Agita Misāne. Are the "third countries" and the "third world countries" one and the same? 27.12.2016.

There are only a few terms that are more confusing than those two. That`s why we often hear also from the clients - the third country nationals - the following: "How can I be a "third country national", if I am not from the underdeveloped country!" It`s a pity if such a lack of understanding deprives this target group of the free services available exactly for it. Let`s correct this situation by explaining the meaning of these terms.

What are the "third countries" and the "third country citizens/nationals"?

A term "third country" is an economically neutral term which is used in the context of migration of people displacement. It has nothing to do with the economic and cultural development level of the country of origin. Such countries as New Zealand, Canada, Honduras, Russia, Japan or Nigeria are the "third countries" for the population of Latvia. In the European Union (EU) this term covers all countries which are not the EU Member States or the participants of the European Economic Area (apart from the EU, it includes also Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein), or Switzerland. To put it simply - for us Latvia is the "first country", the above countries of the EU, European Economic Area and Switzerland are the "second countries" - we are connected to them with special contractual relationships, and all the others are the "third countries". Perhaps, it does not sound very good, however, this is the legal origin of this term.

The "third country" is a term used also in relation to the consular services - a procedure for issuing a tourist visa in cases it is necessary to enter another (the "second") country, when a person is not in his or her own (the "first") country. It can happen, for instance, if there is no embassy or consulate of this country in Latvia. Then one should take his or her travel document (usually - a passport) to the "third" country where is a consulate of the state he or she wants to visit. It may happen that the route changes while being already outside Latvia. Then there is no choice but to look for the closest embassy or consulate of the respective country.

The "third world country" means something completely different.

Who are the nationals of the "third world countries"?

A concept the "third world" was created by the French anthropologist and demographer Alfred Sauvy in 1952.  It can be found in his article "Three worlds, one planet" published in the magazine L’Observateur in the edition of August 14 of the same year.  In the early fifties it was clear that planet`s political, economic and also military order after the World War II had changed significantly as the two opposite systems became stronger. They evolved already earlier - approximately during the first decades of the twentieth century, when a part of the world underwent rapid industrialization, often also at the expense of their own colonies and their natural resources.  They maintained a rapid pace of industrial development also in the second half of the twentieth century, however, the colonies were gradually lost. In the first half of the century, after 1917, some countries such as the USSR and the People`s Republic of China with a completely different economic model were also established. They also underwent industrialization, however, they had a centrally planned economy and their dominant and only official ideology was communistic. After the World War II a range of USSR`s satellite countries joined this system which officially were called "socialistic republics" or "people`s republics".

Sauvy then also called those two systems the "first" and the "second world", accordingly. However, he also noticed that not all countries can fit in this model - neither in terms of their economy or politics. The "third world" also existed. Sauvy did not treat these countries which did not fit in this model of two economic and ideological system with contempt at all. It could be said - on the contrary, he was concerned that their interests are not sufficiently represented and defended. "After all, the ignored, exploited, scorned third world also wants to be heard", he wrote.  The term created by Sauvy was widely used both in journalism and academic texts. Although, this division was not completely consequent and unmistakable. Some included all so called "uncommitted states" or those which did not join NATO or Warsaw Pact, or other military blocks in the "third world country" group. Thus, also such economically highly developed countries as Sweden, Finland or Austria. Others used a geographical principle calling every country which was Southwards from the USA and Europe the "third world". Yet others held to economic criteria calling the countries where traditional agriculture still prevailed and where also a sharp economic inequality still existed the "third world countries". In fact, as popular as it could be, the term "third world countries" was not successful already from the very beginning. It is even more problematic now when the communistic system collapsed in Europe. Also economic dynamics are different. Which "world" officially communistic but economically probably capitalistic superpower China belongs to?

The "third world countries" is a concept which is still used, now it is also used alongside with a term "new industrialization countries" when relating to such countries as Brazil, Mexico and especially "Asian tigers" Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea, which economic development now is faster than that of other European countries. However, the "third world" problems are the same as they were fifty years ago: poverty, low average life expectancy and education level, gender inequity, non-sufficient health care and high corruption, sometimes also political instability. Besides, globalization processes have been unfair to those countries, their debts have increased.

Therefore, no wonder that the "third world country" may seem a scornful term. I think that we should completely avoid using it, however, in any case remember that the "third world" and "third countries" are two different things.

This publication has been made in the framework of the project “Information Centre for Immigrants”. The Project co-financed by the European Union within the framework of the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund.Grant Agreement No.PMIF/12/2016/1/1.

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