The “Third World” Speaks Out
By “Awake!” correspondent in Sri Lanka
MOST nations in the world today are relatively poor. Of the 145 countries making up the United Nations Organization, more than 100 are in that category. World leaders tactfully call such poorer lands the “underdeveloped” or “developing” or “emerging” nations.
They are also referred to as the “third world.” Why? Originally that phrase was used to describe the nations that were neutral, nonaligned politically. That is, they were not committed to supporting either the Communist bloc of nations or the Western bloc. Hence, they were considered to be a “third world.”
But in recent years, the Communist and Western blocs have become fragmented. Also, some of the nations that are Communist, and some that are Western, are poor too. So now the term “third world” generally has come to be applied to those countries not highly developed economically, nor to any considerable degree otherwise. And most of them still regard themselves as being nonaligned.
While these lands may be underdeveloped in an economic sense, they have developed a measure of political influence. Often the vast majority of the third world sees things similarly, as a group. So they vote together on various issues brought before the United Nations General Assembly. And they vote independently of what the developed countries may wish. No longer do they simply follow the dictates of the more powerful industrial nations or those that once had colonial empires.
Hence, on many issues the Western countries find themselves being opposed by this “new majority” in the United Nations. And often the third world’s views are supported by the Communist countries.
This has resulted in a completely different situation when compared to the early years of the United Nations. Then, the Western countries led by the United States dominated the voting pattern in the General Assembly of the world body.
But that is now a thing of the past. As U.S. News & World Report states: “The greatest source of antagonism in the [U.N. General Assembly] stems from a collision of political and economic interests between the ‘third world’—the less-developed countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America—and the industrialized West. Using its so-called tyranny of the majority, the third world can, and does, ram through Assembly resolutions over objections of more-developed nations.”
This publication notes that the voting pattern of the majority in the U.N. now “almost automatically lines up alongside Moscow’s” views on anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism and anti-racism. And it adds: “The fact that the United States winds up on the losing side of almost every such U.N. argument is a welcome bonus to the leaders in the Kremlin.”
Summit Meetings Spell Out Problems
In recent years, the third-world nations have had a number of summit conferences to talk about their problems. Last summer, for instance, eighty-six of these nations met here in Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon. This was their fifth such meeting as a group. Earlier summit conferences had been held in Belgrade (1961), Cairo (1964), Lusaka (1970) and Algiers (1973).
Also, in the spring of 1974, the third world sponsored a special session of the United Nations General Assembly. For three weeks this session concentrated on the plight of the poorer nations.
At all such meetings, a basic grievance appears. It has to do with the economic difficulties of these nations in relation to the richer countries. The third world feels that the raw materials they produce are bought at too-low prices by the industrial nations and that the industrial products sold back to the poorer nations are priced too high. The dilemma is especially acute for those poor countries that are agricultural lands and have little or no surplus food to sell and no raw-material resources of any consequence for export.
In addition, the third world points out that the gap between the rich nations and the poor ones is not being closed. It is widening. The total number of people who are hungry, poorly clothed, improperly housed and unemployed is increasing, not decreasing.
Where it is possible, and the demand for the raw materials by the industrial countries large enough, the nations with exportable natural resources are raising the prices of their products. An example is the sixfold increase in the price of oil by the oil-producing countries.
However, at present not many raw materials produced by the poor countries are in such high demand that prices can be raised as dramatically. Indeed, in recent years, the prices of many raw materials of the third world, including some agricultural products, have declined. Yet, the prices of finished industrial products sold by the wealthier countries have continued to rise due to inflation.
Preparing for the Summit
Such problems were the focus of this most recent summit conference held here in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka. Thousands of delegates and many heads of states attended. The scope of the conference could be seen by the fact that the eighty-six nations attending represented more than half the countries in the world.
But before the sessions took place, other problems had to be met in preparing for the meeting. Overcoming them was a mammoth undertaking for this small, developing country just over 25,000 square miles (64,750 square kilometers) in size, about half the size of New York State.
For instance, security was a big problem. In view of the many hijackings, kidnappings, bombings and assassinations in recent years, strict attention had to be paid to the weeding out of all possible undesirable elements.
Regular tourist traffic was severely restricted in the periods before and during the conference. All foreign nationals had to leave the country if their visas were not renewed.
More than a year in advance, trained personnel of the intelligence service were out in the field screening all persons who might in some way be connected with the forthcoming meeting. This included employees of hotels, the airport, and all institutions involved with the summit. Those employees who were in any way suspect were given leaves of absence to get them away from the area. Even residents who lived on the route from the airport to the conference hall were screened.
In addition, over 10,000 criminals, petty thieves and other ‘undesirables’ were photographed and fingerprinted. A close watch was kept on their activities. Some of the ‘big time’ criminals who were not already behind bars were taken into custody for the period of the conference.
Also, hundreds of vehicles were imported from several countries to be used by the delegates and security personnel. Roads had to be widened or newly constructed. More hotels were built to accommodate the delegates. Finally, all was in readiness. And the entire nation was well aware that an important event was being held in their small land.
Delegates Speak Out
The opening address was given by the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike. She had previously been elected chairman of the conference. Her name had been proposed by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and seconded by Indian Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi and the President of Cyprus, Archbishop Makarios.
In her address, in what she called “a message to the developed nations,” Prime Minister Bandaranaike affirmed that “the nonaligned do not consider any nation or any people as their enemy. Their fight has always been against injustice, intolerance, and inequity.”
In its comment on the opening address, the New York Times said: “Welcoming the Vietnamese to membership in the nonaligned movement, she drew one of the day’s biggest rounds of applause when she said: ‘Their struggle against the military might and sophistication of one of the greatest powers, to ultimate and final victory, is a shining inspiration to all nations fighting for national liberation, against foreign intervention, domination and oppression.’”
The chairman also commented on the establishment of a new international economic order. She proposed the setting up of a bank for the third-world countries, stating: “If we really and truly want to blunt the weapons of imperialism and colonialism, we must surely fashion countervailing weapons in the form of currency backed by the immense economic potential of the nonaligned and other developing countries.” She felt that such a bank would enable the third-world countries to enter an area of international economic activity that had so far remained the monopoly of a few multinational private banks in the rich nations.
On the same day, President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia sounded a common theme: “We believe in power-sharing as an important guarantee for peace within the international community.” Other speakers also called for a new economic and social order that would give the third world a greater share of the earth’s wealth.
Statistics showing the need for a new economic order were detailed to the conference. For example, it was pointed out that in 1970 the world’s poorest billion people had an annual income of only 105 dollars per person. But those in the developed countries had an annual income of 3,100 dollars per person. By 1980, it was calculated, the same billion poor people would have increased their income by an insignificant three dollars each, compared to a 900-dollar increase for each person in the rich countries.
Further, in the poor countries, every day about 10,000 persons, on the average, die from starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. And in these countries, it was said that there are more children of school age out of school than there are in school.
In spite of all these needs, vast resources of the world are being channeled, not for constructive purposes, but for the manufacture of ever more sophisticated weapons. The world now spends about 300 billion dollars a year on such armaments.
Yet, Mr. Kurt Waldheim, secretary-general of the United Nations, acknowledged in his address to the summit conference: “No progress has been made towards genuine disarmament, which would reduce arms expenditures and permit the transfer of resources to more constructive use. The trend has been in the opposite direction.” He also observed that the “danger of nuclear proliferation not only remains, but has increased.”
Western Nations Warned
After four days of meetings, the conference came to an end. On the last day the third world adopted a stinging warning to the world’s rich nations. The message was that they must yield more of their wealth to a new economic order. The communiqué made an urgent plea for action to help to halt the widening gap between the rich and the poor.
The report noted that the economic position of third-world nations has deteriorated in the past few years. Their combined balance-of-payments deficits have tripled. Their debt to the rich countries has increased by billions of dollars. Soaring inflation often cripples their efforts to improve their economic condition.
The New York Times commented: “The nonaligned countries are firmly convinced that nothing short of a complete rearranging of international economic relations will place developing countries in a position to achieve an acceptable level of development.”
The Times also noted a general trend ‘to the left’ among many of these third-world nations. It said: “In West European and American eyes, nonalignment often seems to be primarily anti-Western and anti-American in tone.” It observed, for instance, that the final communiqué condemned the American presence in South Korea, called for the independence of Puerto Rico, condemned Israel, and hailed “the historic and total victory achieved by the people of Vietnam in their struggle against aggressive United States imperialism.”
At times, though, even the Communist nations were chastised by a few speakers for supporting subversive movements in the third world. But more often, the tone was as stated by U.S. News & World Report: “The U.S. and other industrialized nations of the West continued to take their lumps, being blamed for virtually every economic and political illness of the poor nations.”
Thus, the third world spoke out again. And once again, what it said was not favorable to the Western nations that make up the heart of what is commonly called “Christendom.”
[Picture on page 20]
“Third world” nations spoke out at their conference held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall