Global Agenda Council on Terrorism 2012-2013
A decade after 9/11, terrorism continues to endanger peace and security, threaten trade and challenge the values of freedom and democracy. Over 10 thousand victims and billions of dollars in costs are attributed to terrorist violence globally in 2012, from Afghanistan to Iraq, from Somalia to Yemen.
The face of terrorism has altered due to counter-terrorism efforts and adaptation to changing realities by terrorist organizations. Although al-Qaeda has suffered severe setbacks like the killing of Osama bin Laden, regional affiliates seem to operate more independently. New shadow groups have emerged, about which little is known, such as the Haqqani Network and Boko Haram. Likewise, groups like Al Shabaab in Somalia demonstrate how easily terrorism morphs into insurgency, resulting in great costs to area communities.
Additionally, new challenges have forced authorities to refocus their attention on threats from within. “Lone wolf” attacks by individuals, exploiting vulnerabilities in modern society, produce atrocities such as the Merah case in France and the Brevik killings in Norway. Hyperconnectivity in the networked world has heightened the risk of cyberterrorism and cyberwarfare. The connections between terrorism, drug trafficking, maritime piracy and other forms of organized crime are exacting huge tolls on many fragile states, and threaten transnational repercussions.
To more effectively combat terrorism, information sharing and analysis between governments and third parties must improve. Counter-terrorism strategies must focus on prevention and countering radicalization in fragile states through targeted interventions. Likewise, the nexus between security and development can be strengthened in international aid programmes in more fragile regions.
The effectiveness of counter-terrorism strategies brings about additional challenges. The technical means used to identify and eliminate terrorists, such as armed drones, can blur the boundaries between policing and warfare, eroding the ability of international humanitarian law (IHL) to provide a moral framework of conflict.
- Al-Qaeda spent US$ 500,000 to attack the World Trade Center. Conversely, the costs of 9/11 to the United States are estimated at US$ 3.3 billion, nearly seven times the investment by al-Qaeda.
- Just 900 ml of the chemical nerve agent sarin was used by the Aum Shinrikyo cult to attack Tokyo subways in 1995, yet 5,000 people were injured and eight died.
- In 2011 the European Union (EU) opened 27 terrorism cases, and 153 court proceedings across the EU involved terrorist charges.
“Our collective experience of counter terrorism efforts urges the need for nations to have a more diverse policy toolkit of hard and soft power to deal with a multifaceted and changing threat. This should include non-coercive means to address the conditions that give rise to extremist violence and terrorism.”
Maleeha Lodhi, Special Adviser, Jang Group of Newspapers; Chair, Global Agenda Council on Terrorism
“The dilemma of a counter-terrorism policy is that one can never be sure if the policy is successful, not successful or just irrelevant, until either a terrorist plot is successfully prevented or an attack has taken place.”
Hans-Joachim Giessmann, Executive Director, Berghof Foundation; Vice-Chair, Global Agenda Council on Terrorism
“The technology is moving so quickly that nobody really knows what is going to happen and what is going to be available.”
Richard Lennane, Director, Implementation Support Unit of the Biological Weapons Convention
4th Review of the UN Global Strategy on Counter-Terrorism
Budapest Conference on Cyberspace
4-5 October 2012
Release of Global Terrorism Database results at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START)
1 November 2012
To stay one step ahead of terrorist intentions, the international community must respond with intense cooperation at both the state level and within societies.
Technological innovation will soon prompt the need for the laws of war to adjust to such new realities. Society must grapple with the unanswered legal, moral and strategic questions of robotic counter-terrorism operations, while technology enables small groups with limited resources to effect greater damage than ever before. This evolution of terrorism – once conducted by large, organized, overseas groups and now by small, fragmented, local actors – raises important questions for liberal societies that should be met with balanced approaches.
Mitigating the risks of radicalization and polarization can benefit from a systems approach. Counter-terrorism today rests on successful strategies for conflict resolution and the stabilization of fragile states. This in turn builds on initiatives to combat poverty and promote economic development. Likewise, population dynamics and youth unemployment are important elements affecting the conditions for the recruitment of terrorists.
Non-governmental organizations and industry also have an important role to play in counter-terrorism. Civil society can conduct education and deradicalization efforts in communities that are beyond the reach of governments. While governments may lag behind in ensuring regulation, research centres and industry can police themselves, through codes of conduct or ethics boards that ensure materials, research and technology do not fall into the wrong hands.
The Global Agenda Council on Terrorism will prioritize the following issue areas for the 2012-14 term:
- The impact of technology on counter-terrorism
- The interconnections between new terrorists
- The enemy: "lone wolves" within
- The role of civil society in counter-terrorism
- The nexus between terrorism and criminal activity
Council Manager: Isabel de Sola, Knowledge Manager, Global Agenda Councils, Isabel.firstname.lastname@example.org
Forum Lead: Martina Gmür, Senior Director, Head of the Network of Global Agenda Councils, email@example.com