Political freedom, not poverty, leads to terrorism

March 28th, 2008 - 11:56 am ICT by admin  

Washington, March 28 (IANS) Terrorism is not rooted in poverty as popularly perceived but could be caused by political freedom and geographic factors, says a new study. “There is no significant relationship between a country’s wealth and level of terrorism once factors like political freedom are taken into account,” according to Harvard University’s Alberto Abadie, author of the study.

“Nations with very high or very low levels of political freedom tend to experience little terrorism,” said Abadie in a press release.

He pointed out how an authoritarian country like North Korea has low levels of terrorism. Repressive tactics used to eliminate political dissent may help keep terrorism at bay, he said.

On the other hand, nations similar to Iraq with intermediate levels of political freedom, or those that are transitioning from high to low or low to high levels of political freedom, produce conditions more favourable for terrorism.

Abadie makes the point by underscoring conditions in his native Basque region of Spain, which has seen terrorism for almost half a century as groups promote independence.

The finding comes against the backdrop of several international summits that have addressed issues of terrorism and poverty.

For example, in March 2002, leaders from more than 50 nations met in Monterrey, Mexico and called for more aid to poor countries to help eliminate extreme poverty as a motivation for terrorism.

Michael K. Moore, then the head of the World Trade Organisation, told delegates: “Poverty in all its forms is the greatest single threat to peace, security, democracy, human rights and the environment”.

Abadie’s review of the World Market Research Centre’s Global Terrorism Index found no clear correlation between terrorism and poverty.

Although development aid is important, it is not clear that it is an effective tool for reducing terrorism, at least not in the short run. More attention should be paid to political freedom because it “correlates with terrorism, but in a complicated way”, Abadie said.

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