> Backgrounder: Study finds global terrorism on the decline

Backgrounder: Study finds global terrorism on the decline

Document Tools

Print This Page

Email This Page

Font Size
S      M      L      XL

Contact:
Andrew Mack, 1.604.803.3548; amack@sfu.ca (in New York until Friday)
Kate Guerin, 860.810.5657; GuerinK@ruderfinn.com
Marianne Meadahl, PAMR, 778.782.4323


May 21, 2008
No
A new report by a Simon Fraser University-based research team says terrorist violence around the world is on the decline.

Prepared by researchers with the Human Security Report Project (HSRP) at SFU’s School for International Studies, the Human Security Brief 2007, released today in New York, challenges the expert consensus that the threat of terrorism is increasing.

Researchers found:

  • Fatalities from terrorism have dropped by 40 per cent while al-Qaeda has faced a dramatic collapse in support throughout the Muslim world.
  • There has been an “extraordinary, but largely unnoticed, positive change” in the sub-Saharan African security landscape, with the number of conflicts being waged reduced by more than half between 1999 and 2006, and the combat toll dropping by 98 per cent.
  • A decline in the total number of armed conflicts and combat deaths around the world also continues.

The HSRP team analyzed statistical trends from three U.S.-based research centres: the National Counterterrorism Centre, the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism and the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism.

While trend data from these centres appears to support claims that the threat of terrorism is increasing, HSRP researchers argue that the data are misleading when defined in another way.

For example, fatalities in Iraq, which appear to drive the global trend, are typically labeled civilian deaths, but are counted in the centres’ evaluations. Meanwhile similar acts of civilians being intentionally killed in sub-Saharan Africa civil wars aren’t counted.

Andrew Mack, director of the Human Security Report Project at SFU, says such inconsistencies distort the global terrorism trend data. However the researchers found that even including the Iraq data, a major recent decline in incidence of terrorism could be seen in the latter half of 2007.

The decline is not surprising, says Mack, noting that “historically, most terrorist campaigns have failed and the Islamists’ slumping popular support in the Muslim world is a now huge liability for the al–Qaeda network.”

Mack is in New York this week and can be reached to elaborate on the study.


The governments of Canada, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK provided funding for the Human Security Brief 2007.

The first Human Security Report, published by Oxford University Press in 2005, noted a decline in wars, genocides and human rights abuse over the past decade.