definition of a third world country

What is the definition of a third world country? In many countries, when people hear the phrase “third world country”, visions of impoverished countries struggling to meet basic human needs are the first to pop up. This might be true in today’s society, but the original definition of a third world country referred to the nations that lacked an alliance with either the U.S. or the former Soviet Union during the Cold War.

In recent years, the term has come to define countries that have high poverty rates, economic instability and lack basic human necessities like access to water, shelter or food for its citizens. These countries are often underdeveloped, and in addition to widespread poverty, they also have high mortality rates.

Definition of a Third World Country Underlying Meaning

In terms of the “worlds” system, they are ranked from first world to third world. The first world refers to the countries that are more developed and industrialized societies; in other words, capitalist societies that aligned with the U.S. and NATO during the Cold War. This includes North America, Japan, Western Europe and Australia.  

Second world countries refer to the countries that lean more toward a socialist society, and generally were allied with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. These countries include Russia, Poland, China and some Turk states.  

Third world countries are all the other countries that did not pick a side. This includes most of Africa, Asia and Latin America. However, this definition includes countries that are economically stable, which does not fit the currently accepted definition of a third world country.

As a society, the term “third world country” refers to countries with high mortality rates, especially infant mortality rates. They also have an unstable and inconsistent economy. These are countries that contain massive amounts of poverty and in some cases have fewer natural resources than other nations throughout the world. These countries often have to rely on more industrialized countries to aid them and help stabilize their economy.

These countries usually lack economic stability because of the lack of a functioning class system. Usually, the country will have an upper class and a lower class. Without a middle class to fill the gap, there is almost no way for a person to escape poverty because there is no next step for them on the economic ladder. This also allows the wealthy to control all the money in the country. This is detrimental to the economy of the country, and both increases and helps to sustain the poverty running rampant throughout the country while allowing the upper class to keep their wealth to themselves.

These countries often accrue a copious amount of debt from foreign countries because of the constant aid they need from other countries to keep their economy afloat and provide some financial stability to the citizens of the country.

The definition of a third world country has evolved from the political meaning during the Cold War to the economic meaning of today. Today’s meaning refers to countries that are in financial trouble and need help from other countries to keep their economy sustainable, at least for a short time.

– Simone Williams

Photo: Wikipedia


strongest democraciesFreedom House’s annual nonpartisan report on the state of global democracy, Freedom in the World, had grim findings in its newly released 2018 version. According to the report, 2017 marked the “twelfth consecutive year of decline in global freedom” in which civil liberties and political rights eroded in multiple democracies, both young and old.

That said, the focus in this post will be highlighting the world’s top 10 strongest democracies, moving from last to first, based on various economic and social factors:

  1. Uruguay
    Uruguay is known for its strong record on legal equality and social tolerance of minority groups. It has a strong economy, an informed populace and a national identity based on democratic freedoms rather than ethnicity. It is also highly regarded for its notable lack of government corruption, an issue that has long plagued other democratic nations in South America.
  1. Ireland
    Despite instances of corruption, Ireland has upheld its strong and stable democracy throughout the political turmoil of the past few years. Balanced and fair elections have maintained the country’s tradition of equal protections under the law, though Ireland could stand to dedicate more to foreign aid, giving just 0.33 percent of its Gross National Income (GNI) in 2016.
  1. Switzerland
    Notable as one of the only countries in the world to operate as a confederation, Switzerland follows a tradition of decentralizing power and allowing citizens to weigh in on government decisions through referendums, making the nation closer to a direct democracy than a representative one.  Switzerland has a long history of civil rights and political liberties, having been a democratic nation since 1848.
  1. Denmark
    A parliamentary representative democracy with open and fair elections, Denmark remained one of the world’s strongest democracies in 2017. Despite pressures following the 2015 migrant crisis, Denmark has maintained its core democratic structures. It has strong checks on power and corruption, a robust set of civil liberties for its citizens, and some of the most beautiful scenery in Europe.
  1. Australia
    Australia is widely recognized as a strong democratic system, with free and fair elections and a system of obligatory voting. The country encourages the sharing of powers, with a bicameral parliament designed to mitigate extreme divides between opposing views.
  1. New Zealand
    A nation that contains immense and stunning scenery, New Zealand is perhaps best known for its appearances in the popular Lord of the Rings movies and its thriving tourist industry. But the nation also possesses a thriving democracy. With regular elections and a system of checks on governmental abuse of power, New Zealand remains a destination for those who wish to combine epic scenery with the modern attributes of a prospering democracy. Its only shortcomings relate to combatting global poverty, as the country contributed just 0.25 percent of its GNI to foreign aid in 2016 despite strong economic growth.
  1. Finland
    Competition between multiple parties with diverse views, along with deep respect for the law and a resulting lack of corruption, made Finland one of the best democracies in 2017. It boasts a free press and independent judiciary that respects the political rights of citizens. It is above average in terms of foreign aid contributions, contributing 0.44 percent of its GNI to foreign aid in 2016, but could still improve in this regard.
  1. Canada
    A country recognized by its broad social welfare system and vast landscapes, Canada remains an admirable democratic society. A strong electoral system combined with governmental respect for diverse opinions among citizens has led to a solid and functioning country. Canada could do better in foreign aid, however, contributing only 0.26 percent of its GNI to helping less fortunate nations in 2016.
  1. Sweden
    A parliamentary monarchy with a robust and independent judiciary, Sweden remains one of the best multiparty political systems and one of the strongest democracies, incorporating the viewpoints of most members of society and benefitting from a respected judicial branch that largely upholds civil liberties. Sweden also contributes the most toward fighting global poverty among members of the United Nations, with 1.09 percent of its GNI going to foreign aid in 2016.
  1. Norway
    Despite the political and social turmoil that defined 2017, Norway preserved its status as one of the strongest democracies in the world. Norway sports strong protections for freedom of speech among its populace and has a civil society and independent media that is encouraged to critique the government and promote responsible behavior by public officials. Key to Norway’s success is its modest population, which makes it easier to represent all viewpoints in government and mitigate the societal divisions that plague larger countries. Norway also has done more than most democracies to address the issue of global poverty, contributing 1.1 percent of its GNI to foreign aid in 2016.

The Economist Intelligence Unit’s democracy index found in its July 2017 report that democracy was in retreat across the globe, including in the United States, which is considered one of the world’s oldest and strongest democracies. It is important to examine the strongest democracies in the modern world in order to study how they have maintained strong systems of civil and political liberties, as well as what they are doing to improve other nations’ economic well-beings, a key foundation for democratic stability.

– Shane Summers

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

what makes a country developedWhat makes a country developed? The commonalities between developed countries include an improved quality of life and greater access to basic necessities. Conversely, underdeveloped nations around the world also share common characteristics. Citizens suffer from preventable diseases, extreme poverty and lack of access to healthcare and clean water. Understanding the characteristics of underdeveloped countries can allow for a more strategic aid process to contribute to their development.

The former Secretary of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, said that a developed country is “one that allows all its citizens to enjoy a free and healthy life in a safe environment.” While this may be an oversimplified statement, it highlights key issues that must be addressed in order for a country to develop. Here are some characteristics of underdeveloped countries.

Low life expectancy 

While the life expectancy of developed countries is typically in the 70s and 80s, underdeveloped countries often have life expectancies in the low 50s. This is common in African nations and is due to high birthrates and low contraception use, poor access to health care and potable water, lack of education and disease. All of this can easily be prevented.

Many measures can raise life expectancy while decreasing overpopulation and deaths resulting from preventable diseases. This includes using technology to help medical clinics in rural areas, increasing the number of wells, utilizing solar sanitation systems, revamping national education standards and having a sharper focus on vaccines.

Poor education and literacy 

Similarly to life expectancy, literacy rates and educational systems are telltale signs of a developed country. While countries like Norway consistently maintain a 100 percent literacy rate, underdeveloped countries, such as Niger, maintain an estimated 19 percent. While primary school is mandatory for most of the world’s children, many drop out in underdeveloped countries. The lack of secondary and vocational education for children prevents them from entering the workforce later in life. This can be combated by revamping curriculum and teacher training and by enforcing internationally recognized standards.

Poverty rates 

The economy factors greatly into what makes a country developed. Lack of income prevents people from access to basic human rights such as clean water, food and preventable measures against disease. While only 15 percent of Americans live in poverty, over 60 percent in the Congo and neighboring countries do. With additional aid, underdeveloped countries can increase credit access and improve agricultural and infrastructural systems, which would produce food and create jobs simultaneously.

