World map (updated 2019) showing advanced, transitioning, less and least developed countries.

Developing countries, or Majority World, and/or the inaccurate, out-of-date terms the South[1] and Third world all refer to the countries that rank the lowest on the Human Development Index.

History[edit | edit source]

Many developing countries have been colonised. While this a clearly exploitative arrangement to the benefit of the colonizing power, it has also had some positive economic influences, as foreign companies and together with it, foreign knowledge and crafsmanship have then started to enter the country, and some new forms of industry have emerged. However, it has also often left scars when the colonial powers exited the country, and local knowledge/expertise needed for these industries has not been developed.

Economic growth[edit | edit source]

GDP growth for 2013
Minimum wages by country.

Throughout history, economic development has varied depending on the developing country in question. For example, most African countries experienced little economic growth in the 20th century. Most Asian countries have seen comparatively much more development, with a strong reduction in poverty.

In recent decades though, poverty has decreased dramatically overall thanks to China's strong growth. See the World Economic Outlook 2012 map

Population growth and effect on climate change[edit | edit source]

As mentioned at Population growth, it is the combination of both the population size, as the (degree of) participation of each member on the economy, as the way in which each member chooses to use this wealth that determines our impact on the environment (in regards to climate change).

As in developing countries there is little participation of each member on the economy, the impact of the people in developing countries (ie the "wealthy") have a far greater than the impact, although they are far small in number..[2]

Still, regardless of the facts, "developed" countries often occuse "developing" countries of emitting too much CO2. This leads activists to ask questions such as: Is this what development really is? Is this the benchmark that our countries aim to achieve? If the rampant rise of consumerism is the real cause of global warming, then shouldn't that be targeted? Are it not mostly[3] the developed countries (in relation to their population/country's size[4][5] that should be held responsible?

A study by Dr David Satterthwaite[6] of the International Institute for Environment and Development analyzed changes in population and in greenhouse gas emissions for the entire world. His research, which assessed data between 1980 and 2005 reveals that population growth's contribution to the rise in greenhouse gases are almost negligible.

Sub-Saharan Africa, which had 18.5% of the world's population growth had only 2.4% of the total carbon dioxide emissions, whilst the United States, with 3.4% population growth had 12.6% growth in carbon dioxide emissions.[7]

The study illustrates that low-income countries have a higher rate of population growth, as opposed to higher income countries who maintained a low population rate, but also that they contribute less to global warming than all of us would believe. The study further asserts that the real problem is the growth in consumers and consumerism– not just "people."

"A child borne into a very poor African household who during their life never escapes from poverty contributes very little to climate change, especially if they die young, as many do," says Satterthwaite. "A child born into a wealthy household in North America or Europe and enjoys a full life and a high-consumption lifestyle contributes far more – thousands or even tens of thousands of times more."

Consider China, a country that has strict limits on the growth of their population. In fact, their rates of population growth have decreased enormously. Yet, the rate of their greenhouse gas emissions have increased.

Environmental efforts[edit | edit source]

Many developing countries have already much to suffer from climate change. For some[8] things will become even far worse and will see their entire country vanish due to climate change. This as well as other environmental problems such as deforestation raises great concern on the population -especially as due to being more directly dependant on the environment (ie many people still need to manually collect potable water, firewood,... directly from the environment) they can easily see the devastating impact this will have on their lives/livelihood-.

However, despite the huge threat that climate change faces, many developing countries lack funding and so are less able than developed countries to find appropriate solutions to counter this. In treaties such as the Kyoto protocol, it has been arranged that developing countries hence do not need to reduce their emissions as much as developed countries. Although this indeed makes sense, it should be noted that the Kyoto protocol was only but a stepping stone to reduce emissions and not a final solution. The emission reductions noted herein are nowhere near what is needed to aduquatly reduce emissions. With a more aduquate protocol, emission reductions of even developing countries would be on par to the emission reductions asked from developed countries today, and developed countries would need to attain far higher emission reductions. In practice, this could be easily done and the impression that developing countries could not achieve this is incorrect. This as reducing emissions can be done at various ways, using both high-tech solutions (ie reducing emissions from industry/transport) as low-tech solutions (ie population management, energy-efficient food production,...).[9] In addition, with more efficient use of energy, even high-tech solutions (reducing emissions from industry/transport) can be handled by developing countries. TokelauW for example has switched to using only solar energy and renewable energy (coconut) oil.

