Defining Terrorism

The Global Terrorism Index, produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace, seeks to further debate and understanding of a specific form of violence – non-state actor terrorism. It does not seek to ignore or explain away state-sponsored terrorism and violence. That is why state sponsored violence and terrorism is measured in a number of ways in the Global Peace Index

Defining terrorism is not a straightforward matter. There is no single internationally accepted definition of what constitutes terrorism, and the terrorism literature abounds with competing definitions and typologies. The Institute for Economics and Peace uses the University of Maryland START Centre definition of terrorism as “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.”

This means a terrorist incident has to meet two out of three criteria in order for it to be counted as a terrorist act:

By better understanding key trends, patterns and drivers of terrorism we can build discussion of how best to minimise the prevalence and incentive for individuals and groups to engage in violence to address legitimate political, economic, and social grievances.

Indeed, one of the key findings of the Global Terrorism Index Report is the close empirical connection between state-sponsored violence and terror, group grievances, human rights and terrorist activity. In other words, only by ending state-sponsored violence and terror, building human rights and lowering group grievances will we find long term solutions to terrorist violence. 

Find out more about the Global Terrorism Index, explore the interactive map and read an analysis of the key findings in the report

Related Articles

Terrorism Index Media Pack

The Global Terrorism Index media pack includes multilingual media release, infographics, images, videos and more.

Terrorism Index video

Terrorism is one of the most widely covered topics in news media today, but what do we actually know about terrorism? Spare a few minutes and get the facts.

Contact us

Vision of Humanity is an initiative of the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP). IEP have offices in New York and Sydney. For more specific inquiries related to the peace indexes and research, please contact IEP directly.

General enquiries:
Data request:

Sydney office

PO Box 42, St Leonards,
NSW 1590,
Tel: +61 2 9901 8500

New York office

3 East 54th Street
14th Floor
New York, New York 10022
Tel: +1 (646) 963-2160

Job opportunities and internships are listed on the Institute for Economics and Peace website. See them here.

Contact us