High fertility rates 

Overpopulation is another characteristic of underdeveloped countries. Lack of education and birth control have contributed greatly to high fertility rates. In countries like Chad, for instance, only five percent utilize contraception. It has contributed to high birth rates, a population in which the majority are adolescents and have low life expectancies. Better education and access to birth control can balance the booming population in underdeveloped countries.

It is clear that the steps to helping underdeveloped countries are simple. Healthcare, education and credit access contribute to what makes a country developed. By addressing the aforementioned issues, underdeveloped countries can take steps to develop further and contribute to eliminating global poverty.

– Eric Paulsen

Photo: Flickr

Foreign AidThe September 11 terrorist attack resulted in the construction of development response, the act of aiding and developing an impoverished area. The goal of this strategy is to help combat terrorism. Impoverished areas produce a vulnerable environment ideal for extremist group recruitment. The presence of foreign aid in poverty-filled areas reduces the susceptibility of men and women reaching out to extremist groups for a sense of stability.

Social marginalization and poorly governed areas increase the appeal of an extremist group. Social marginalization, the feeling of being oppressed or excluded from society, creates a need for acceptance. The absence of security may lead to residents looking for an opportunity to escape oppression or economic despair. These conditions produce breeding grounds for the recruitment of terrorists. Extremist groups symbolize a promise of social status, respect, necessary services and a sense of belonging.

Yemen and Somalia are prime examples of terrorist breeding grounds. In Yemen, about 35 percent of the population is undernourished and 55 percent lack food security due to soaring food prices. Merely 2 percent of Yemen’s gross domestic product is spent on healthcare. Unemployment has increased to 35 percent and the Sunni-Shia civil clash has heightened the terrorist capacity.

Somalia, similarly to Yemen, is lacking a central government. The war zone environment has provided a safety net for those hiding from the law, giving terrorists the ability to move freely. About 73 percent of the population lives on about $2 a day. The promise of profit from extremist groups feeds the embrace of terrorist membership. Recruiters use the incentives of food, profit and even a sign-up bonus to gain members.

These nations portray the hardships developing nations face when countering extremism. They are not equipped to stop the targeting of terrorist groups. Economic security and efforts to decrease marginalization would provide a preventive measure for global threats.

In the “Assisting International Partners to Counter Violent Extremism” report, the U.S. Department of State and USAID outline objectives for counterterrorism. These objectives include engaging in partnerships, encouraging policy and employing foreign assistance tools. The recognition that youths are more inclined to embrace extremism led to the production of institutions focusing on employing youths and preventing them from joining extremist groups.

The report details that foreign aid would be spent on building institutions and strengthening impoverished nations’ international partnership. The strategic vision behind foreign aid proves that aid is more than a loan to combat poverty. The objectives can be viewed as a tactic within the grand strategy of foreign aid.

Foreign aid provides a weapon to combat counterterrorism. This strategy provides a cheaper long-term tactic that targets one of the causes for breeding ground conditions. It serves as a preventive measure and a source of international security.

The potential foreign aid budget cuts could put American national security in jeopardy. Foreign aid serves as an investment to prevent vulnerable conditions for terrorist recruitment as well as managing the likelihood of a global threat. Developmental aid is not only a valuable tool to counter poverty, but is an effective counterterrorism strategy.

Shauna Triplett

Photo: Flickr

Education in Norway

Ranked twenty-first on the list of leading education systems in performance, graduation rates, and funding, Norway is among the many countries in Northern Europe that places education as a priority for all youth regardless of their financial or ethnic background. In 2016, Norway provided higher education to more than 200,000 students, more than tripling the student count from 2010. Education in Norway is highly valued, however, student drop-out rates are a continuing issue.

Education in Norway is implemented in three parts: primary school, lower secondary school and upper secondary school, the first two of which are mandatory to complete. Students must go to school between the ages of six and 16, but after graduation from lower secondary school, students are given the option to either pursue upper secondary school or discontinue education to enter the job market. Upper secondary school is a three-year program that incorporates either general or vocational studies.
As of 2015, the completion rate of the 64,000 students enrolled in upper secondary school starting in 2010 was 59 percent. Norwegian schools are tuition-free, and Norway continually supports equality in education. So the question is: why do students drop out of upper secondary education?

