A novel and important issue in contemporary security policy is the implication that natural disasters have on terrorism within a state. Natural disasters create possible vulnerabilities which may in turn damage the legitimacy of a government in the eyes of both its people and any opposition groups. Whether this weakness is one which terrorist groups choose to exploit remains an empirical question. I will study this question using a structured methodology and detailed information on terrorism, natural disasters, and other relevant economic and demographic variables of 165 countries between 1970 and 2007. This project will provide identification and empirical quantification of the effect of natural disasters on terrorism, explore the different possible mechanisms at play, analyze the timing and geospatial correlates (e.g. whether the effect of the severity of a disaster on a country’s terrorism reflects changes only in that country’s susceptibility or if the effect spills over to neighboring countries as well), whether there are differing effects by various disaster types (e.g. climatologic and meteorological versus geophysical and hydrological), and whether or not foreign aid after a disaster help mitigate severity and thus decrease the disaster’s effect on terrorism, or to the contrary exacerbate violence by finding its way into the hands of rebel groups. The understanding of these relationships will have direct policy implications with respect to the most effective and appropriate strategies for mitigating terrorist actions during disaster recovery, an area which has not been previously explored.
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