Author : Institute for Economics & Peace
The Institute for Economics and Peace is the world’s leading think tank dedicated to developing metrics to analyse peace and to quantify its economic value. It does this by developing global and national indices, calculating the economic cost of violence, analysing country level risk and understanding positive peace. The Global Terrorism Index (GTI) is a comprehensive annual study undertaken by the IED analysing the impact of terrorism for 163 countries and which covers 99.7 per cent of the world’s population.
Date of publication : March 2022
In 2021, deaths from terrorism fell by 1.2 per cent to 7,142 deaths and are now a third of what they were at their peak in 2015. The minor fall in deaths was mirrored by a reduction in the impact of terrorism, with 86 countries recording an improvement, compared to 19 that deteriorated. However, the number of attacks globally increased by 17 per cent to 5,226. As such, the lethality of attacks decreased from 1.6 deaths per attack to 1.4 deaths per attack over the 12-month period. Russia and Eurasia had the largest regional improvement.
The data shows a shift in the dynamics of terrorism, with it becoming more concentrated in regions and countries suffering from political instability and conflict, such as the Sahel, Afghanistan and Myanmar. The Sahel is of serious concern. The expansion of Islamic State (IS) affiliates led to a surge in terrorism in many countries in the Sahel. The situation in the Sahel is rapidly deteriorating, with eight attempted coups in Burkina Faso, Mali, Guinea and Chad in the last eighteen months.
The underlying drivers are complex and systemic, including poor water utilisation, lack of food, malnutrition, strong population growth, and weak governments, with most of the terrorist activity occurring along borders where government control is weakest.
In the West, the number of attacks has fallen substantially over the last three years, with successive falls each year. The decline is terrorism in the West coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic. Restrictions on freedom of movement, public gatherings, travel and an immediate threat to personal health may help to explain some of this fall.
Politically motivated terrorism has now overtaken religiously motivated terrorism, with the latter declining by 82 per cent in 2021. IS remained the deadliest terror group globally, recording the most attacks and deaths of any group in 2021. However, globally 52 per cent of all terrorist incidents are not ascribed to a group.
New technologies have become more pervasive, so has their use by terrorist organisations. Smart phones using GPS systems are capable of guiding cheap drones with deadly precision, with attacks by missiles and drones becoming more common. Advancements, such as AI, 3D printing or autonomous vehicles may in the future be weaponised.
The data shows a shift in the dynamics of terrorism, with it becoming more concentrated in regions and countries suffering from political instability and conflict, such as the Sahel, Afghanistan and Myanmar
The total number of deaths from terrorism declined in 2021, falling by 1.2 per cent to 7,142. This is the fourth consecutive year where deaths from terrorism remained fairly constant. However, there has been a 33 per cent reduction since the peak in 2015 when 10,699 people were killed in terrorist attacks. The primary driver of this reduction in 2021 has been a fall in the intensity of conflict in the Middle East, and the subsequent decline of the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria.
However, increases in the number of deaths were recorded in three of the nine regions – Asia-Pacific, North America and South Asian regions, which increased by 303, 66 and eight per cent respectively. North America was off a very low base, recording three deaths from terrorism in 2020 and five in 2021.
- Deaths from terrorism fell to 7,142 deaths in 2021, representing a 1.1 per cent decrease from the prior year
- Attacks increased by 17 per cent to 5,226 in 2021
- Three of the ten most impacted countries by terrorism in 2021 were in the Sahel region.
- Myanmar had the largest increase in terrorism, where deaths increased from 24 to 521
- Afghanistan remains the country with the highest impact from terrorism
- The Taliban were overtaken by IS as the world’s deadliest terrorist group in 2021
- Of the 5,226 terrorist attacks recorded in 2021 only 52 per cent were attributed to a group
- COVID-19 has affected the tactics used by terror groups to spread their ideology and their radicalisation and recruitment processes
Trends in terrorism:
There have been several distinct phases in terrorist activity over the past decade. In 2007-2008, most terrorist activity globally was concentrated in Iraq and Afghanistan in response to the US and its allies’ activities. After the events of the Arab Spring and the emergence of IS, there was a surge in terrorism across the Middle East, most notably in Syria and Iraq, and concurrently in Nigeria. The Sahel region has also experienced a significant increase in the number of terror attacks and fatalities over the past five years.
