The complexity of combating global terrorism
Understanding how people get radicalized and how this process could evolve into terrorism has been always complex.
We are facing a challenge in identifying the actual meaning of terrorism – especially after more than a decade after the Global Strategy on Countering Terrorism.
Since September 2001, the number of victims of terrorist acts has been increasing.
In 2005, the U.S. government, under the presidency of George W. Bush, introduced the term “countering violent extremism” to replace a concept that was highly criticized: the “war on terrorism.”
In the same year, the European Union introduced its counterterrorism strategy with a “prevention” element encompassing societal conditions that lead to individual radicalization.
The U.N.’s Global Counter Terrorism strategy then launched in 2006, calling for a holistic strategy that encompassed the conditions conducive to terrorism.
Terrorist acts in Europe during 2015 increased states’ attention worldwide toward a more sustainable counterterrorism strategy.
The White House CVE summit steered by then-President Barack Obama in the same year, with 70 participating countries, highlighted the concept of CVE in the political jargon.
This was followed by the United Nations’ “Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism” in early 2016.
The U.N. secretary-general said at the time: “Missiles may kill terrorists. But I am convinced that good governance is what will kill terrorism.”
Even with many attempts to define terrorism, the term is a debatable issue today.
It is important that the methodologies used to measure terrorism are also challenged.
The Global Terrorism Index annual report, published by IEP since 2012, monitors trends in terrorism worldwide, creating a platform for discussion on the data-policy gap regarding countering terrorism, and how to bridge it.
It records and analyzes every terrorist incident around the world. However, it should be noted that the index that provided statistics, data, trends and patterns in terrorism over the last decade does not provide an analysis of the role of countries in creating an enabling environment for violent extremism.
GTI 2018 was released earlier this month, indicating that the total number of deaths caused by terrorism decreased by 27 percent in 2017. The fall was indicated as an improvement in 94 countries, and a decline in 46 countries, since 2004.
For the last three years, the number of deaths from terrorism has dropped 44 percent after it reached its highest in 2014.
The 2018 index lists 163 countries according to terrorist activity, and the way each is affected by terrorism over a one-year period, measuring direct and indirect impact of terrorism.
This includes the consequences on lives lost or harmed, destruction of property and the psychological outcomes.
In its sixth edition, the report highlights the top 10 countries impacted by terrorism.
It surveys the economic impact of terrorism, which decreased 42 percent from the previous year – around 52 billion dollars in 2017.
However, the real economic impact of terrorism is much higher “as these figures do not account for the indirect impacts on business, investment and the costs associated with security agencies in countering terrorism,” said Steve Killelea, the founder of the IEP.
The report reflects on global and regional trends of terrorism within a changing landscape of recruitment patterns.
This year’s report featured experts’ interventions related to global investment, challenges and opportunities and multiagency and multidisciplinary approaches to preventing violent extremism.
Lebanon was ranked No. 35 in GTI 2018 report.
According to the GTI, the impact of terrorism in Lebanon decreased slightly to 5.154 in 2017 from 5.64 in 2016, however, “it averaged 4.88 from 2002 until 2016, reaching an all-time high of 6.38 in 2014 and a record low of 3.06 in 2004.” Nevertheless, the effects of terrorism and violent extremism on the economic development of Lebanon can be costly – and a risk to the unity of the state and the disintegration and dismantling of societies.
While some countries are experiencing limited effects of violent extremism, the greatest threat of violence remains on the decline of inter-communal relations and collective action promoting violence.
This includes underlying structural factors like social inequality, marginalization and sociopolitical segregation linked to good governance, fighting inequality and inclusive policymaking.
“Where will terrorism strike next time?” has been always a valid question. But to what extent does a decline of terrorism reflect more global peace?
GPI’s 12th edition of “Measuring Peace in a Complex World,” launched in mid-2018, indicated the world is becoming less peaceful. The report tries to understand 10 years of trends of peace looking into societal stability, perception of criminality, impact of terrorism, domestic and international conflict and the degree of militarization.
Lebanon is still rated near the bottom – ranking 147th out of 163 states according to peacefulness, and was rated 15th among 20 MENA countries.
Another index in the same direction, which will provide a better understanding of elements of peace, is the Historic Peace Index that was launched by IEP and University of Oxford last month. The index uses vigorous data tracked over thousands of years to map global peace, understanding trends in peacefulness.
Looking into the long term evolution of different peace elements, and tracking trends and dynamics of peace through history, will help in understanding the root causes of peace – providing direction to evidence based policies in order to improve peacefulness.
It is a process that supports learning from the past to inform the future.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 19, 2018, on page 3.