The term New World Order has been used several times in recent history, referring to what appeared to be a dramatic change in world political thought and the balance of power.
The phrase was first widely used by Woodrow Wilson in the period just after WWI, during the formation of the League of Nations. The "war to end all wars" had been a powerful catalyst in international politics, and many felt the world could simply no longer operate as it once had. The term fell from use when it became clear the League was creating nothing of the sort, and was not used at all during the formation of the United Nations.
More recently it was used for a while after the end of the Cold War by many people, notably former U.S. President George H. W. Bush. Many felt the end of the Cold War would have dramatic effects on the international balance of power, including the hope that the end of the Cold War would usher in a new era of international co-operation through the United Nations.
The term has a pejorative meaning outside the United States. Some people promote an image of the United States as a bully that no longer has to answer to anyone, and which uses the situation to extend its influence. Thus, extension of the NATO pact to regions in eastern Europe, Kosovo War, war on Iraq, and isolation of small "unbending" nations are all seen as examples of this bullying attitude. Bush's use of the term "New World Order" was picked up as a convenient catch-phrase to symbolize this attitude.
Closely related terms, the "New International Economic Order" and the "New International Information Order" were popular in the United Nations and its specialized agencies (especially UNESCO) in the 1970s and 1980s. They were used mainly by developing country groups (e.g. the G-77, the Non-Aligned Movement) to refer to the redistribution of wealth on a global scale, and the international control of the media to stop the "defamation" of third world countries. Western countries attacked these plans as an attempt to destroy capitalism and freedom of speech; and they were quietly dropped in the 1980s after Western countries threatened to withdraw from United Nations bodies. (The US and UK made good this threat by withdrawing from UNESCO; both have since rejoined)
The understanding of these groups is that the NWO will be created by a military coup, using UN and American troops, against all the nations of the world to bring about the One World Government. There was a belief among some believers in this thesis that this process would begin in 2000, set in motion by the predicted Y2K computer crisis causing widespread social disorder.
Some predictions made by users of this term of events that will occur under the NWO include: