A world of facts


A world of facts

Third World Guide 1993/94
Instituto del Tercer Mundo
631 pp. $60.
Reviewed by Sean Malloy

"The World as seen by the Third World" notes the Third World Guide on the cover. The Third World Guide was first published in 1979 by the Third World Institute, based Uruguay, to provide a progressive information resource. The guide has become a unique tool for activists, NGO workers and journalists alike.

The new edition is better than ever, containing a wealth of accessible, useful information. The preface points out that the new layout is designed to improve access to information, which it does. All countries are now included in the Guide, which had a team of researchers and writers in Moscow to work on monographs for new states emerging out of the end of the Soviet Union.

The volume has 23 categories of world information, including demography, food, arms, refugees, debt, transnationals, poverty and UNCED. The index alone is a massive 16 pages with an excellent cross reference system that directs the reader straight to the relevant paragraph(s).

The editors state clearly that they do not have all the answers (Green Left staff found two areas that could be improved upon: the Indonesia monograph and a listing for Easter Island) but this edition of Third World Guide comes very close.

One very relevant section is on world demography. It takes up "North" arguments around population and environment, using the concrete facts rather than abstract formulations. "Bangladesh and Holland are both among the most densely populated countries; they even have similar geography, with easily flooded lowlands ... yet, while Bangladesh is among the world's 20 poorest countries, Holland is one of the 20 richest.

"At the other extreme of the population density scale, Canada and Australia, with extremely low densities, have high income densities while several African countries with similarly low densities suffer from famine."

The authors conclude, with all the facts at hand, "population density and poverty are not directly related".

The Third World Guide provides a mass of accessible information; it is a gem for any serious bookshelf.