The answer to this question may have little to do with Norway’s philosophy on education. In fact, it could lie in the background of each student. One major factor influencing the decision to finish schooling is grade point average in lower secondary school. If a student is presented with poorer grades in early education, their likelihood of receiving good grades or seeing their higher education through is low. While 59 percent of the student population in 2015 graduated within the given time span of their schooling, 7 percent failed final exams and 15 percent dropped out before or during their final year.

Obtaining a quality lower secondary education in Norway is an essential factor to the success in upper secondary school. Since lower secondary school occurs during the development ages of 10 to 16, it is imperative for teachers to provide students with engaging and effective curriculum specifically tailored to that age group. The focus is on basic knowledge concepts, such as reading and math, then upper secondary school is a more advanced approach that offers career-specific courses, like business or nursing.

New ideas like the Transition Project focus on low-performing students in lower secondary school to increase their reading, writing and numeracy competencies. This project provides students with follow-up workshops, homework assistance and surveys for teachers to complete and keep track of their lower-scoring students.

Reforms like the Transition Project provide students and teachers alike with cohesive learning. Teachers are able to lecture with more clarity and students are able to grasp the curriculum with more ease. Those students needing more assistance have outlets to spend more time on specific concepts. As a result, students are less likely to fall behind in their classes and will gain a better overall understanding of the curriculum based on the increase in involvement and participation with their teachers.

With an unemployment rate of 7.5 percent for students with education below upper secondary school and only 3.4 percent for students with upper secondary education, it is vital to emphasize the importance of finishing school. Norway has seen the underlying problem, and its efforts in decreasing dropout rates in upper secondary school are just beginning.

Brianna Summ

Photo: Flickr

Medical TourismTourism has been around for many years, in the past it was mainly used for research purposes for young scholars, but over time it has evolved to become its own individual industry. Medical tourism is an arising type of tourism whereby a tourist leaves their home country to receive medical attention in another. Countries visited through medical tourism are usually less developed countries, and the effects of medical tourism have been beneficial to both sides.

According to Orbis Research, in 2016 the global medical tourism market was worth $19.7 billion, and by 2021 it could reach $46.6 billion. In fact, for some developing countries, medical tourism is one of the biggest industries. India, for example is renowned for its success in the medical tourism space; in 2002 alone, the industry earned at least $2 billion in revenue for the country, and this number has gradually grown.

The effects of medical tourism have proven beneficial to less developed nations. According to a study on Thailand, “most developing country governments see medical tourism as an opportunity to generate more national income”.

Medical tourism has become a common method of seeking out cheaper medical treatment for individuals in developed countries. According to the study, “Medical Tourism: A Look at How Medical Outsourcing Can Reshape Health Care,” the examination of Howard Staab’s case in 2004 illustrates the benefits for medical tourists. In Staab’s case, the patient needed a mitral heart valve replacement surgery that had to be done within a year.

The original cost for the operation was $200,000. Staab could not negotiate with the hospital nor the insurance within the one-year policy, therefore Staab decided to travel to India for the surgery. There, the surgery came to cost $6,700 and Staab was able to save approximately $193,300. Since 2004, medical tourism has become even more cost-efficient.

Medical tourism has also become a platform for individuals from one LDC to out seek medical care from another LDC. It has become an interaction between parties, both of whom are from developing countries, for example, Afghan patients who commonly travel to India for medical treatment. The interaction between individuals from different LDCs allows for the connection of different cultures and paves a way for building an interconnected network among the LDCs.

A growing globalized network among LDCs could prove very useful in providing LDCs access to patrons working towards improving quality of life through medical care. The effects of medical tourism are to allow them to utilize resources surrounding them and depend less on foreign aid, and focus more on not only improving quality of life but also the economy of their countries.

Carla Salas

Photo: Flickr

Luxembourg is a small, prosperous country in western Europe. Since the beginning of the 21st century, Luxembourg has made great strides in continuing to achieve and secure basic human rights in Luxembourg for their citizens.

As of 2017, the government of Luxembourg has met the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking. According to the U.S. State Department, “These achievements included increasing the number of prosecutions and convictions, finalizing and adopting a written national referral mechanism, enhancing the number of dedicated personnel to anti-trafficking positions” and others.

There were reported occasional cases of discrimination throughout the country over the last decade, specifically discrimination with respect to employment on the basis of race, color, political opinion, sex, gender, disability and other categories. Luxembourg law requires quotas for hiring diverse types of employees. It also mandates equal pay for equal work.

In September 2014, in reaction to reporting that employers paid women 8.6 percent less on average than men for the same work, the Ministry of Equal Opportunities began an awareness campaign using newspapers, online advertisements and posters in order to end the unequal treatment of women in the workplace.

On a more controversial note, Luxembourg legalized euthanasia in 2009, making it the third country in Europe to legalize euthanasia. The law on palliative care, advance instructions and end-of-life accompaniment “applied to anyone in a hopeless medical situation as a result of an accident or serious illness.” Many human rights advocacy groups, such as the Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life Global Outreach, have spoken out against the practice.

The Human Rights Council will be reviewing human rights in Luxembourg early next year to determine whether they are fulfilling their human rights commitments. But it is safe to say that with a stable government and human rights laws that are routinely enforced, human rights will continue to be respected in Luxembourg.

Melanie Snyder

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in South Korea
While in many poor countries poverty disproportionately affects the young, the opposite is true for South Korea. After the Korean war of the 1950s, South Korea saw a period of extreme poverty, followed by a fifty-year rise to economic power. And while this rise was good news for most of the country, it also meant that the bulk of all poverty in South Korea was pushed onto its elderly population, with nearly half of all citizens over the age of 65 living in poverty.

One reason for this has been what many people have called South Korea’s cut-throat nature. Known for its ruthless competition over test scores and prestigious jobs, South Korea’s population has accumulated wealth at such a fast pace that social mores have struggled to keep up with the pace of change. In much of Asia, it has long been a tradition to honor and care for elderly relatives as part of a Confucian social contract. However, as the country’s young population has migrated to cities, away from the family unit, expectations have drastically changed. In just the past fifteen years, the percentage of young South Koreans who believe they should care for their parents has plummeted from 90 percent to 37 percent.

In the absence of this social expectation, there exists little to no government program to take its place. South Korea was ranked second-to-last in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in terms of spending on welfare for the elderly. Only a third of the elderly population receives a pension, and the pension itself makes for a threadbare living at best. Many people do not even attempt to receive the government pension out of embarrassment, since, to be eligible, an applicant has to prove that his or her children are unwilling or incapable of providing support.

Elderly and Poverty in South Korea

In 2012, South Korea enacted an ill-conceived way to improve the situation, called the “National Happiness Pension,” which only slightly raised pensions, and only for the poorest 70 percent of seniors. Addressing elderly poverty is, sadly, still not a first priority for the South Korean government, which has widespread unemployment and a tumultuous relationship with North Korea to contend with.

Since 2012, however, young South Koreans have begun to recognize the need for action. The Korea Legacy Committee, begun by Mike Kim, an entrepreneur in Seoul and the director of Asia-Pacific partnerships at Google, is dedicated to addressing this issue. Consisting of Kim and eight other Korean entrepreneurs, all working in different fields, the Korea Legacy Committee is tasked with solving this crisis of poverty, first and foremost by raising awareness of the issue. Since 2015, the KLC has held monthly events for their volunteers to interact with elderly pensioners from the Seoul Senior Welfare Center, and quarterly fundraisers, the money from which goes to the senior center’s meal program. So far, the organization has raised more than $20,000.

While South Korea’s elderly population still suffers from poverty and neglect, the rest of the population is slowly coming to terms with the depth of this issue and is finding ways to help. This will be the first step in solving this crisis. Though the end to poverty in South Korea is within sight, there is still a long way to go.

Audrey Palzkill

Poverty Rate in South KoreaThe poverty rate in South Korea not only decreased in the past few decades, but it now also continues to decline. When examining the poverty rate in the country, however, there seems to be one apparent issue: the poverty rate among people who are 34 years old or younger and people who are 65 years old and older have both increased.

