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Permanent Monitoring Panel -
Motivations for Terrorism

Members of the Panel:

John, Lord Alderdice (U.K)

Members and Associate Members:
Khurshid Ahmad (Pakistan); Scott Atran (USA); Richard Davis; Baruch Fischhoff (USA); Bertil Galland (Switzerland); Munther J. Haddadin (Jordan); Pervez Hoodbhoy (Pakistan); Ariel Merari (Israel); Mohiaddin Mesbahi (Iran); Marc Sageman (USA); Carlo Strenger (Israel); Busso von Alvensleben (Germany)

(Associate Panel Members are a community of scientists who provide support and expertise for the working of the Permanent Monitoring Panel.)

Summary of the Emergency

While the history of terrorist acts goes back many centuries, 'terrorism' as we understand it developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The latter half of the 20th century saw increasing effectiveness and sophistication, not least during the Cold War period when various conflicts were given tacit or direct support by the USA and USSR as they sought to gain advantage in their conflict with each other. Some of these terrorist campaigns continued or found new focus in the post-communist era, but the events of 11 September 2001 and subsequent developments focused the attention of the contemporary world on this issue in a very particular way, not least because of the response of the USA and the resultant impact of its so-called 'War on Terror' on the structure and functioning of global society.

Priorities in dealing with the Emergency

The World Federation of Scientists immediately reacted to '9/11' as it became known by beginning its consideration of the subject, first in its Annual Session in 2002, and then by establishing a Permanent Monitoring Panel on Terrorism at its next Annual Session in August 2003. The Permanent Monitoring Panel on Terrorism was established with the objective of identifying scientific and 'do-able' solutions to contain and possibly eliminate the growing scourge and its impact.

The PMPT brought together a group of eminent scientists and scholars in regular sessions in Erice each May, and it quickly became clear that while the technical aspects of mitigating terrorist attacks particularly benefited from the expertise and research of the applied physical sciences, addressing the motivations of those who engaged in terrorism required especial input from the applied social sciences, and two sub-groups emerged dealing with Mitigation and Motivations. These two groups view the problem from different angles, but the two approaches are entirely complementary, and neither can succeed in resolving the problem alone.

By 2007 however the work had evolved to the point with these two strands of work - the Mitigation of Terrorism and the Motivations for Terrorism - that it was decided with the approval of the President of WFS to have two PMPT's addressing these different elements, but cooperating closely.

The Permanent Monitoring Panel on the Motivations for Terrorism continues with the same objectives as before, monitoring research that is being conducted, organising scientific workshops to channel research efforts and reconcile conflicting views on scientific and related ethical issues, helping disseminate relevant scientific data and information, developing recommendations for use by governments and international agencies, elaborating project proposals to conduct research in collaboration with scientists and others from relevant countries, and seeking to operationalize the results of scientific research in the cause of deeper understanding and for the purposes of cause of peace rather than war.

Latest Statements, Papers and Reports

Papers and Publications

  • World Scientific Publications -the International Seminars on Nuclear War and Planetary Emergencies Series - The 29th Session - Erice May 2003 - The Cultural Emergency: Focus on Terrorism
  • World Scientific Publications - the International Seminars on Nuclear War and Planetary Emergencies Series - The 31st Session - Erice May 2005 - The Cultural Emergency: Focus on Terrorism