The developing countries, which constitute 70% of the world's population, account for only 30% of the world's income. It has proved impossible to achieve an even and balanced development of the international community under the existing international economic order. The gap between the industrialized and the developing countries continues to widen in a system which perpetuates inequality and which was established at a time when most of the developing countries did not even exist as independent states. The present international economic order is in direct conflict with current developments in international political and economic relations. Since 1970, the world economy has experienced a series of grave crises, which have had severe repercussions, especially on the developing countries, because of their generally greater vulnerability to external economic impulses.
Changes in the last four decades have resulted in the post-war consensus on the rules and regulations governing the world economy being continuously eroded. Most developing countries which were not present at the creation of these rules and regulations now question their legitimacy and equity. Some among them have asserted control over a strategic resource - petroleum - with spectacular results; others continue similar efforts, but without signal success to date. The revival of economic strength in post-war Europe and Japan led not only to a questioning of the rules they found inconvenient, but to the collapse of these rules; the most significant case being the breakdown of the world monetary system which had been agreed at Bretton Woods in 1944.
The decolonization process of the 1960s enabled developing countries (the South) to recognize a common interest contrasted with that of the industrialized countries (the North). In the 1990s this North-South gap has changed profoundly in nature. The relative homogeneity of the South has been transformed into five "South": the newly industrialized countries of Southeast Asia; the oil rich South; the newly impoverished former socialist countries; the countries trying to adjust their economic and development policies in order to accelerate their integration into the North; and the very poor countries, notably in Africa. These changes have increased the social and economic inequalities in all countries and regions of the world. Significantly there has been the emergence of old and new forms of poverty within the North and the development of new wealth within impoverished countries of the South.