THE economic cost of terrorism reached its highest ever level in 2014 at US$52.9 billion, an increase of 61 per cent from the previous year's total of US$32.9 billion, and a tenfold increase since 2000.
According to the latest annual Global Terrorism Index by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), which has been collecting data since 1997, the number of lives lost to terrorism increased by 80 per cent in 2014, reaching the highest level ever recorded at 32,658. This compares to 18,111 in 2013.
The report, which comes in the wake of the attacks in Paris, France on Friday, said the increase represents the largest yearly increase in deaths ever recorded. It also highlights the dramatic rise in terrorism over time, with deaths increasing by nine-fold since the year 2000.
It reveals that just two terrorist groups, ISIL and Boko Haram, are now jointly responsible for 51 per cent of all global fatalities from claimed terrorist attacks. Boko Haram, which pledged its allegiance to ISIL as the Islamic State's West Africa Province (ISWAP) in March 2015 , has become the world's deadliest terrorist group, causing 6,644 deaths compared to ISIL's 6,073.
Terrorism is also highly concentrated: just five countries - Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria , Pakistan and Syria - accounted for 78 per cent of all deaths in 2014.
However, terrorism spread significantly in the past year. The number of countries that suffered more than 500 deaths has more than doubled, increasing from five in 2013 to 11 in 2014. The new additions were Somalia, Ukraine, Yemen, Central African Republic, South Sudan and Cameroon.
Statistical analysis of the patterns of terrorist activity since 1989 found that there were two factors most closely associated with terrorism. These are the levels of political violence committed by the state, and the level of armed conflict within a country. The report finds that 92 per cent of all terrorist attacks between 1989 and 2014 occurred in countries where political violence by the government was widespread, while 88 per centof all terrorist attacks between 1989 and 2014 occurred in countries that were experiencing or involved in violent conflicts.
Executive Chairman of IEP, Steve Killelea, noted the drivers of terrorism differ between more and less developed countries. In the W est, socio-economic factors such as youth unemployment and drug crime correlate with terrorism. In non-OECD countries, terrorism shows stronger associations with ongoing conflict, corruption and violence.
"Since we can see a number of clearly identifiable socio-political factors that foster terrorism, it is important to implement policies that aim to address these associated causes. This includes reducing state-sponsored violence, diffusing group grievances, and improving respect for human rights and religious freedoms, while considering cultural nuances," he said.
Lone wolf attackers are the main perpetrators of terrorist activity in the West, causing 70 per cent of all deaths over the past 10 years. Islamic fundamentalism is not the main driver of terrorism in Western countries: 80 per cent of lone wolf deaths are by political extremists, nationalists, racial and religious supremacists.