Causes of Terrorism


While the drivers of terrorism are often complex, research from the Global Terrorism Index shows that there are three statistically significant factors that feature in countries with high levels of terrorism.

1. Greater social hostilities and grievances between different ethnic, religious and linguistic groups.

2. The presence of state-sponsored violence such as extrajudicial killings, political terror and gross human rights abuses.

3. The existing high levels of other forms of violence such as deaths from organised conflict, violent demonstrations and crime, and perceptions of criminality.

Interestingly, poverty rates, levels of school attendance and most economic factors have no association with terrorism. The strong relationship between terrorism and other forms of violence underlines how the persistent targeting of police forces and the instability generated by terrorist activity can undermine the rule of law.

Speaking about this research, Steve Killelea, the Founder and Chairman of the Institute for Economics and Peace said:

Terrorism doesn't arise on its own; by identifying the factors associated with it, long term policies can be implemented to improve the underlying environment that nurtures terrorism. 

Based on this research of what causes terrorism, the Global Terrorism Index was also able to identify countries that face a greater risk of terrorist activity in the coming years. They are:

Angola, Bangladesh, Burundi, Central African Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Iran, Israel, Mali, Mexico, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Uganda.

These countries either have significant ongoing conflicts which give rise to terrorist activity or notable deficits in terms of social hostilities between different ethnic, religious and linguistic groups, gross human rights abuses by the state or high levels of violence and poor rule of law.

To find out more about the causes of terrorism, the methodology behind these findings and the countries at risk, download the 2014 Global Terrorism Index Report.

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