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How successful have transnational terrorism and terrorists been tackled international law and international organizations?

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In addition to opportunities for development, globalization has been followed by the occurrence of higher threats. Often, events in one economy will impact others as well. For artistic, political, and social activities, the same occurs. Thus, globalization has allowed violent groups to transmit their messages and extend their influence. It has caused transnational terrorist organizations to expand, which, in addition to having extreme implications that exceed national boundaries, now have globalized agendas with their operations affecting many nations. For instance, the happenings of September 11, 2001, shocked the entire world in addition to transforming perspectives on the threat that terrorism brought about and the tools necessary to avert it. A comprehensive evaluation of the methods that have been adopted by the international community to combat transnational terrorism and terrorists is instrumental in illustrating their effectiveness with dealing with this menace.

Terrorism is widely defined as the utilization or danger of violence by non-state actors to sway people or governments to implement social or political change. Their association with globalization warrants the transnational aspect. Previously, terrorists had cross-border objectives but did not have the tools seen in the contemporary world to spread their message. However, today, transnational terrorism is capable of operating in several states besides employing the flow of weapons, people, and information to augment their cause. Al-Qaeda succeeded owing to the use of global tech, ideology, and mythology. The mythology of defeating the US during the 9/11 attacks allowed it to grow.

Globalization had allowed terror groups to adopt a franchise structure whereby they can claim responsibility for any attacks across the world by aiding smaller groups with finances, logistics, and other materials. Such affiliation was born from Al-Qaeda claiming that all Muslims were under the threat of Western oppression thereby replicating and operating worldwide. These developments have allowed terrorism to operate transnationally. It has created concern in the international community since states now not only fear to go to war with other countries but also falling victim to mobile criminal groups that shift between countries and are dispersed around the world.

This new wave of insecurity results in states seeing it as a threat to their sovereignty thus resulting in a myriad of responses. Nations have instituted new offenses, broadened legal descriptions of terrorism, allowing more powers of arrest and detention, and allocating more funds to anti-terrorism agencies. Additionally, countries have engaged in more cooperation particularly between policing and intelligence agencies to ensure that terrorism’s growth is hampered. States have also been participating in anti-radicalization initiatives to disrupt any notions that motivate terrorist violence. Such efforts are indicative of the concern for security that has now emerged.

International Law

The international community has come up with various instruments and initiatives to address this threat, primarily under the United Nations umbrella. The first one to be established was the Convention on Offences and Certain Other Acts Committed on Board Aircraft in 1963. Any action that compromises in-flight safety is to entail reasonable measures against the perpetrator besides having them transferred to the authorities. The 1970s saw other five conventions become instituted. 1988 saw three other treaties become adopted besides the 1990s experiencing other three conventions becoming law. The twenty-first century has seen more of these instruments being introduced. Consequently, these agreements define several offenses including crimes against civil aviation, international staff, the taking of hostages, possessing nuclear material, the safety of maritime navigation, having explosive materials, terrorist bombings, and nuclear terrorism. These treaties seem to have offered a code on offenses that can be considered terrorist.

These international treaties obligate nations to incorporate them in their local criminal legislation besides making these acts punishable that are reflective of the crimes. The signatories to these treaties are also in agreement of aiding in the creation of universal jurisdiction over these wrongdoings. They also agree to extradite any suspected individuals found in their borders or even to commence criminal proceedings. Nevertheless, to ease extradition, these instruments detail that terrorist offenses should not be taken as political infractions since the latter are not extraditable under many extradition policies.

Additionally, the protection of human rights is also enshrined in these treaties. This aspect is achieved three types of dispositions. There are provisions stipulating that the obligations established by the treaty are not prejudicial to other global responsibilities of a signatory. Secondly, the accused should be accorded their rights such being taken through the due process. Thirdly, there are conditions comprising the way extradition and prisoner transfer should be carried out. A majority of these treaties also allow for a non-citizen detainee to communicate with or even be visited by a consular representative.

