Magazine article Risk Management

A Global Definition of Terrorism

Magazine article Risk Management

A Global Definition of Terrorism

Article excerpt

Global Perspectives

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As more countries adopt state-sponsored pools, the patchwork of terrorism definitions in their charters could multiply. If this occurs, the potential for confusion and conflict intensifies, and commercial enterprises that operate across borders will find risk management increasingly complex. A global definition is not immune from political influence in certifying an act of terrorism, but it is more likely to result in consistent application of coverage and more predictable certifications of terrorist acts.

Definitions of Terrorism

In order to propose a global definition of terrorism, we must compare and identify patterns in the elements that make up existing interpretations.

Perpetrators. All definitions of terrorism categorize the perpetrator, sometimes as a person or organization acting on behalf of a terrorist group or on behalf of foreign interests. Although some definitions do not require the individuals to be connected to an organization, most do. Few define such persons as operatives of a foreign government, however, which would bring the definition closer to that of war.

State Sponsorship. State sponsorship generally is not a prerequisite in the definition of terrorism. None of the U.S. proposals for federally backed terrorism coverage include it, nor does the London market or the United Kingdom's Pool Re.

Motive. Definitions of terrorism routinely require motives for the actions. The U.S. proposals vary. Two proposals suggest destabilization of the government. Three of the proposals name "to coerce the civilian population" as a motive. Hong Kong's proposed ordinance broadens the motive to "intimidate the public and to require that the use of threat is made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause." The definition from Lloyd's Underwriters Non-Marine Association (NMA) adds as a motive "to put the public, or any section of the public, in fear."

Method The major distinction between the various definitions' reference to method is the use of violence. The Pool Re definition requires an act of force or violence. In the U.S. versions, the act must be unlawful and cause harm or be violent. …

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