Envisaging more constructive alternatives to the counter-terror paradigm

The Institute for Economics and Peace’s Global Terrorism Index 2014 documents an increase in global ‘terrorist’ activity over the last decade, and highlight that traditional policy responses are not necessarily succeeding. Most of the public conversation about terrorism has focused on conventional counter-terror efforts, that overlap with and influence stabilisation and statebuilding efforts. However, such efforts are often ineffective, and even counterproductive. In ‘Envisaging more constructive alternatives to the counter-terror paradigm’, Larry Attree (Saferworld) and David Keen (London School of Economics) draw on their forthcoming research on the dilemmas of counter-terror, stabilisation and statebuilding. They outline six things to do less often and six directions for constructive alternatives to the counter-terror paradigm that could prove crucial in achieving lasting peace and human security in affected contexts.

In line with Saferworld’s forthcoming report on these issues, this paper calls for the development of holistic strategies for building peace that give due emphasis to less violent, more constructive alternatives. These alternative approaches should:

  • Avoid defining conflicts narrowly as problems of ‘terror’, ‘extremism’ or ‘radicalisation’, and instead adopting a more impartial, holistic and sustainable approach to resolving them
  • Change international and national policies and approaches that fuel grievances
  • Redouble efforts for diplomacy, lobbying and advocacy to make the case for peace and adherence to international law by conflict actors
  • Look for opportunities to negotiate peace – and do so in a way that balances pragmatic considerations with a determined focus to achieve inclusive and just political settlements as swiftly as possible in any given context
  • Consider the use of legal and judicial responses and carefully targeted sanctions
  • Support transformative reform efforts to improve governance and achieve inclusive, fair, responsive and accountable state-society relations
  • Choose not to engage if harm cannot be avoided and no clear solution is evident.

While many of these options have pitfalls of their own, this paper argues that more constructive approaches would provide a stronger basis for building peace.

A forthcoming Saferworld briefing and report will examine these issues in more depth.

Read the full Global Terrorism Index here.

“This paper identifies some key questions about how counter-terrorism, and related stabilisation and statebuilding efforts, are being pursued, and suggests some constructive peacebuilding alternatives.”

Larry Attree