In addition, tackling climate change may even prove economically beneficial to (certain) developing countries. For example REDD allows countries to attain revenue simply by leaving their forests standing. Also, the flexible mechanisms (JI, CDM) allow to attract foreign investment/development.

Besides tackling climate change, other environmental projects may also be beneficial to the economy. Especially projects that recycles waste/litter from abroad (ie from developed countries), allows the injecting of capital to the country. An example is the Flip Flop Recycling Project.

Notes and references[edit | edit source]

  1. Although a convenient shorthand, the "South" is a inaccurate term as it suggests that the developing nations are further South than the developed nations. Consider Australia and Mongolia as two obvious counter-examples. Further, consider Albania, Japan and Malaysia as counter-examples to the idea of countries in the same region belonging to the same economic class.
  2. Stop blaming the poor. It's the wally yachters who are burning the planet, George Monbiot,, 28 September 2009
  3. China, India, Brazil are developing countries yet are responsible to huge amounts of GHG emissions
  4. Countries as the USA are quickly blamed for having the greatest carbon footprint, but are not the greatest emitters in regards to their population/country size, certain Middle Eastern countries are
  5. General list of emitters, not taking into account the size of the country/population
  6. Study shatters myth that population growth is a major driver of climate change, September, 2009, summary on the website of the International Institute for Environment and Development, and download link for report.
  7. Compared to their previous emissions or the increase in global global emissions ?
  8. Ie low-lying islands as Mauritius, Fiji,, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Micronesia,... and even some low-lying countries as Bangladesh

See also[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

Discussion[View | Edit]

Appropedia should be comfortable using the term "developing countries" in preference to "Majority world"[edit source]

- a ratio of more than 50:1

  • Google hits for "developing countries" on - 71,100
  • Google hits for "Majority world" on - 332.

- a ratio of more than 200:1

(Weak proposal): Although Appropedia should feel comfortable using the term "majority world" as long as have a definition of the term on the site, the term "developing countries" is not prohibitively "inaccurate, out-of-date, or non-descriptive", and is much better known, and we also should not hesitate to use it.

(Strong proposal): In fact, 50:1 is a pretty strong ratio, and Appropedia should prefer the term "developing countries".

Discussion?  :-)

-- Writtenonsand 16:03, 22 February 2008 (PST)

Thanks for picking up on this! It's good to think through these issues.
"Developing world" and developing countries are without doubt far more notable terms. However, my belief about Appropedia's role is that we take a stand for accuracy and truth, and this counts more than notability in the Wikipedia sense. (We are still learning how this works, but that's the general aim.) So the question is, which is more accurate and true? I side strongly with majority world.
The more accurate contrast to developed country is undeveloped country, but that's too blunt for most people. Developing world is a euphemism and doesn't highlight the characteristic feature of these countries at all. As for "developing": Australia and the USA, have been developing more quickly in recent years than quite a few so-called "developing countries", some of which weren't developing at all. But we don't call Australia and the USA developing countries because that term has become codeW for something else.
I would not want to force the use of particular terminology, but I would certainly favor the use of the most accurate and helpful terms, as a general guideline. --Chriswaterguy · talk 07:09, 23 February 2008 (PST)
"my belief about Appropedia's role is that we take a stand for accuracy and truth"
- "What is truth?", as the man said. We all know very well that Wikipedians have discussed this question for years (and the philosophers for millenia) without resolving it.
Developed countries Developed country Developed world
Developing countries Developing country Developing world
First world Second world Third world Fourth world
Majority world
It seems to me that a case can be made for the use of all of these terms, in the appropriate context(s), as they each highlight various aspects of the situation. (And of course, that we should avoid using them in inappropriate contexts.)
(We can also keep adding to the list other terms that have been used -- Global South, Less economically developed countries (LEDC), Least developed countries)
-- Writtenonsand 08:18, 23 February 2008 (PST)
It's a challenge certainly, but even Wikipedia does recognize that some issues are worth addressing even if there's a risk of subjectivity - e.g. Wikipedia: Project: Avoid weasel words and Wikipedia: Project: Use common sense. If someone wants to challenge the criticisms of other terms, or show serious concerns about the accuracy/value of using majority world, then we can have the chance to test whether we can deal with such questions in a civil and constructive way.
Less economically developed countries (LEDC) is probably the most accurate term, but also the driest and least easy to remember. As an Australian, Global South has always sounded like a fudge... but it does have value, and I'd certainly like each term above to redirect to the appropriate article that discusses the term. (Probably all the same article, but not necessarily.) --Chriswaterguy · talk 16:21, 24 February 2008 (PST)
I think that all of the terms we've been discussing are "fudges" in some contexts, but are succinct and useful in others. -- Writtenonsand 18:30, 24 February 2008 (PST)
The descriptor I often use in my classes is "Countries where many people have no shoes", which was inspired by a quote from Wangari Maathai in the short movie, "A Quiet Revolution". But that is too long for many sentences. I also use "Poor countries" that engenders financially developing (as opposed to other types of development engendered by the term "Developing countries").
- a ratio of 8.4:1 (much better than 50:1)
- a ratio of 7.2:1 (much better than 200:1)
I do feel that "Poor" is much more accurate, and less of a fudge, than "Developing". I am also usually more focused on the work than the words and assume that we can work out the semantics as we go. Keep up the great conversation. --Lonny 22:03, 24 February 2008 (PST)
I like "poor countries" much better than "developing countries", simply for being more honest and accurate.
"Majority world" seems to be an advocate's term, at least in origin, putting in the reader's face the fact that they are the majority and you with your privileged life are outside the norm. I'm very sympathetic with this emphasis, at the same time as being slightly uncomfortable with it. "Countries where many people have no shoes" is also very good, but the humor makes it sound much less moralistic.
I first came across it when used by New InternationalistW magazine (a magazine which I like for its focus on the parts of the world neglected in the mainstream media, but which I like less for being very predictable in which side it will take in any remotely ideological question).
One drawback with poor countries is that of pride. I suspect many people don't like their countries being summed up in the single word poor, and would feel it to be an insult.
"Poorer countries" might be better - a relative term, slightly vague, but it has a very clear meaning and somehow doesn't seem as stark or final as "poor countries". --Chriswaterguy · talk 04:30, 25 February 2008 (PST)

"Countries where many people have no shoes"
I like that! CWMPHNS? No, I guess that that won't work in practice either.
If we're focusing on the people and not the poltical entities we could just say "the Shoeless" in some contexts, although again I'm sure that many people wouldn't like this either. -- Writtenonsand 08:29, 25 February 2008 (PST)

"The Shoeless" - I could imagine a revolutionary using that term :). In a context where it has been explained, that could be quite a neat rhetorical device.
Come to think of it, I've seen many poor (in Indonesia) but not many with no shoes. Other countries are probably different, but I don't think it's going to be a widespread term. --Chriswaterguy · talk 18:03, 25 February 2008 (PST)

Old info[edit source]

The text below is the old text on the page. It doesn't belong here as it's polically motivated and portrays a erroneous worldview (in reality the world is very polarised, there's never an issue between poorer and richer countries, but rather issues between people/population groups, government and people, ...), but perhaps it's useful when making specific new articles.

In the early nineties, Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam[1] began advocating for a new expression “majority world” to represent what has formerly been known as the “Third World.” The term highlights the fact that these countries are indeed the majority of humankind. It also brings to sharp attention the anomaly that the Group of 8 countries —whose decisions affect majority of the world's peoples only represent a tiny fraction of humankind.

Majority world defines the community in terms of what it is, rather than what it lacks.

The term LDCs (Least Developed Countries) is more accurate than most of the alternatives, but may be seen as having strong negative connotations that reinforce the stereotypes about poor communities and represent them as icons of poverty. There is also the question of summing up a nation which may have great cultural heritage as less developed, by considering only the economics development.

More strident critics of the Western role in these nations make more damning criticisms of the terms third world, developing country and LDCs: that they hide histories of oppression and continued exploitation. It is sometimes argued that economically poor countries of the world are invariably countries that have been colonized, and continue to be colonized through globalized forms of control.

