The term “Third World countries was invented around the beginning of the Cold War. These countries were characterized by several economic and social problems caused by underdevelopment, poverty, malnutrition, unemployment, overpopulation and political instability. They were known to have little role on the international scene in the Third World agenda, especially because they were not a part of The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) or the Warsaw Pact (a mutual defense organization that put the Soviets in charge of the member states’ military forces). Third World countries were considered the rivals of growth because they were  economic and political tectonic plates, likely to shake in case of political and economic turmoil or problems, to go through changes or shifts..  During the 19th and 20th centuries, these  developing countries  were emerging and rising in the European and global economic order. The domination of the First World countries over the Third World ones had gone into a downturn due to national liberalism, decolonization, political union and other liberal movements. “The global economies of the Third World countries were becoming more digitized, more multipolar and more fluid. Thanks to favorable demographics, digitization efforts and quicker health responses, many countries of the global south are facing global problems better than their wealthy counterparts.” (A. ZAMAN 2019)

Third World countries decided to stay neutral and non-aligned during the Cold War having just shaken off the effects of colonialism during the First World War era. They did not want any new triggering damage that could affect their newly gained independence. India was considered to be the first state that started the non-alignment movements on the Third World global agenda. In 1950, Nehru had started an independent policy, to protect the Indonesian Republic from the Dutch attacks and supported the neutralization of Indochina in the Geneva Conference, which would bring back stability in the region. 

The Third World countries attempted to create reverberations of independence under the colonial rulings and economic developments. In 1962, the Non-Aligned Movement promoted creating an economic conference in Cairo, mainly focusing on fixing the commodity prices in the exportation and international financial institutions, such as the IMF, the World Bank. In order to assist with more financial aid on favorable terms and to reduce the trading dependence of newly independent states on commodity production and from western countries. They have managed to develop their economic links after their independence from their colonial powers. Furthermore, the nationalist movements among these countries  also contributed to creating an independence from the European world order. 

The declining European colonial empires and the bipolar conflict of the Soviet Union (USSR) and the United States still had a great influence on the Third World. It forced many Third World countries into the precarious contest for political allegiance to one of the blocks, for military and economic aid. The United States had created foreign policies towards the Third World nations according to different perceived imperative attentiveness. (Washington,1987) The US government attempted  to diminish the escalating power of communism over the Third World countries in the Post-World War II era. In return, their political leaders tend to strive to evade dominance by the United States and go in for diplomatic relations aware of the power asymmetries in the international system context. 

In particular, in South and South-East Asia, nationalism led to the creation of new unstable independent states, which also assisted the countries to be decolonized from the dominant European colonies. It started in India and Pakistan from Britain, in 1947, during the Pacific War era with the official declaration of the Indian Independence Act The other Third World countries followed this path in order to gain freedom and independence in social, economical and political terms. Many African countries gained independence, such as the 1957 Independence of Ghana, the 1958 Guinea independence; Senegal and French Sudan (Mali). The  outcome of these movements was severe damage to the European world order, since they were no longer under their colonized powers. The old concept of the ‘third world’ no longer applied and rich countries  could not impose their will on developing nations that are now major sources of global growth. (World Bank chief Robert Zoellick,  2010)

One of the enormous Third World countries’ accomplishments  is the evolution of their organizations and their situation of oil development. Since the 1970’s, OPEC has gained drastic strength due to the increase of the developing economies of the Third World countries that are members of OPEC and that were reliant on oil production. Furthermore, by settling up the oil prices between its members, OPEC became even stronger . In 1973, OPEC declared a fourfold escalation in oil prices. This led to  a significant oil crisis in 1973 across the world in order to attack countries who supported Israel. However, the crisis had a greater impact on the developing countries than on the developed ones. Also The New International Economic Order (NIEO) announced a fixed price for commodities and new developments in the methods of the World Bank and IMF, especially focusing on greater voting rights for the Third World countries.This means a new international development of the Third World countries arose. Furthermore, between the 1970s and early 1980s, OPEC was effective in raising the world prices of oil, owing to an inelastic demand for oil and a reduction in the amount of oil provided by a global oil embargo with the excessive reduction. The accomplishments of OPEC regarding international decisional processes such as oil producing, gave the Third World countries a big strength and power on their economic and political agenda.

The Arabic movement in the Middle East also made the Third World countries become unconstrained from the European countries and the Ottoman Empire and contributed to their endeavor of being independent. Pan-Arabism is a political movement that began in the mid-to-late nineteenth century and peaked in the 1960s, advocating for the political, cultural, and socioeconomic unity of Arabs throughout the various post-colonial governments, from the Mashreq (Arab East) to the Maghreb (Arab West). It was also a fully articulated ideological movement taking the form principally of a secular and socialist expression, as in the case of Ba’athism. (IHEID, 2019) During the late 19th century, Pan-Arabism had started to rise up among the Arabs in the Middle East and was considered to be a cultural and literary renaissance. In 1910, most of the Arabic states gained their freedom from the Ottoman Empire and the West European countries such as Italy. This was considered to be a secular modernization regime among the Arab States and their main goal was to link the Arabic countries together in order to create a new secular state. In 1945, The Arab League was created in Cairo, aiming to develop and coordinate the political, cultural, economic and social programs of its members and to stop conflicts among them. Moreover, the Third World countries created many new innovations and new investments, such as creating the first Arab petroleum congress in 1959 and the formation of the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (ALECSO) in 1964.

In conclusion,  from the beginning of the 19th century until the end of the 20th, the Third World countries had managed to develop their political and economic order through nationalist movements, and non-alignment movements towards the developed countries. The Third World Countries also aimed to gain independence through liberal democratic and decolonization movements. The evolutionary progress of their organizations, their developments in producing oil and the Arabic movements supported them to create a political, cultural, socioeconomic unity. Furthermore, the aim of forming secular and socialist states made the Third World countries demolish their bad reputation on the Third World’s agenda. Starting from the 1950s, the Third World was known to be extremely corrupt, highly undeveloped, lacking healthcare, safety and education, full of hunger, and unsafe. However, the countries of the Third World have managed to change their agenda by evolving and creating new developments which has made them stronger than  ever.


  • Antony Best, Jussi M. Hanhimäki, Joseph A. Maiolo and Kirsten E. Schulze,    International History of the Twentieth Century and Beyond, Routledge, 2014.

Leave a Reply

Recommended Posts

%d bloggers like this: