The tension between the developed and the developing countries inhibits developing countries from improving their position in the world community, because of the sacrifices such progress would inherently entail for the developed countries. Discrimination in the current international order may be outlined as follows: one quarter of the world's population currently lives in the developed countries of North America, Europe and Japan, with per capita incomes of 10 to 11 times those of the other 75%; the overall condition of life in developing countries is diminishing while in most developed countries it is improving. The WHO estimated in 1982 that 490 million people had less food than was necessary for basic survival; hundreds of millions suffer from debilitating diseases caused by malnutrition, insanitary conditions and pests; only one third of the people in developing countries have access to safe water supplies; the world's illiteracy rate of 50% is centred mostly on the developing countries where 40% of the people are under 15 years of age, compared with less than 25% for developed countries; and rural unemployment in developing countries is causing a massive drift to already overcrowded, besieged cities.
Scarcity of the resources vital to economic development and growth hits the developing countries the hardest: not only do they need to export most of their resources in order to develop their economies and to import those resources they lack, but many developed countries are stockpiling fossil fuels and minerals in order to secure their own future needs, thus diminishing prospects of the developing countries being able to secure supplies adequate for their present requirements. The maldistribution of industrial power and technology, and of the wealth they produce, exacerbates the discriminatory international order, as does the mounting pollution of soil, water and air by the wealthy countries, which are rapidly poisoning and extinguishing plants and animals necessary to the survival of the entire world. Through its production and consumption lifestyle, the 20% of the world's population in the North accounts for more than 80% of the gases which are causing climate change and depletion of the ozone layer.