The term Third World is not universally accepted. Some prefer other terms such as Global South, the South, ­non-industrialized countries, developing countries, underdeveloped countries, undeveloped countries, mal-developed countries, emerging nations. The term „Third World” is the one most widely used in the media today, but no term can describe all less-developed countries accurately.

The First, the Second, and the Third World
When people talk about the poorest countries of the world, they often refer to them with the general term Third World, and they think everybody knows what they are talking about. But when you ask them if there is a Third World, what about a Second or a First World, you almost always get an evasive answer. Other people even try to use the terms as a ranking scheme for the state of development of countries, with the First World on top, followed by the Second World and so on, that’s perfect nonsense. To close the gap of information you will find here explanations of the term. The use of the terms the First, the Second, and the Third World is a rough, and it’s safe to say, outdated model of the geopolitical world from the time of the cold war. There is no official definition of the First, the Second, and the Third World. Below OWNO’s explanation of the terms.

Three Worlds
After World War II the world split into two large geopolitical blocs and spheres of influence with contrary views on government and the politically correct society

  • 1) The block of democratic-industrial countries within the American influence sphere, the First World.
  • 2) The Eastern bloc of the communist-socialist states, the Second World.
  • 3) The remaining three-quarters of the world’s population, states not aligned with either bloc were regarded as the Third World.

Alfred Sauvy and his demography
The economically underdeveloped countries of Asia, Africa, Oceania, and Latin America, considered as an entity with common characteristics, such as poverty, high birthrates, and economic dependence on the advanced countries. The French demographer Alfred Sauvy coined the expression (“tiers monde” in French) in 1952 by analogy with the “third estate”, the commoners of France before and during the French Revolution-as opposed to priests and nobles, comprising the first and second estates respectively. Like the third estate, wrote Sauvy, the third world is nothing, and it “wants to be something”. The term therefore implies that the third world is exploited, much as the third estate was exploited, and that, like the third estate its destiny is a revolutionary one. It conveys as well a second idea, also discussed by Sauvy that of non-alignment, for the third world belongs neither to the industrialized capitalist world nor to the industrialized Communist bloc. The expression third world was used at the 1955 conference of Afro-Asian countries held in Bandung, Indonesia. In 1956 a group of social scientists associated with Sauvy’s National Institute of Demographic Studies, in Paris, published a book called Le Tiers-Monde. Three years later, the French economist Francois Perroux launched a new journal, on problems of underdevelopment, with the same title. By the end of the 1950’s the term was frequently employed in the French media to refer to the underdeveloped countries of Asia, Africa, Oceania and Latin America. No study of the third world could hope to assess its future prospects without taking into account population growth. In 1980, the earth’s population was estimated at 4.4 billion, 72 percent of it in the Third World, and it seemed likely to reach 6.2 billion, 80 percent of it in the Third World, at the close of the century. This population explosion in the Third World will surely prevent any substantial improvements in living standards there as well as threaten people in stagnant economies with worsening poverty.

United Nations World Food Program (WFP), Oxfam, UNICEF
About 25,000 people die every day of hunger or hunger-related causes, according to the United Nations. This is one person every three and a half seconds, as you can see on this display. Unfortunately, it is children who die most often.

Yet there is plenty of food in the world for everyone. The problem is that hungry people are trapped in severe poverty. They lack the money to buy enough food to nourish themselves. Being constantly malnourished, they become weaker and often sick. This makes them increasingly less able to work, which then makes them even poorer and hungrier. This downward spiral often continues until death for them and their families.

There are effective programs to break this spiral. For adults, there are “food for work” programs where the adults are paid with food to build schools, dig wells, make roads, and so on. This both nourishes them and builds infrastructure to end the poverty. For children, there are “food for education” programs where the children are provided with food when they attend school. Their education will help them to escape from hunger and poverty.


Here are other criteria according to which the Third World countries can be defined:

Low-income criterion
based on a three-year average estimate of the gross national income (GNI) per capita (under $750 for inclusion, above $900 for graduation)

Human resource weakness criterion
involving a composite Human Assets Index (HAI) based on indicators of: (a) nutrition; (b) health; (c) education; and (d) adult literacy.

Economic vulnerability criterion
based on indicators of the instability of agricultural production; the instability of exports of goods and services; the economic importance of non-traditional activities (share of manufacturing and modern services in GDP); merchandise export concentration; and the handicap of economic smallness.


Improve your vocabulary!

Third World – Trzeci Świat
emerging – powstający
accurately – ściśle, dokładnie
evasive answer – wymijająca odpowiedź
nonsense – bezsens, bzdura
imply – sugerować, dawać do zrozumienia
respectively – odpowiednio
convey – przekazywać, transportować
alignment – wyrównanie, porządkowanie
poverty – ubóstwo, bieda
entity – jednostka, podmiotscientists – naukowcy
associated – stowarzyszony
launch – wypuszczać
underdeveloped – zacofany
Latin America – Ameryka Łacińska
assess – szacować, oceniać
stagnant – w stagnacji
improvement – ulepszenie, poprawa
effective – skuteczny, efektywny
criterion – kryterium