3 things we learned from the Global Terrorism Index 2017

Last week, the Institute of Economics and Peace released its fifth edition of the Global Terrorism Index, which provides a detailed overview of the key global trends and patterns in terrorism over the past 17 years.

The Index analyses the impact of terrorism for 163 countries, covering 99.7 per cent of the world’s population. Here’s what you need to know:

1. For the second year in a row, the total number of global deaths caused by terrorism has declined.

Despite terror attacks making their way to global headlines on a regular basis, the Index shows 22% fewer terrorism deaths compared to the peak of terror activity in 2014. This means 6,827 fewer people were killed.

Mohammed Gaber, an OYW Ambassador based in Sana’a, Yemen, responded saying that while the reported facts bring hope, “it is difficult to appreciate the results from a real-life perspective.” Pointing to the ongoing conflict, the existing political vacuum has reduced ‘rational communication’, and combined with the deteriorating socioeconomic situation, the resulting ‘emotional communication’ is more likely to manifest itself in acts of terrorism. Despite the optimism, he believes the ongoing conflict is creating a more fertile ground for extremism.

2. Deaths caused by terrorism have actually fallen in Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.

There were 14% fewer deaths in Afghanistan; the Index points to  a change in the Taliban’s activities - they’re focused on territorial gains rather than terrorist activity.

Syria has seen the most dramatic increase in terrorism over the past decade - the increase coinciding with the start of the conflict in 2011. However, 2016 saw the first reduction in terrorism deaths since 2011 - 24% down from 2016 to 2,102.

Pakistan also recorded a decrease in the number of people killed by terrorism with a 12% reduction to 956 deaths. This is the lowest number of deaths since 2006, and reflects a slight decrease in the activity of Sindh in southeast Pakistan.

Nigeria recorded the biggest decrease in terrorism with 3,100 fewer deaths compared to last year. This is because of the success of the Multinational Joint Task Force against Boko Haram as well as fractures within the group itself.

Nigerian OYW Ambassador Ajarat Bada says, ‘despite the level of sophistication terrorism has attained in the past few years, the findings of the Index are quite encouraging for us peace activists for whom it seems at many instances are fighting an insurmountable battle.’ In her opinion, beyond the efforts of the Multinational Joint Task-Force, the Nigerian context differs from the others; due of its multi-ethnic nature, the Nigerian government system allows for an even religious and tribal representation at the highest levels of power.

She says that, “during the peak of Boko Haram operations between 2014-2015, popularized by the capture of the 'Chibok Girls', the country was going through political tensions because of a sudden imbalance in the division of power. Hence despite the group's purported religious inspiration, Boko Haram's popularity was a result of and came as a reaction to the imbalance of those political tensions.” When President Muhammadu Buhari’s government restored the political balance in 2015,  “it became only natural that the threat of Boko Haram is so much more significantly lessened.”

3. There has been progress, but unfortunately, two thirds of all countries in the Index (106 out of 163 nations) experienced a terrorist attack in 2016.

Over the past year, there were 77 countries that experienced deaths from terrorism, which is an increase from 65 the year before. Globally, “attacks against civilians increased by 17 per cent from 2015 to 2016. The primary targets of terrorists are private citizens and property.”

The Index reports that “in 2016, OECD countries experienced the most deaths from terrorism since the September 11 attacks in 2001. There’s been a 67 % increase in attacks and a nearly 600% increase in deaths from terrorism since 2014.” However, the index shows that “a significant portion of these deaths resulted from a small number of attacks that inflicted very high casualties. Three attacks accounted for 44% of all deaths from terrorism in OECD countries between 2014 and June 2017.”

As expected, ISIL is a driving force behind this increase - however, attacks perpetrated by the group and ISIL-inspired attacks seem to have peaked in 2016. The worst-affected OECD country is France which “has witnessed the highest number of fatalities over the last three years and accounts for 43% of all deaths. Terrorist attacks related to ISIL caused 92% of deaths in France.”

What does the report say about the state of terrorism in your country? Tweet us your reactions at @oneyoungworld.

The GTI is produced by the Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP) and is based on data from the Global Terrorism Database (GTD). Data for the GTD is collected and collated by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START); a Department of Homeland Security Centre of Excellence led by the University of Maryland. The GTD is considered to be the most comprehensive global dataset on terrorist activity and has now codified over 170,000 terrorist incidents.