To best combat terrorism, it is essential to understand the motivations of existing and prospective members of terrorist groups, as well as the recruitment and funding mechanisms these groups use.

An analysis by the Institute for Economics & Peace depicts the factors underpinning the workings of a terrorist groups as nodes in a network, with the linkages between them forming feedback loops that allow the terrorist group to operate and thrive. 

This illustration shows the four feedback loops to be: recruitment, funding, media and motivation. All four loops feedback into the political and social influence node, which is critical for the running of a terrorist group.

Political and social influence is both an objective of the network and one of the cogs in the mechanism that keeps the network operating. Removing or reducing the effectiveness of this node will disrupt the network in a way that no other node would. This is consistent with the fact that most entrenched terrorist groups end by becoming involved in the political process. Whether or not a terrorist group will end in this manner is dependent on their overall goals and the size of the group.

The key objective of most entrenched terrorist groups is then to attain greater social and political influence, with which the group hopes to implement its desired policies and social changes. The impact of each attack feeds this political influence as groups use their notoriety to disseminate propaganda. The attacks are perpetrated by recruited agents who are dissatisfied with their status in society and hold a negative perception of the society or country they wish to attack. Media coverage of the attacks also helps increase the political and social influence of the network.

Most terrorist groups cease to exist within a year of forming, but the terrorist groups that do survive for multiple years tend to have better entrenched support networks with regards to recruitment and funding.

Read the complete analysis in the 2020 Global Terrorism Index.



Vision of Humanity

Editorial Staff

Vision of Humanity

Vision of Humanity is brought to you by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), by staff in our global offices in Sydney, New York, The Hague, Harare and Mexico. Alongside maps and global indices, we present fresh perspectives on current affairs reflecting our editorial philosophy.