International Organizations

Several transnational organizations have operations engaging in the fight against terrorism with each of them having its own strategies. The first one is the United Nations with its anti-terrorism activities being under the Counter-Terrorism Committee since the 9/11 attacks. 2006 saw all the General Assembly members reach the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy whereby this fight would be based on four pillars. They are the addressing of the conditions accommodating the spread, averting and combating it, building individual capacity and strengthening UN’s role, and safeguarding human rights and the rule of law. The Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force was also formed comprising UN entities and affiliated organizations thereby having the body coordinate them with the UN system besides aiding member states.

Secondly, the European Union has also been combating terrorism with the council adopting a strategy as from 2005 with it also having four main pillars. The first one is Prevent, which entails identifying and tackling radicalization causes and the processes that lead to terror acts. Another one is Protect with it stipulating that citizens and infrastructure should be protected besides the vulnerability to attack being reduced. An additional one is Pursue, which hinder any planning and organizing of terror attacks besides bring such individuals to justice. The last one is Respond with it advising preparation concerning the management and minimization of the impact of attacks.

Thirdly, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization engages in countering terrorism. It invoked its defense clause after the 9/11 attacks with its approach incorporating awareness, capabilities, and engagement. Shared awareness is realized via consultations, sharing of intelligence, and periodic strategic evaluation. Capability development is done to ensure the capacity to counter any form of threat. Another organization that participates in this fight is the International Monetary Fund. It is strategically placed to lead the efforts against the laundering of money and financing of terror groups. It does so via assessments, technical assistance, and policy development.

Successes of International Efforts

Several positive results have been realized from the implementation of international law and international organizations engaging in the fight against terrorism. International law has always played a huge role in this war. They have allowed nations to cooperate besides the resolutions made offering the framework for the global response to terror. UN’s conventions help in providing guidance to the countries engaged in this conflict. The UN has been helpful in rallying international efforts to fight this menace. It oversees various conventions that target diverse terrorism aspects. These treaties have formed a legal foundation for counterterrorism besides having bodies that oversee these resolutions.

The CTC has been instrumental in heartening regional organizations to boost their capacities of fighting terrorism. Also, the UN has been prosperous in amassing information from member states on the counter-terrorism undertakings thus being the leading repository on this issue. Additionally, it has been effective in averting the growth of terror. Through coordinated operations between nations and international agencies over two hundred million dollars have been frozen. Also, the law enforcement has enabled the arrest of over four thousand terror suspects inclusive of senior Al-Qaeda operatives. The UN law and actions have thus been helpful in curtailing the growth of terrorism.

Additionally, the cooperation of nations has enabled the fight to be taken to the terrorists via a diverse set of activities. Successful military operations have regime changes in states such as Afghanistan. Freedom and humanitarian relief have also been offered to people in the affected zones. It has also enabled an exploitation of unprecedented capacities in intelligence gathering and sharing to aid in locating, tracking, and apprehending terror suspects. These nations have also committed billions of dollars that have augmented this fight whereby nations are able to protect their citizens at home and engage the terrorists abroad.

An additional success is the growth of the anti-terrorism movement. It is an encouraging sign for western countries to see other nations helping in the fight. For instance, the coalition against ISIS has been receiving new countries including those located in Mideast such as the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. More members help to strengthen this combat against terror. In so doing, the coalition’s reinvigoration will enable it to regain cities held by ISIS and progressively push them out.

Failures of International Efforts

However, these efforts have some shortcomings, which have led to some viewing the existing efforts as ineffective. There is still no unanimous definition of terrorism among the members. Every state usually contests the presented definitions with regards to its political interests and agendas. Additionally, these international organizations rely on their members implementing the resolutions at the national level. Nevertheless, there are no provisions on what would happen when a state declines or cannot observe the mandates and the way of ensuring the implementation of these agreements.

