TERRORISM

 

We have defined terrorism here as “acts of violence intentionally perpetrated on civilian non-combatants with the goal of furthering some ideological, religious or political objective.” Our principal focus is on non-state actors. Our task was to identify and analyse the scientific and professional social science literature pertaining to the psychological and/or behavioural dimensions of terrorist behaviour (not on victimization or effects). Our objectives were to explore what questions pertaining to terrorist groups and behaviour had been asked by social science researchers; to identify the main findings from that research; and attempt to di still and summarize them within a framework of operationally relevant questions.

 An international panel of leading experts on terrorism met in Oslo to discuss root causes of terrorism. The main purpose was to provide inputs from the research community to a high-level conference on “Fighting Terrorism for Humanity” to be held in New York on 22 September 2003. The findings described below are conclusions drawn by the chairman on the basis of presentations and discussions. -A main accomplishment of the expert panel was to invalidate several widely held ideas about what causes terrorism. There was broad agreement that there is only a weak and indirect relationship between poverty and terrorism. At the individual level, terrorists are generally not drawn from the poorest segments of their societies. Typically, they are at average or over-average levels in terms of education and socio-economic background. Poor people are more likely to take part in simpler forms of political violence than terrorism, such as riots. The level of terrorism is not particularly high in the poorest countries of the world.  State sponsorship is not a root cause of terrorism. Used as an instrument in their foreign policies, some states have capitalized on pre-existing terrorist groups rather than creating them. Terrorist groups have often been the initiators of these relationships, at times courting several potential state sponsors in order to enhance their own independence. State sponsorship is clearly an enabling factor of terrorism, giving terrorist groups a far greater capacity and lethality than they would have had on their own. Definitions of terrorism are usually complex and controversial, and, because of the inherent ferocity and violence of terrorism, the term in its popular usage has developed an intense stigma. It was first coined in the 1790s to refer to the terror used during the French Revolution by the revolutionaries against their opponents. The Jacobin party of Maximilien Robespierre carried out a Reign of Terror involving mass executions by the guillotine. Although terrorism in this usage implies an act of violence by a state against its domestic enemies, since the 20th century the term has been applied most frequently to violence aimed, either directly or indirectly, at governments in an effort to influence policy or topple an existing regime. Terrorism involves the use or threat of violence and seeks to create fear, not just within the direct victims but among a wide audience.

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