The Threat Posed By Terrorism Is Rising Globally


Globally, the fear of terrorism is growing. The latest terrorist attack in Manchester, the United Kingdom, which left 22 people dead, has exacerbated the fear that terrorism poses to all states around the world. Recently, during Ramadan, the threat of terrorism has grown as Islamic State began encouraging its followers to go into an “all-out war” on “infidels” in the West. Historically around Ramadan, there has generally been an increase in the number of terrorist attacks worldwide. Due to this, the West is fearful that a terrorist attack could occur on their home front at any time and as such many states are being more heavily patrolled. However, the Institute for Economics and Peace produced a Global Terrorism Index (GTI) (2015), has reported that in comparison to regions in Africa and the Middle East that the West is a lot less likely to be affected by terrorism. This report will use the statistics and analysis from the GTI to discuss terrorism. This report will examine which states have been most affected by terrorism and why. It will then analyse and discuss the primary mechanisms and strategies that states across the world are implementing to combat terrorism.

Since the 1960s, bilateral and multilateral institutions have existed to address the terrorist threat across the Western world. However, nowadays, with the acceleration of globalisation, the reach of terrorist organizations, such as al-Qaeda and ISIS has become unprecedented. From 2000 to 2014, deaths from terrorism in total have grown nine-fold. In 2014, 32,865 people died from terrorism and this represented an 80% increase from the year before and was the highest ever level recorded of deaths caused by terrorism in one year. The terrorist group, Boko Haram, was responsible for the largest amount of deaths in 2014 with 6,644. Another terrorist group, ISIL, had 6073 deaths attributed to them. As such, in 2014, two terrorist groups were responsible for over half of all deaths caused by terrorism across the world. Nevertheless, terrorism was primarily concentrated in five states (Nigeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq), with 78% of deaths occurring in these states.

However, in 2014, not all states were affected by terrorism. In the GTI study, ninety-five states did not have any deaths caused by terrorism. Furthermore, sixty-seven states experienced one or more deaths from terrorism. The majority of the terrorist attacks did not occur within Western states. Since 2000, statistically, if you were to exclude the losses from 9/11, in the West, terrorism accounted for 0.5% of total deaths. Since 2006, in the West, lone wolf attackers have conducted seventy percent of deaths from terrorism. The other terrorist groups conducting attacks were either unknown or group attacks with more than 3 perpetrators.

There are many risk factors that increase the probability that a state will be badly affected by terrorism. The states with the greatest source of refugees and internally displaced people also experience the greatest levels of terrorism. Ten of the eleven states that had more than 500 deaths from terrorism in 2014 also had the highest levels of internally displaced people and refugees globally. Across the world, terrorist activity is primarily correlated with political violence. Widespread political violence significantly worsens the security environment within a state and, as such, the vast majority of states involved in violent conflict had problems with terrorism. Other significant variables that contribute to the terrorist problem includes: “a lack of respect for human rights and for international organizations,” political instability, lower respect for the UN and human rights, and “the existence of policies targeting religious freedoms.” In the West, Islamic fundamentalism was the major driver of terrorist attacks with eighty percent of deaths being caused by lone wolf attackers. These attackers who were motivated by Islamic fundamentalism were further pushed by nationalism, anti-government sentiment, right-wing extremism, nationalism, and other forms of supremacy.

Moreover, the drivers to commit a terrorist attack are different across the world. In non-OECD states, the factors that lead to terrorism include ongoing conflict within the state, “history of armed conflict, corruption, and a weak business environment.” However, in OECD countries, socio-economic factors including “confidence in the press and democracy, drug crime,” youth unemployment and attitudes towards immigration more strongly correlated. This demonstrates that motivations are different across the world and as such each state needs to incorporate their own idiosyncratic ways and unique cultural attributes when deriving counter-terrorism strategies.

States and international organizations, such as the UN continue to use a variety of mechanisms and strategies to combat terrorism. The Institute for Economics and Peace (2015) estimate that the world spends $117 billion on global national security expenditure. In 2014, approximately US$52.9 billion was spent on counter-terrorism and this was a ten-fold increase from 2000. The US accounts for 70% of total counter-terrorism spending. The recent 2017-18 Australian budget clearly prioritised contributing financial resources towards enhancing the counter-terrorism framework within Australia. As the understanding of the motivations of terrorists gradually grows globally, the mechanisms used to reduce the threat of terrorism have shifted. Nowadays, governments focus on preventative strategies in an attempt to reduce people’s participation levels in terrorist organizations and ideologies. Beforehand, governments directly approached and targeted terrorist groups through increased security measures.

However, there is no one size fits all approach to reducing terrorism and as such, there is no perfect ‘state model’ to counter-act threats posed by terrorism. Each state has to understand what the main drivers of terrorism in their state are and then adjust their counter-terrorist strategies to fit those conditions. For example, in states that are experiencing high levels of political terror and ongoing conflict, strategies may involve peacekeeping and peacebuilding operations. On the other hand in the developed world, mainly the West, to counter-act terrorism, states may introduce economic and social policy strategies aimed at reducing social inequity and youth unemployment as these are the major drivers of terrorism.

Terrorism is a widespread issue that is devastating a large majority of states across the world. However, not all states are affected by terrorism. Despite the fact that people are 13 times more likely to die by homicide than terrorism; it still represents the greatest source of fear in many people globally. Many states’ annual financial budgets are gradually devoting more resources towards combatting terrorism, with the West contributing the most amounts of funds towards the issue. Withstanding that, this report has highlighted that the West is much less likely to be affected by terrorism. The African and Middle Eastern states have been devastated by terrorism with the loss of thousands of lives in these regions. States and international organizations need to understand the motivational factors for terrorism in their respective regions of interest in order to have a better chance of combatting future terrorist attacks. States need to adapt their counter-terrorist strategic mechanisms to be in line with their unique domestic conditions in order to have the best chance to fight the terrorist threat.

Lucas Mirani

Lucas Mirani

Lucas Mirani is a 23 year old university student at the Australian National University. He is majoring in Psychology and Asia-Pacific Security Studies and wants to work in foreign affairs.
Lucas Mirani

About Lucas Mirani

Lucas Mirani is a 23 year old university student at the Australian National University. He is majoring in Psychology and Asia-Pacific Security Studies and wants to work in foreign affairs.