The total number of deaths from terrorism declined in 2021, falling by 1.2 per cent to 7,142. This is the fourth consecutive year where deaths from terrorism remained fairly constant
- Deaths from terrorism have fallen by over a third since the peak in 2015
- Of the 163 countries included in the analysis, nearly two thirds or 105 recorded no attacks or deaths from terrorism in 2020 and 2021, the highest number since 2007
- Terrorist activity has been concentrated in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa with both regions recording more terrorism deaths than MENA for the last three years
- As the conflict in Syria subsided, IS and its affiliates have shifted their focus to sub-Saharan Africa and the Sahel region in particular
- There were three attacks by Islamic extremists in Europe. This is the lowest level since 2012. In total there were 113 attacks in Europe in 2021
- While the motivation can be inferred, most attacks driven by a left or right ideology are perpetrated by individuals or groups with no formal affiliation to a recognised organisation.
Terrorism in the Sahel:
The Sahel region faces many converging and complex social, economic, political and security challenges. These are likely to continue to undermine the development of the conditions necessary for Positive Peace, ensuring the Sahel would remain trapped in a cycle of violence and vulnerability. The inability of several Sahelian governments to provide effective security has encouraged terrorist groups to continue their activities, making the Sahel increasingly more violent, with deaths rising ten times between 2007 and 2021.
- The Sahel has become increasingly more violent over the past 15 years, with deaths rising by over one thousand per cent between 2007 and 2021. The increase in violence shows no sign of abating.
- Ten per cent or more of young males suffer from very high levels of thinness in eight of the ten countries in the Sahel.
- In conflict environments terrorists groups prefer to target police, military and domestic government.
- Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA) is the most lethal group in the Sahel.
- There is a strong statistical relationship between criminal activity and terrorism in the Sahel.
Within the Sahel, there is a nexus between systemic failures, violent conflict, resource degradation, and pervasive insecurity. The countries suffering from the worst ecological degradation are also among the most violent because people lack basic security.
It is unlikely that the current actions taken by the local governments and the international community will be enough to reverse the vicious cycles of conflict, insecurity and resource degradation in the Sahel.
The Sahel region faces many converging and complex social, economic, political and security challenges. These are likely to continue to undermine the development of the conditions necessary for Positive Peace, ensuring the Sahel would remain trapped in a cycle of violence and vulnerability
Addressing the multiple crises in the region calls for a systemic approach, whereby key elements within the system are identified and addressed as standalone cases, which will create a better overall outcome. One way to address the insecurity is through a systematic approach that would encourage the development of Positive Peace, as moderate, local leaders are political entrepreneurs, which raises the prospect of working through established institutions to address the needs of the people.
Terrorism and Conflict:
Conflict is the primary driver of terrorism. All of the ten countries most impacted by terrorism in 2021 were involved in an armed conflict1 in the preceding year. Four of those, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Somalia, and Syria, had conflicts that resulted in over 1,000 deaths in a calendar year. The link between conflict and terrorism is strong because as the intensity of the conflict increases, violence against both the police and the military becomes more acceptable, as is violence against civilians perceived to be associated with the enemy. Other than a higher intensity of general violence, there are also larger concentrations of weapons, and a lack of state control over the territory.
- In 2020, 97.6 per cent of deaths from terrorism occurred in conflict affected countries.
- As the intensity of conflict increases, so does the lethality of terrorist actions. Terrorist attacks in conflict countries are more than six times deadlier than attacks in peaceful countries.
- On average, terrorist groups that are classified as insurgent groups remain active for 11.8 years.
- Once a terrorist organisation has operated for 12 years or more they are difficult to eradicate.
- Half of all terrorist groups cease to exist in three years. Of the 84 active terrorist groups studied in 2015, only 32 were active in 2021.
- For OECD countries there are two statistical factors associated with terrorism – social equity and acceptance of violence within a society. The latter being higher levels of political terror, access to weapons, and militarization.
The Technology of Terror: from Dynamite to the Metaverse
We are currently witnessing a democratisation of new and emerging technologies. In the past, advanced technologies were only accessible to scientists, government officials and the military. Today, advanced technologies are available as an open source. Modern technologies are ubiquitous, cheap, and easy to use. While technology can be a driver of development and prosperity, it can also be instrumentalised by extremists who can exploit them in unanticipated and lethal ways.
Non-state actors have thus always been interested in obtaining and mastering innovative weapons. According to “lethal empowerment theory”, new technologies will be rapidly adopted and adapted by violent non-state actors when they are accessible, cheap, simple to use, transportable, concealable, and effective.
While policy makers need to counter the use of existing technologies by violent non-state actors, they also need to keep an eye on emerging technologies. In the past military technology tended to develop in a closed system, whereas today we have entered a stage of unprecedented open innovation. Individuals and private groups are free to not only buy, use, and distribute them, but also to invent and repurpose them.”
Combatting the nefarious use of new technologies is not easy. Diffusion of dual-use technologies will continue to empower extremists. It is therefore important to enforce regulation as was done to reduce dynamite bombings in Europe or deal with the social causes driving extremists conduct bombings as was done in the US in the early 20th century.
Countries are now faced with one of the biggest dilemmas regarding counterterrorism: designing effective counterterrorism measures while at the same time preserving liberal-democratic values. The security community needs to wake up to the challenge of emerging technologies, especially digital technologies. Although the internet and social media look far more innocuous than dynamite, they could be considered the social dynamite of this generation.
Why Morocco’s Counterterrorism Evolution Matters to Africa
Following the 2003 Casablanca attacks, Morocco began a profound transformation of the Kingdom’s counterterrorism strategy. In the immediate aftermath, legislators and policymakers confronted national security challenges, including enhancing security for potential vulnerable targets and addressing conditions conducive to terrorism and violent extremism.
On May 16, 2003, in Casablanca, Morocco, 12 members of al-Salafiya al-Jihadiya, a Salafi-jihadi terrorist organisation affiliated with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), attacked the Farah Hotel, the Jewish Community Centre, a Jewish restaurant, a Jewish cemetery, and a Spanish social club. The Casablanca attacks set in motion a new wave of internationally inspired domestic terrorism that would be eventually attested by the 2007 and 2015 Casablanca attacks; the 2011 attacks in Marrakech as well as the 2018 attacks in Imlil.
While technology can be a driver of development and prosperity, it can also be instrumentalised by extremists who can exploit them in unanticipated and lethal ways
The 2003 Casablanca and subsequent attacks prompted the Moroccan government to enhance its counterterrorism policies to address changing terrorist tactics, accelerated operational tempo and increased lethality. Law 03.03, passed two weeks after the 2003 attacks, became the first of a series of legislative reforms enhancing Morocco’s legal counterterrorism framework.
This law expanded the definition of terrorism to include incitement. It introduced sentencings in line with the classification of terrorism as a major crime for active participation in terrorist related activities, including a minimum of a 10-year sentence. In addition, Law 03.03 expanded the duration of police custody in cases of terrorism and enhanced both intelligence-gathering and counterterrorism investigations procedures.
The Moroccan government also recognised that the 2003 attacks required a comprehensive response that went beyond legal reforms. While many blamed economic and social conditions for the attacks, the nature of the attacked galvanised the will of the entire country to reject and combat terrorism.
Within the framework of its preventive approach, the country embarked on implementing what experts and analysts often refer to as a tri-dimensional counterterrorism strategy that is largely but not exclusively aimed at addressing different components of the terrorist threat through security, socio-economic development policies as well as supporting the religious field.
Morocco’s multidimensional response has proven effective even if the nature of the threat has meant it was not possible to prevent all terrorist attacks or the damage, they caused to the tourism sector11. Nevertheless, results suggest that despite more than 1,000 Moroccan nationals joining the Islamic State (IS) and other terrorist groups in war zones12, the country dismantled more than 200 terrorist cells and made more than 3,500 terrorism-related arrests over the past two decades, thereby possibly avoiding more than 300 planned terrorist actions.
While no country can defeat terrorism with just arrests, Morocco’s law enforcement actions have undoubtedly weakened terrorist organisations in the country while reducing the appeal of violent extremism at home. Morocco’s active role in fighting terrorism suggests the country’s understanding of the threat; the interconnectedness of its counterterrorism methods; the application of combined soft and hard measures; the facilitation of information sharing practices; and the promotion of international cooperation as the sine qua non of counterterrorism.
Morocco’s counterterrorism arrangements, capacities, and commitment have catapulted the country into a different category. Unsurprisingly, many see the Kingdom as a strong international counterterrorism partner playing a vital role in ensuring and promoting Africa’s peace, security, and stability.
The Moroccan government also recognised that the 2003 attacks required a comprehensive response that went beyond legal reforms. While many blamed economic and social conditions for the attacks, the nature of the attacked galvanised the will of the entire country to reject and combat terrorism
Looking ahead, for Africa, a comprehensive response, particularly aimed at addressing the need for enhanced counterterrorism investigative capacities is a good starting point for consideration. Morocco’s recent signing of a host country agreement with the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT) to establish a Programme Office for CounterTerrorism and Training in Africa offers one way forward. UNOCT’s Rabat Office was officially inaugurated on June 24, 2021, with the support of and in close cooperation with the Kingdom.
The Programme Office in Rabat has been established as a specialised training centre for the African security, law enforcement and judicial communities. Since its opening, the Office has developed a multi-level training curriculum with foundational, intermediate, advanced, and training-the-trainer levels to build specialised technical capacities of Member States in Africa.
Since many of the countries in West Africa lack the resources to provide their own specialised counter-terrorism training, UNOCT’s Rabat Programme Office is focused on delivering counterterrorism capacity-building programs on five main specialised areas: counterterrorism investigations; border security management; preventing and combating violent extremism; prison management; and prosecution, rehabilitation, and reintegration.
Morocco, along with UNOCT, envisage that capacity building in these five areas will provide a steppingstone for African countries to build more sustainable, human rights-compliant and effect law enforcement responses to the continent’s evolving terrorist threats.
Sub-Saharan Africa at a Crossroad
A perfect storm is brewing in Sub-Sahara Africa. Increased terrorism activity, drastic climate change, persistent failures of the ruling elites, and heightened ethnic tensions have created the conditions to bring about several coups. These coups pose a major challenge for security, stability, and development, as they are underpinned by a willingness to use violence to foster political change. Changes in perceptions about peace and violence indicate there is the danger that persistent insecurity would accelerate system collapses across the region.
Sub-Saharan Africa is undergoing massive changes. The region, which is home to more than a billion people, is at a major crossroads. The emergence of a technological savvy middle class looking to capitalize on increased connectivity, new working practices, and improved communication underlines the tremendous progress that has taken place throughout the continent.
The overwhelming focus on governance as it relates to security has led to reduced attention to addressing systemic shortcomings across the region. This shift has had disastrous consequences as it has meant that development support is primarily centered on security, and not on issues that exist outside of the security matrix.
The 2021 Global Peace Index and the 2022 Global Terrorism Index highlight the deteriorating security situation in Sub-Saharan Africa and particularly in the Sahel. Across the region, violence is rising, whether in the shape of Salafi-jihadi activity, banditry, or coups. However, what is of greater concern, is that there is little evidence that the situation is likely to change soon, as insecurity becomes more pervasive, which in turn leads to more violence and a reduction in Positive Peace.
Since 2012, several security operations have taken place in the Sahel. These have ranged from the EU Training Mission (EUTM) to the French-led counterterrorism operation (Operation Serval, Operation Barkhane, and the Takuba Initiative), and the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali.
In addition, there is also the G5-Sahel Initiative and other unilateral, security operations including an increase in private entities being brought in to help end the insecurity. The focus on stabilization makes sense, although what tends to undermine such operations is a lack of uniformity.
With proper support, assistance, and encouragement sub-Saharan Africa would continue to see growth and development. Many of the world’s key minerals lie there. It is also the world’s largest free trade area with enormous potential for growth and development. However, without systemic and structural changes within the political, social, economic sectors, and how the development and aid community approach sub-Saharan Africa, the damage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, increased terrorism activity, and the growing menace of organized crime, many of the gains of the last three decades could easily disappear.
Sub-Saharan Africa is undergoing massive changes. The region, which is home to more than a billion people, is at a major crossroads. The emergence of a technological savvy middle class looking to capitalize on increased connectivity, new working practices, and improved communication underlines the tremendous progress that has taken place throughout the continent
There is an overreliance and focus on traditional counterterrorism and counterinsurgency policies. Somewhat unsurprisingly, although these policies have improved the quality of Sahelian militaries and have notched some major successes against terrorist leaders, they have not facilitated greater security partially because this counterterrorism architecture is meant to adapt and react to specific events, as opposed to engaging in a structural overhaul. Moreover, the overreliance on security governance has meant that innovative solutions are not considered.
Therefore, there is a need for new thinking, which Positive Peace provides. Woven into the Positive Peace formula is first a call to identify what are the pull and push factors contributing to why individuals resort to or accept violent political reform. Secondly, Positive Peace draws on a conceptual and statistical framework that calls for the Acceptance of the Rights of Others, Free-Flow of Information, Equitable Distribution of Resources, Good Relations with Neighbours, Well-Functioning Governments, Low Levels of Corruption, High Levels of human Capital and Sound Business Environment.
Source photo : visionofhumanity.org