogatorily to label nations struggling financially?

The characteristics of these countries cannot be generalized. Not all of those nations are poor, corrupt, economically vulnerable, and politically unstable. Moreover, each nation has different strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, generalizing all of them under the same label is unfair.

The “Third world” concept is an economic hierarchy. This ideology hinders developing countries from growing. Many of these countries, therefore, took offence and called out the unfair discrimination. More importantly, in the 21st century, the term has become obsolete. With the end of the Cold War, this term lost its relevance. There is no legitimacy to continue using that categorization. There is no legal authority to validate an outdated universal tag.

Alfred Sauvy had an ideology that the society comprises Capitalist and Socialist nations. Therefore, he marked a portion of the society and considered them insignificant. But in the present contemporary, many of those countries possess excellent business potential. These nations contribute substantially to the global economy through exports, human resource outsourcing, and other resources.

Frequently Ask Questions (FAQs)

What makes a country Third world?

The ideology primarily refers to economic struggles. Additionally, these countries have a lower quality of life with poor education, health and law enforcement facilities.

What are 1st, 2nd and 3rd world countries?

The countries that took part in the 1945-1990 Cold War are the first and second world countries. It was fought between the Capitalist and Soviet Socialist nations, called the first and the second world, respectively. However, many countries chose not to participate in the war; these countries were labelled Third World countries.

Is it bad to say Third World?

Yes, it is a derogatory term discriminating against countries who chose not to fight in the 1945 cold war. These countries are unfairly labelled as poor. They are considered economically backwards based on an age-old ideology, totally obsolete in the 21st century.

This has been a Guide to Third World and its Meaning. Here we the list out the names of such countries and the controversy around using this word. You may also have a look at the following articles to learn more –

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Kumar says

    Sorry for the spelling errors! That should be AXIS

  2. Kumar says

    Third world as I know was a phrase coined for those countries that weee aligned with the USA DURING WWII. The Acis countries fell into the 2nd world and those not aligned with either were third world! But, and you’re right about this, it has NOTHING to do with the economic conditions of any particular country

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