All around the world, terrorism is a huge threat. And what's especially worrying is that for all the advances made in recent years, the threat of terror seems to be worsening. A new report from the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) finds that there was a 61 percent increase in deaths from terrorism globally in 2013. The group also notes that the data it collected shows a five-fold increase in the number of deaths caused by terrorism since 2000.
However, although the Global Terrorism Index notes that there were 17,958 deaths from terrorism in 60 countries last year, the numbers show that more than 80 percent of those deaths occurred in just five countries and accounted for the global figures going up.
The five countries are:
- Iraq — where 2,492 incidents in 2013 left 6,362 dead.
- Afghanistan — where 1,148 incidents left 3,111 dead.
- Pakistan — where 1,933 incidents left 2,345 dead.
- Nigeria — where 303 incidents left 1,826 dead.
- Syria — where 217 incidents left 1,078 dead.
In each of these countries, there has been a dramatic increase in violence in recent years: In Iraq, for instance, the IEP finds a 162 percent increase in violence from 2012 to 2013. And before we continue, let's consider that these are figures for 2013 and do not include the dramatic increases in violence in Iraq, Syria and Pakistan this year. Next year's report is not likely to offer better news, either.
The next country on the list is India, where 624 incidents left 404 people dead, the IEP finds. The wealthy countries that make up the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) suffered a slim minority of terrorism fatalities. Turkey had 34 attacks and 57 deaths in 2013, the highest of any OECD country, while the United States had nine attacks and six deaths. The United Kingdom had a high number of attacks (131), but most of these were small-scale attacks in Northern Ireland and left only three dead. Israel had 28 attacks in 2013 that left two people dead (the Palestinian territories are not included in the index).
The IEP's findings are likely to be somewhat controversial. For one thing, there's no universally accepted definition of terrorism, and it has become a highly politicized term in recent years. The IEP uses the definition agreed upon by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland:
"the threatened or actual use of illegal force and violence by a non-state actor to attain a political, economic, religious, or social goal through fear, coercion, or intimidation."
The report explains that it is not including deaths in Syria caused by conventional warfare, for example. However, in a complicated civil war such as Syria's, the line between conventional and nonconventional warfare often gets blurred. As the report itself notes, "Terrorism has been deployed as a tactic by some of the rebel forces to bring about a political, economic, religious, or social goal rather than purely military objectives."
Perhaps even more controversially, the IEP finds that only four terrorist organizations — the Islamic State, Boko Haram, the Taliban and al-Qaeda — had asserted responsibility for more than 66 percent of the deaths. The United States has been involved in the military battle against all of these groups.
And although it may seem morally right to fight them, other evidence suggests that it may not help that much in the long run. The report finds that 80 percent of all the terrorist organizations that have ceased to operate since the 1960s did so probably because of policing or politicization efforts. Just 10 percent of the groups could be said to have achieved their aims — and just 7 percent were eliminated by military engagement.
You can explore the IEP's Terrorism Index here.