Horizon Scanning the Terrorism Threat: Understanding the drivers of terrorism and anticipating new threats

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Understanding the causes of terrorism represents an important step in anticipating the emergence of new terrorist campaigns and offers real potential to assist with the mitigation of the impact of terrorist conflicts. Macro-level causes will be the main factors responsible for future terrorism. Examples could include civil war or deep-rooted conflicts, invasion and occupation by foreign military forces, bad governance and corruption, rapid modernisation or technological developments (like the rise of the internet and social media) and actions by hostile states. Emerging macro-level causes which appear to be of growing seriousness and significance include population growth, social polarisation, climate change and migration patterns. The COVID-19 pandemic is another example of a macro-level event with the potential to have serious impacts on terrorism trends. It can be difficult to design counterterrorism policy around major global trends as they require a much more holistic approach to tackle them effectively. They are also longer-term threats, and there can be reluctance to think beyond what is immediately around the corner. The international response to COVID-19 for example exposed a wide range of serious flaws and failures in terms of long-term preparation and mitigation. Similar challenges await in terms of other long-term drivers of terrorism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-29
Number of pages4
JournalSolutions Annual Review
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • terrorism
  • political violence
  • population trends
  • climate change
  • immigration
  • future of terrorism
  • causes of terrorism

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