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Poverty Breeds Terrorism

Globally, the debate on terrorism has gained much attention since the beginning of this century. For the last many years terrorism along with its origin, causes, effects, consequences and implications is amongst the hot topics of debate in the discipline of social sciences, many valuable studies in developed and developing nations have been conducted to establish the relationship of terrorism with its root causes and remedies. The terrorist attacks have been patent with the different names as terrorism, extremism, religious fundamentalism, clash of civilizations etc. Internationally the burning issue of terrorism has many folds; it has embraced many countries to rethink their security strategies. From money laundering to cyber-crimes everything has now been critically examined to find linkages with terrorism. Nations have invested a substantial amount of their budgets for internal and external security.

The study of terrorism is multidisciplinary covering a number of grounds including political science, sociology, criminology, Psychology, economics and many others. Researchers in their respective capacities have tried to elaborate the phenomenon, yet it has generally highlighted more queries than provided retorts. The studies reveal that most of the authors have linked terrorism with its causes by focusing on psychology of individuals or groups. A meaningful work of Jerrold(2002) is a distinction that outlines psychological thinking of individuals involved in terrorism by focusing on extent of conditions and characteristics that can force individual/group to take a risk to indulge in terrorism. Edward Newman (2006) has described the root causes of terrorism he stated that root causes can be further broken down into permissive structural factors and direct underlying grievances Structural factors create an enabling environment that, alone, is of no explanatory value but when in conjunction with other factors, may have explanatory value. Underlying grievances are more than merely structural: they represent tangible political issues.

As far as substantial and worthwhile works are concerned Andrew Silke points outs “a review of recent research work found that only about 20 percent of published articles on terrorism are providing substantially new knowledge on the subject” (2003: xvii).Many scholars have argued the lack of concrete research and a viable theory of terrorism (see Deflem, 2004; Bergesen and Lizardo, 2004). The studies done on the topic of poverty as a main cause to induce terrorism reveals scatter results while there are some studies which exhibit a strong relation and vice versa. However, all theories are united on one point that some type of conflict is at the base of every terrorist movement. Some theories just confine themselves to explaining what generates this conflict, while others explain how this conflict may turn into acts of terrorism. Hence, there is a strong need for developing a theory of terrorism after synthesizing the scattered facts and theories, which could offer “explanation of its causation, the dynamics of its escalation and de-escalation” (Turk, 2004: 285). As defined by Webster’s dictionary, terrorism is “the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.” We have seen in the past the many nations have been attacked by terrorist, endangering valuable lives of humans and other assets.

According to the Global terrorism Index 2012 the countries ranked on highest numbers have majority of features in common. For instance all the first four countries possess high poverty, illiteracy, unemployment combined with poor health and education condition. Republics that belongs to lower or lower-middle income cluster have experienced the worst terrorist activities in the past decade with a tenfold increase occurring since 2002. This is shown in the list above by the point that amongst the 10 nations that have the highest scores in Global terrorism Index, 07 are classified in the category of lower-middle and two are classified in low income category. In recent years, Afghanistan and Somalia ( both belong to low income category) have experienced growth in terrorist attacks that is multiple of 04 times since 2002. According to Global Peace index report of 2013 Injuries and fatalities in lower middle income countries took a sharp rise in 2005 mirroring the drastic increase observed in Iraq during this period. This increase began in January 2005 as Iraq held its first democratic election after the Second Gulf War. Upper middle and high income countries have seen a steady decrease in fatalities from 2002.

Altogether South Asian region is amongst the least peaceful region as compared to all over the world. Afghanistan, Pakistan and India have experienced relatively higher terrorism from the recent years. It must be noted that the terrorism in all three countries have different origins and shapes.

Saroj Kumar Rath (2012) states that however, the task of uncovering terrorism’s root causes is complicated because certain types of causes, such as poverty or modernization, produce all kinds of social outcomes, of which terrorism is just one (Bjorgo, 2005: 2). British PM Tony Blair emphasized that ‘Terrorism’s teeth are planted in the fertile soil of wrongs un-righted, of disputes left to fester for years or even decades, of failed states, of poverty and deprivation (Blair. 2001). Secretary of State Colin Powell said that ‘the root cause of terrorism does come from situations where there is poverty, where there is ignorance, where people see no hope in their lives (Powell. 2002).’ A US Senate Resolution declared that “The education of children around the world addresses several of the root causes of international terrorism. The distribution of food in schools increases the attendance of children who might otherwise be susceptible to recruitment by groups that offer them food in return for their attendance at extremist schools or participation in terrorist training camps” (Congressional Record, 2004: 11533).

Consequentially, the US National Strategy for Combating Terrorism cites winning the ‘War on Poverty’ as a means to diminish support for terrorist organizations and recruitment (Khan& Afshan, 2008: 65-86). Kim Dae-Jung, the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize recipient and President of South Korea said that, “At the bottom of terrorism is poverty. That is the main cause. Then there are other religious, national, and ideological differences” (Jai, 2001).

Particularly in the scenario of South Asia and Countries like Iraq and Somalia it is evident that the elements that provide the breeding space for terrorism are in abundance. The political structure is labeled with poor governance and corruption; the state does not fulfills its responsibility in providing food, shelter, clothing, education and health to the common. Most importantly the countries in which youth makes up a significant proportion of the total population like Pakistan the dramatic rise of youth unemployment is critical and is likely to establish the fundamental engine of political violence and terrorism. Caruso and Schneider (2011) find a positive and significant association between youth unemployment and terrorism in Europe for the period 1994-2007. In particular, they find a significant association between youth unemployment and incidence of terrorism. Caruso and Gavrilova (2012) find a positive association between the growth rate of youth unemployment and the brutality and incidence of violence in Palestine.

How these developing countries can invest on youth to make them economically viable; when the cost that has been incurred to strengthen the internal and external security is so much that it does not allow the government regimes to allocate substantial amount for the development programs for youth. According to Transparency International report India is spending 4% on its education sector of its total GDP, where as Nepal 3.4%, Srilanka 2.1%, Bangladesh 2.4% and Pakistan 2.2%. As far as military expenditure and defense budgets are concerned they are far above the education and health spending.

The need of the day is that for a better and prosperous world, all the developing countries should invest generously on their human resource to make them economically viable. The education and health sectors should be given handsome proportions to make this world more peaceful.

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