Slow and Steady is Winning the Counterterrorism Race

With the Western world seemingly under attack and several foreign governments struggling against insurgency, it might come as a surprise that terrorism is statistically on a downward trend.

The Institute for Economics and Peace [IEP] has published another edition of the Global Terrorism Index [GTI], an analysis of patterns in terrorism throughout the last 17 years (2000-2016). IEP’s report measures over a decade’s worth of terrorist activities in  detail.

In its key findings, the GTI 2017 concludes the following:

  • Overall terrorism deaths decreased to 25,673 in 2016, a 13% drop from 2015 (29,376) and 22% from 2014 (32,685).
  • Four major terrorist epicenters (Afghanistan, Syria, Nigeria, and Pakistan) had fewer deaths last year. The countries of South Sudan, Ethiopia, Turkey, and the Democratic Republic of Congo demonstrated an increase of terrorist activity.
  • Seventy-seven countries experienced at least one terrorist-related death.
  • Nigeria experienced the largest improvement in terrorism deaths (80% decrease). The improved situation is credited to Boko Haram’s split and intervention by the Multinational Joint Task Force.
  • North America is the only region in the world to experience a reduction in terrorism since 2002. South Asia is the most affected by terrorist activity.
  • Boko Haram, al-Qaeda, and the Taliban committed fewer deaths in 2016. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria [ISIS] increased its death toll by 50% since 2015 (9,132 people).

Despite the increased atrocities, ISIS experienced a significant revenue decline. Its monthly income reduced from $81 million to $16 million. In addition to a diminishing income, the Syrian and Iraqi forces are reclaiming urban cities from the group. The United States recently confirmed the news that the Battle for Raqqa has come to an end. Both the Syrian and Iraqi governments are right to be optimistic about their efforts to sustain political control.

The data is a reminder that terrorist trends are moving in the right direction, though the crisis is far from resolved. IEP’s Global Peace Index 2017 highlights that there has been a mere 0.28% improvement in international levels of peace since 2015. Among the least peaceful are countries that face the highest levels of terrorist activity.

The full GTI report is available on the HSDL. For more information and similar resources, visit HSDL’s featured topics section on Global Terrorism. Previous publications and past reports for the Global Terrorism Index can be found on the Institute for Economics and Peace’s website.