There is the aspect of the rule of law being contravened. For instance, the US has established a prison in Guantanamo where unlawful combatants are held indefinitely in addition to these individuals not being subject to the jurisdiction of the United States based court or a foreign court. Suspected citizens can also undergo the same treatment. People have always been divided on whether the prisoner’s rights are being violated. This division is usually based on whether they should be classified as POWs or unlawful combatants. Nevertheless, even without giving them a technical status, keeping them forever without any review by a judicial body is unlawful thus running counter to the foundations of the rule of law. However, this stance influenced other nations, especially repressive administrations, to oppress people while using the rhetoric of fighting terrorism. Other countries saw it is a green light to having the authority to abuse their citizens.

Another criticism is that of nations engaging in the war unilaterally, in addition, there being no oversight over what actions they implement in this war. For instance, the US adopted a doctrine of preemption, which stipulated that the country would cease following the UN treaty obligations on when force could be used. It resulted in heavy criticism besides splitting the coalition that had other countries coming to its aid. This aspect could also influence other nations to follow suit and do as they please even though most operations are not within its jurisdictions. It brings about the question of how the sovereignty of a country can be broken by another.

Additionally, most people feel that the costs of the war are too significant. A myriad of soldiers has lost their lives in this engagement with terrorists. Several innocent civilians have also been caught died from the conflict. The engagements in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria have led to billions of dollars being used up whereas other sectors are lacking that need such resources to improve. Also, the back and forth battles leave some cities uninhabitable owing to the destruction that is left behind. Therefore, billions of dollars will also be needed to do away with the debris and rebuild such regions.

Furthermore, the power and reach of terror groups such as ISIS seem to be increasing. Firstly, the terror group has managed to engage the coalition in Syria for a long time. They now hold the Anbar province besides continuing to take some cities. It raises the question of the ability of the coalition to repel ISIS. Secondly, lone-wolf occurrences have been on the rise. ISIS-trained fighters or sympathetic individuals have staged fatal attacks in Paris, Australia, and Canada among many other places. All these actions are considered as wins for the terror group. Some of these perpetrators have never visited the Mideast and were converted by the group’s social media communications. Therefore, it shows that counterterrorism efforts are still not efficacious in curtailing radicalization.


In conclusion, a comprehensive assessment of the approaches employed by the international community in combating transnational terrorism helps in depicting their effectiveness in dealing with this menace. Transnational terrorism has been one of the shortcomings of globalization, which has enabled it to adopt a franchise structure whereby terror groups can claim responsibility for attacks perpetrated by small groups by availing the latter with finances, logistics, and other materials. The international community has come up with several instruments and treaties that address this threat under the UN besides availing a code on the offenses that can be categorized under terrorism. Additionally, various transnational organizations have taken up the fight against terror with each having its own bodies and strategies. They include the UN, EU, NATO, and IMF. Additionally, the successes and failures of these international efforts have been discussed thereby showing that the implemented undertakings may have succeeded in curtailing some terrorist activities, but there still needs significant changes in approach since a lot of criticism has been given concerning the chosen tactics.


Fortna, Virginia Page. "Do Terrorists Win? Rebels' Use of Terrorism and Civil War Outcomes." International Organization 69, no. 03 (2015): 519-556.

Joachim, Jutta, and Birgit Locher, eds. Transnational Activism in the UN and the EU: A Comparative Study. Routledge, 2008.

O'Donnell, Daniel. "International treaties against terrorism and the use of terrorism during armed conflict and by armed forces." International Review of the Red Cross 88, no. 864 (2006): 853-880.

Rosand, Eric. "Security council resolution 1373, the counter-terrorism committee, and the fight against terrorism." The American Journal of International Law 97, no. 2 (2003): 333-341.

Sandler, Todd. "Collective action and transnational terrorism." The World Economy 26, no. 6 (2003): 779-802.

September 21, 2021


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