Comparing the two, the poverty rate among people aged over 65 is significantly higher than people below the age of 34 — 64 percent compared to 12 — and therefore a greater cause for concern for the country.

These numbers directly contrast the overall movement of the poverty rate in South Korea. Among people aged from 35 to 50 years old, the poverty rate hovers around six percent and the rate among 50 to 65 years old stays at approximately 12 percent. Seeing as the poverty rate in South Korea tends to dramatically vary based on age range, it begs the question as to what is causing such wealth disparity between the different age groups in South Korea.

The answer to such a question can primarily be attributed to two main factors: increased competition in the work force and age discrimination among employers.

As the population of South Korea continues to grow, so too does the competition for jobs. Many young South Koreans seek employment opportunities in a competitive marketplace that only becomes more competitive over time.

In combination with the slowing of the world economy, this can have devastating effects on the young as the rate of competition for jobs slowly continues to increase while the number of jobs available paradoxically decreases. This explains the youth unemployment rate in South Korea, which rose to approximately eight percent at the end of 2016.

Another major issue is the inability for people aged 65 and older to generate income. This occurs because many elderly citizens are forced out of the workplace and then do not receive enough government subsidies to survive. It is typical for companies to force employees who are in their mid-fifties into retirement with the interest of bringing in younger, “fresher” workers.

To further exacerbate this issue, the public pension system in South Korea was only established in 1988 and leaves many people who retired in the mid-2000s with little to no retirement. It is the combination of these two issues that has been significantly contributing to the increasing poverty rate in South Korea.

In order to lower the poverty rate, it may become essential that South Korea prioritizes making its public pension system more efficient so as to provide more people with funds after retirement. Without such correction, it may become impossible for elderly people in South Korea to sustain a healthy lifestyle once consistent sources of income cease.

Garrett Keyes

Photo: Flickr

The World Is Changing Its Mindset Toward PovertyThe world is changing its mindset toward poverty and realizing that poverty is not a permanent problem. Generating solutions to make poverty preventable, including providing technological tools for success, growing a population’s knowledge with education and creating innovative methods for environmental sustainability create and maintain productive and growing countries.

The technological revolution, education for sustainable development and green growth are three methods the world uses to reduce poverty and build global development and ensure efficiency.

  1. The Technological Revolution
    The goal to end extreme poverty by 2030 is possible with improved technology that speeds progress and collects improved data. The World Bank currently uses technology to increase data collectors’ abilities to track poverty reduction progress and citizens’ well-being. The Pulse of South Sudan initiative uses tablet-based data collection to survey households and record personalized testimonials, and the Listening to Africa (L2A) initiative uses mobile phones to collect up-to-date information on living conditions with face-to-face surveys and followup mobile phone interviews. Technology such as cellphones and tablets streamline the process and is cost-efficient when reaching out to a broad sample or responding to crises.
  2. Education for Sustainable Development
    Education is crucial for global growth and progress, and it has spurred a knowledge-based movement for poverty reduction. As part of the Sustainable Development Goals, education must “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all,” including the world’s poor. According to UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring Report released this past June, 264.3 million children are out of school. About 62 million are adolescents of lower secondary school age (12 to 14). About 141 million are of upper secondary school age (15 to 17). The out-of-school rate has not decreased since 2008 at the primary level, since 2012 at the lower secondary level or since 2013 at the upper secondary level. While out-of-school rates have frozen, the world is changing its mindset toward poverty by acknowledging that education is a tool to end extreme poverty. By creating knowledge-based societies and using education as a tool, countries improve not only individual livelihoods and futures but their own economic mobility.
  3. Green Growth
    Creating sustainable, green growth not only creates economic development but addresses poverty and creates shared prosperity.Since the poor live in areas with few resources, such challenges can undermine a country’s ability to sustain economic growth and eradicate poverty. Policies that not only prioritize natural resources and environmental sustainability but also address poverty are crucial to economic development. According to Inhee Chung, senior sustainability and safeguards specialist at the Global Growth Institute, “Green growth can only lead to transformative and sustainable change if it is pro-poor and delivers benefits to the most marginalized and vulnerable social groups.”

The world is changing its mindset toward poverty by working to enhance policies that support the poor and create sustainable growth, as well as empower poor men and women and make green options accessible.

Sarah Dunlap

Photo: Pixabay