Since the 1960s, the most striking phenomenon in the evolution of relations between developed and developing countries has been the growing divergence among developing countries themselves. Not only has the income gap widened between developed and developing countries, it has widened considerably within the developing countries. As the gap between rich and poor countries increases, so does the risk of extreme political tension between regions and nations. Potentially serious problems have also surfaced between mature developed countries and the low-cost "high-end" developing countries, arising particularly from social strains in welfare states in the face of long-term unemployment and population growth and ageing. The long-term structural adjustment required by all countries to cope with the rapidly changing world economic situation will create friction and damage to all parties.
The economic development of the dynamic Asian economies (and other emerging economies such as China) has been outstanding in recent years. In 1990, in terms of per capita income, Singapore and Hong Kong were just behind New Zealand, but already ahead of Ireland and Spain. Korea and Taiwan were on a level with Greece. Similarly in Latin America, several reforming countries have economic strides. However, the number of countries classified among the LDCs jumped from 24 in 1970 to 41 in 1990. Most of these are in Africa and are caught in a vicious circle of poverty, population explosion and environmental degradation from which it seems very difficult, if not impossible, to break and achieve sound political, economic and social development. At the same time, if their problems cannot be overcome, there may be adverse consequences for all the nation in the form of cross-boundary environmental damage, uncontrolled migration, refugees and the spread of drugs and AIDS.