FOURTH.WORLD explores ideas at the intersection of human rights and human purpose.

The articles here consider the impact on communities, both present and past, that are left behind when we achieve what qualifies by consensus as human progress, but fail to fulfil human rights and achieve equivalent levels of social justice.

They are also about the role that commerce, markets, global institutions, trade and technology play in either exacerbating our present crises or leading us towards solutions, a more fulfilled sense of both corporate and human purpose.

And finally we hope to provide a platform to those who are operating at the margins of contested approaches to social and economic progress, pioneers of new forms of production and exchange, those who are experimenting with gift economies, collaboration and sharing economies, open source software, artificial intelligence and the wisdom of crowds.

The ‘fourth world’ concept

The fourth world concept has its roots in the experience of indigenous, typically stateless, peoples or other groups who were judged to be so marginalised as to sit outside the conventional first, second and third world development model.

The Spanish sociologist Manuel Castells took the concept to a further extreme when he described a ‘Fourth World’ comprised of ‘multiple black holes of social exclusion’*, self-defeating, self-reinforcing vortices of permanently absent development that created new, non-traditional conflict and security challenges.

ATD Fourth World is also of course the name of a respected human rights-based, anti-poverty organisation with more than 40 years’ experience of engaging with individuals and institutions to find solutions to eradicate extreme poverty.

The articles at FOURTH.WORLD clearly have their roots in a shared concern for human rights, social exclusion, poverty and the plight of the most marginalised.

However, here we co-opt the term to elaborate on an idea that the fourth world also represents a new social and industrial model – one that is fit for a climate-constrained world, where capitalism and the post-war models of political and economic governance are being contested as never before, and where new technologies, new forms of governance and new ways of living and working represent our best hope of survival.

The Rise of the Network Society, Manuel Castells (Blackwell, 1996) 164
Header image: Kwiry Axe – Zambian craftsman, Mr. Kwiry, walks the bush searching for young trees to weave. Carl Jensen. US Agency for International Development licensed under Creative Commons 2.0
Home page header image: UN Human Rights Council, Geneva. A general view of participants at the 16th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. United Nations Photo licensed under Creative Commons 2.0
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