Washington, March 27 : A new study has suggested that terrorism might be motivated more by political freedom than poverty.
Alberto Abadie, public policy professor at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, conducted the study, which was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).
"There is no significant relationship between a country's wealth and level of terrorism once other factors like the country's level of political freedom are taken into account," said Abadie.
As part of the study, Abadie's review of the World Market Research Centre's Global Terrorism Index found no clear correlation between terrorism and poverty.
"People say 'poverty breeds terrorism' and that seems obvious, but when one looks at the data, it has to be questioned if it's really true," said Nancy Lutz, economics program director at NSF. "In fact, the data tell us that there's no link between poverty and terrorism, which suggests that attempts to reduce terrorism by fighting poverty will not work," she added.
The finding comes despite several international meetings designed to address issues of terrorism and poverty.
According to Abadie, the big takeaway from his study for policymakers is that 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.
He said that more attention should be paid to political freedom because it "correlates with terrorism, but in a complicated way."
"Nations with very high or very low levels of political freedom tend to experience little terrorism," said Abadie.
As an example, Abadie points to North Korea as an authoritarian country with a low level of terrorism. He speculates that the repressive tactics used to eliminate political dissent there may help keep terrorism at bay.
On the other hand, nations similar to Iraq with intermediate levels of political freedom, or that are transitioning from high to low or low to high levels of political freedom produce conditions more favorable for terrorism.
But, Abadie couldn't determine whether recent U.S. actions in Iraq would eliminate terrorism in the long run as that country transitions to a new government with presumably more political freedom.
"It's true that countries with higher levels of political freedom tend to have lower levels of terrorism. However, actively intervening from the outside to increase the level of political freedom in a society may have unforeseeable consequences," he said.