There has been a dramatic rise in terrorism over the last 15 years. There are nine times more people killed in terrorist attacks today than there were in 2000. In 2014, 32,658 lives were lost to terrorism, the highest number recorded, and an 80% increase from 2013. These are the findings of the recent Global Terrorism Index, published by the Institute for Economic and Peace (IEP).
According to the IEP report, just two terrorist groups, ISIL and Boko Haram, are now jointly responsible for 51% of all deaths from claimed terrorist attacks world-wide. Both groups predominately target private citizens.
The Global Terrorism Index notes that terrorism spread significantly in the past year, with attacks and fatalities in more countries than ever. While many countries experience no terrorist activity, the number of countries to experience at least one or more deaths from terrorist activity has increased from 59 in 2013 to 67 in 2014. This includes OECD countries such as Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada and France.
Despite this, just five countries – Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria– account for 78% of all deaths in 2014. Importantly, over 60% of the countries ranked by the Index experienced no deaths from terrorism, and 13 times as many people are killed globally by homicides than die in terrorist attacks.
The Underlying Drivers Of Terrorism
Global Terrorism Index finds that the two factors most closely associated with terrorism are the levels of political violence and conflict. Ninety-two per cent of all terrorist attacks between 1989 and 2014 occurred in countries where political violence by the government was widespread, while 88% of all terrorist attacks between 1989 and 2014 occurred in countries that were experiencing or involved in violent conflicts.
However, drivers of terrorism differ: in OECD countries, socio-economic factors such as lack of opportunity and low social cohesion correlate significantly, while in non-OECD countries, internal conflicts, political terror, and corruption are strongly correlated.
“Since we can see a number of clearly identifiable socio-political factors that foster terrorism, it is important to implement policies that aim to address these associated causes. This includes reducing state-sponsored violence, diffusing group grievances, and improving respect for human rights and religious freedoms, while considering cultural nuances,” said Steve Killelea, Institute for Economics and Peace Founder and Executive Chairman.
Terrorism In The West: Lone Wolf Attacks
The majority of deaths from terrorism do not occur in the West, noted the Global Terrorism Index. Excluding the September 11 attack, only 0.5% of deaths from terrorism have occurred in the West since 2000. Including September 11, the percentage reaches 2.6.
Of the attacks that do occur, lone wolf attackers are the main perpetrators, causing 70% of all deaths in the West over the past 10 years. It is important to note that political extremism, not Islamic fundamentalism is the main driver of terrorism in Western countries.
The rise of ISIL has brought with it several challenging dynamics for counterterrorism. The flow of foreign fighters into Iraq and Syria since 2011 is the largest influx in modern times. Current estimates now range from 25,000 to 30,000 fighters, from roughly 100 countries. Half of the foreign fighters travelling to Iraq and Syria are from neighbouring MENA countries and a quarter from Europe and Turkey.
The flow of foreign fighters does not appear to be diminishing with over 7,000 arriving in the first six months of 2015.
Additionally, the report found that terrorist activity is a significant driver of forced migration. Ten of the 11 countries most affected by terrorism also have the highest rates of refugees and internal displacement. This highlights the strong connection between the current refugee crisis, terrorism and conflict.