Global divergence was shaped during the 19th century by the fundamental division of the world into colonial powers on the one hand and colonial, semi-colonial and dependent territories on the other. However, the global North-South conflict only emerged as a result of the results of World War II. Although the Latin American states had already achieved their formal independence around the middle of the 19th century, they had then come under the hegemony of the USA, with which they came to terms in the post-war period within the framework of a pact system (Rio Pact of 1947, Organization of American States 1948) allied. The real impetus for the North-South conflict came from the emergence of “young nation states” when the European colonial system collapsed. In the late 1940s and 1950s, the majority of the former colonial areas of Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa achieved state independence. At the same time, the main features of the system of international relations were redefined by the victorious powers of World War II. The western industrialized nations had the Bretton Woods institutions The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, the GATT and the OEEC created effective international instruments for the promotion of the economy and foreign trade, on the functioning of which the later developing countries had no influence. For this group of states, the term »Third World« came into use since the late 1940s, which was based on a positive meaning with the vision of a »third way« of social development, differentiating it from the formerly colonizing capitalist West and the communist East.
Up until the end of the 1980s, the North-South conflict was shaped and partially superimposed by this systematic conflict between the alliance system of western democracies led by the world power USA (First World) and the socialist camp (Eastern Bloc, Second World) dominated by the USSR. In the context of this east-west conflict, which lasted over four decades, the main rival opponents tried to gain geo and regional strategic advantages by including individual countries or regions of the Third World in various forms of economic, political and military aid and cooperation, and thus existing ones Exploited, consolidated or created relationships of dependency. The Cold War waged between the power blocsalso brought sharp confrontations within the Third World between mutually opposing political movements which, in parts of Africa and Southeast Asia, took the form of military clashes and civil wars with great losses (“proxy wars”). The formation of the national liberation movements, the collapse of the colonial system and the struggle of political forces in the new states of the Third World thus acted as important factors in the global East-West conflict. However, since the protagonists of the Third World Movement knew how to evade direct involvement in the opposing blocs, they remained courted on both sides of the East-West confrontation. This global constellation increased the political and geostrategic importance of the leading countries of the non-aligned movement at the same time. A first high point in the establishment of this group of states in the system of international relations was the Bandung Conference of 1955, whose participating states gave themselves a ten-point program. Since this conference, China, as the most populous country in the world, has tried to make itself the spokesman for the Third World, but as a communist country has never been able to achieve the weight that Egypt, India, Indonesia and (which remained outside of the Warsaw Pact) Yugoslavia in the non-aligned movement received.
In the 1960s, the spectrum of block politics in the South expanded and radicalized considerably. The broadly interpretable concept of “positive neutrality” led some countries (Cuba, Egypt) to alliances with the Soviet Union, while other states retained their close contractual ties with their former colonial power (e.g. in French-speaking Africa). Of decisive importance was the social and economic enrichment of the program of the South, in which Latin American countries (Mexico, Chile, Cuba) and Algeria also made a name for themselves. Since 1964 the group of 77 which grew rapidly and constituted itself as a kind of “Third World Union”. Through them, the developing countries succeeded beyond the alliances of purpose of the Cold War and the ideological reference to Western or Eastern forms of legitimation of political rule, to assert their emancipatory claim to equality and development internationally and to establish themselves with reference to ideologems of national liberation, independence, of national structure, anti-or neo-colonialism and anti-imperialism as a political movement. The UN proves to be an important framework for action up to the present day,
With the détente of the 1980s, the “new way of thinking” and the end of the bloc confrontation, the North-South conflict also lost some of its explosiveness. The rival efforts of the opposing great powers to gain influence in the Third World, which went hand in hand with the use of potential military threats (Cuban Crisis), direct military intervention (Suez Crisis, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Angola, Grenada) or massive armament of political regimes in developing countries, was obsolete become. The initiative of the north was now directed towards the creation of a “new world order”. As a result, many of the political leaders of the Third World and the ruling regimes of individual developing countries were unable to exploit the East-West conflict to enforce their own claims to power and to stabilize their often repressive regimes by turning towards this or that great power through alliance politics. Rather, there was a growing number of military conflicts and civil wars in the regions of the Third World.