The People

 

March 01, 2005

David Wright-Neville:

One-question Interview

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Dr. David Wright-Neville has worked as a senior intelligence analyst for the Australian government. He is also consulted widely by Australian and foreign government agencies on terrorism-related issues. His current research focuses on both the relationship between globalisation and political violence, especially in Southeast Asia and the Indian sub-continent. Related areas of research interest include the political psychology of violence, Western and non-Western counter-terrorism policies, and the role of intelligence in countering terrorism. He also lectures on terrorism, violence and identity at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.

His most recent publication is an edited book with Marika Vicziany and Pete Lentini entitled Regional Security in the Asia Pacific. 9/11 and After (Edward Elgar, 2004).


Q: To which extent are a country's terrorist activity and its economic poverty a cause or and effect of each other? How does globalisation fit in such a cycle, can it break it, or will it provide more sparks to ignite the mix?

A: The nexus between poverty and terrorism is not clear cut. My own reserch on terrorist groups in South and East Asia suggests that poverty is an important component in the radicalization of individuals and groups, but mostly through its symbolic role as an indicator of a deeper set of systemic inequities. In Indonesia for example, groups such as the Jemaah Islamiyah use poverty as the clearest example of a global system dominated by the West (especially the US) enriches the few at the material and cultural expense of the majority. In this way poverty merges with other deprivations - such as the denial of social opportunity and of political and cultural rights - to create a milieu within which radical agendas can take root.

However, while poverty (along with other deprivations) might incline some individuals towards accepting the legitimacy of terrorist agendas, it does not seem to play as strong a role in determining whether an individual will translate their support for a terrorist ideology into active participation in acts of terrorist violence. In other words, the role of poverty is more important in sustaining communities of support for terrorist groups and less important in determining whether a single individual will participate in carrying out acts of terrorist violence. The jump from passive support to actual membership in a terrorist group results from a more complex mix of motivational drivers, including the personal history of the individual concerned, their political and social environment and unique psychological characteristics.

Even so, it is clear to me that any counter-terrorism strategy, if it is to succeed in managing the threat of terrorism, needs to address the issue of the community of support. And to this extent poverty alleviation and the promotion of political and cultural rights must be foremost.

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The Workshop

On March 11th 2005 the Atocha Workshop on Global Terrorism, hosted by the Safe Democracy Foundation, will create a repository of original thinking on Global Terrorism that will continue to be fed weekly in the form of a weblog by creative thinkers on the subject from around the world.

The launching event will take place at the Atocha Train Station on March 11th, 2005 at the restaurant Samarkanda. Here, in in an atmosphere that will encourage creative thinking, around 200 people will participate as policy proponents, webloggers or as public; all will be engaged in the discussion of the proposed policies.
Workshop Program and Agenda >>

The People

The Workshop will bring together journalists, politicians, activists and scholars in the fields of democratic advocacy and terrorism analysis (see full list). We are introducing them by means of One Question Interviews. Anyone can register to the Workshop and participate by asking them further questions, challenging their assumptions or proposing their own alternative ideas.
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The Proposals

The general criteria for published ideas in the Atocha Workshop Weblog are that they be original, creative, potentially executable and most important that their implementation would likely lead to a more democratic world. The basic concept of the Worshop is that in politics, as in biology, diversity is needed to fight a threat. Political leaders, when confronted with the problem of global terrorism need a menu of possible responses. From the proceeds of the discussion on the weblog plus the physical event we will offer a series of Policy Proposals.
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The Topics

During the Creative Debates we will be working towards making Policy Proposals from the 12 topics that we have selected. These topics are only starting points.
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The Atocha Workshop is sponsored by the Safe Democracy Foundation. (Formerly the Varsavsky Foundation)

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