Our directory of things of interest

Fear factor: decreasing terrorism

Turkey is the OECD country most affected by terrorism, at ninth in the world Turkey is the OECD country most affected by terrorism, at ninth in the world
21 Dec
Terrorism appears to be spreading globally, yet is simultaneously becoming less deadly

While two-thirds of the world’s nations experienced at least one terror attack in 2016, and 77 countries suffered at least one terror-related fatality, a significant drop in four of the five countries most impacted by terrorism – Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria – meant that 2016 was the second year in a row in which global deaths due to terrorism decreased. A total of 25,673 deaths last year amounted to a 13 per cent drop year-on-year, and a 22 per cent decline since the peak of terrorist-related deaths in 2014, according to the latest Global Terrorism Index, a report published annually since 2012 by global think tank, the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP). ‘Terrorism deaths globally are actually declining,’ confirms Murray Ackman, a research associate at the IEP. ‘Yet despite these declines in terrorism deaths in known terrorism hotspots, the overwhelming majority of deaths from terrorism still occur in these hotspots. In fact, 99 per cent of the victims of terrorism are in countries in conflict or with high levels of political terror.’

The world’s most terror-afflicted country, Iraq, was the only one of the top five to buck the trend, with 9,765 people killed across 2,965 separate terror incidents last year, primarily through the actions of ISIS (even as the group lost significant territory). More positively, a huge 80 per cent drop in deaths in Nigeria attributed to the terror group Boko Haram meant that 3,100 fewer people lost their lives compared to the previous year.

Global Terrorism Index 2017 SnapshotGlobal Terrorism Index 2017 (Image: Institute for Economics and Peace)

‘Unlike ISIS, Boko Haram has not been able to extend its influence into other areas to compensate for its territorial losses due to infighting within the group,’ explains Ackman. ‘There are now three large factions of Boko Haram each aligned to different leaders, affiliated with different foreign terrorist groups and thus with different tactical aims.’

Despite high profile terror incidents in both Europe and North America, OECD (the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries suffered only one per cent of global terror-related deaths last year, with a total of 265 people killed. Turkey is the OECD country most affected, at ninth in the world, with France at 23rd, the US at 32nd, and the UK at 35th.

‘It should also be noted that the recent spread of terrorism across OECD countries is not unique,’ adds Ackman. ‘In 1985, there were 14 countries that sustained a fatal terrorist attack; this compares to 11 countries in 2016. To date, more people have been killed by either Irish separatists or ETA attacks than ISIS and ISIS-inspired attacks.’ With only 82 deaths during the first half of 2017, this declining trend appears to be continuing into a third year. 

This was published in the January 2018 edition of Geographical magazine.

Related items

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

Subscribe Today

Adventure Canada


Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Winchester




Travel the Unknown


Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    The Air That We Breathe
    Cities the world over are struggling to improve air quality as scandals surrounding diesel car emissions come to light and the huge health costs of po...
    Diabetes: The World at Risk
    Diabetes is often thought of as a ‘western’ problem, one linked to the developed world’s overindulgence in fatty foods and chronic lack of physi...
    The Nuclear Power Struggle
    The UK appears to be embracing nuclear, a huge U-turn on government policy from just two years ago. Yet this seems to be going against the grain globa...
    The true cost of meat
    As one of the world’s biggest methane emitters, the meat industry has a lot more to concern itself with than merely dietary issues ...


NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.