The labels also hinder the appreciation of the cultural and social wealth of these communities. Though these terms are still used, there is an increasing feeling within the communities themselves that these terms are inappropriate. The term majority world may be seen as challenging the West’s rhetoric of democracy[2].

Wikipedia states:

To moderate the euphemistic aspect of the word developing, international organizations have started to use the term Less economically developed countryW (LEDCs) for the poorest nations which can in no sense be regarded as developing. That is, LEDCs are the poorest subset of LDCs. This also moderates the wrong tendency to believe that the standard of living in the entire developing world is the same.[3]

Note this does not deal with all of the criticisms above. Developing may be somewhat more accurate once the most desperate, stagnant economies are removed, but it is not a feature that distinguishes them from the wealthy nations which are also growing. There is not even a certainty that the poorer countries are catching up to the richer ones. It would be more accurate if the term less economically developed country were used for all countries other than the wealthy, developed nations - however as it is already used with a narrower meaning, it is perhaps too late for such a usage to catch on.

The "South" or "Global South"[edit source]

The Global South carries strong connotations of division, emphasizing the geographic division that correlates to some extent with the distribution of poverty. It has the advantage of offering a convenient shorthand (such as South-South or South to North knowledge transfer).

However it is inaccurate and perhaps unhelpful in suggesting a simple division into two regions, and in suggesting that the nations in question are further South than the most developed nations. Consider Australia and Mongolia as two obvious counter-examples. Further, consider Albania, Japan and Malaysia as counter-examples to the idea of countries in the same region belonging to the same economic class.

The concept of Fair Trade Photography evolved from the idea that photographers of the majority world were excluded from their self representation. An Internet portal has been set up to promote the work of majority world photographers.

KVDP 03:06, 29 October 2012 (PDT)

Help[edit source]

This page is quite popular and quite misguided. Please rewrite it to be more accurate and descriptive. Rubbish like "African countries have developed little throughout history, and even in the last hundreds of years have had little progress." have no uncited place on Appropedia. --Lonny 20:52, 6 May 2013 (PDT)

I agree with this, although I think this is an example of a page that is more trouble than it is worth. Let the arguments about linguistics and subtleties of English happen elsewhere - the real question we have to ask is whether anyone seriously is going to come to Appropedia looking for information on this topic. We don't need a proper definition of what is a 'developed country' to develop and document AT. The question of the use of these terms is largely one of economics and politics, which is very largely outwith of the scope of Appropedia. Even if it was within the scope, it would cause arguments - as all of the terms mentioned have been in widespread use in the academic literature and outside. For example - many people in 'The South' use the term and find it extremely helpful in contextualising their relationship with 'The North'. I have not heard of the idea of 'Countries where many people have no shoes' but I think this encourages the worst kind of in-kind giving. I don't think this has any particular widespread coherence. Also it disguises the fact that in many countries there are many levels of complexity and types of people in very different kinds of economic situation - take for example India. Many million have no shoes, but there is a 'shoe-wearing' middle class comprising of more than 150 million people. If we're going to use designations, it seems to me that the most pressing indicator is the presence of working sanitation - as this has multiple feedback loops on lifespan, disease, poverty, malnutrition etc.
So anyway, we could probably come up with all kind of arguments in favour of our favourite terms and still have achieved little towards the goal of providing "collaborative solutions in sustainability, poverty reduction and international development through the use of sound principles and appropriate technology and the sharing of wisdom and project information." As much as it pains me to suggest that we don't need to define every term we're using: we really don't need to waste time trying to define this one. I think the page should be deleted. Joeturner 00:42, 7 May 2013 (PDT)

Contagiousness of development[edit source]

Appearantly, development is contagious. According to the econoshock book, following countries have developed quickly (wave 3/4 are currently occuring), one wave being affected by the other.

  • wave one: Japan, South Korea, Taiwan
  • wave two: china (mainland)
  • wave three: Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia
  • wave four: Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos

I think however that the book focused mainly on textile production, I'm not sure whether all industries are developing in these countries. A similar thing is happening in India btw, having shipped its textile production to Bangladesh KVDP 04:03, 1 October 2013 (PDT)

References[edit source]

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