Multilateral Counter‐terrorism: The Global Politics of Cooperation and Contestation

Stuart Kirby (Lecturer in Criminology, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK.)

Safer Communities

ISSN: 1757-8043

Article publication date: 15 July 2011



Kirby, S. (2011), "Multilateral Counter‐terrorism: The Global Politics of Cooperation and Contestation", Safer Communities, Vol. 10 No. 3, pp. 49-50.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Contemporary terrorism is a global phenomenon requiring a global response, but how is this response delivered? Is the responsibility shared equally by all affected nation‐states, is it proportionate, and which international leaders are the most prominent? As a university lecturer who introduces criminology students to the subject of terrorism I find it surprising that a topic so widely discussed, and affecting so many, has such a limited number of quality academic books on the subject. This book, which attempts to answer all these questions, therefore, emerges as a welcome addition. Written by Peter Romaniuk, an Assistant Professor of Political Science at John Jay University (New York, NY), it seeks to explain how nation states have acted to deliver multilateral responses to counter‐terrorism.

The over‐riding impression is that this book exists as a labour of love, with each word and section being carefully crafted. The content is tightly arranged and scripted, set out in a logical framework. The technical detail is meticulously arranged with three pages of acronyms painting the language of terrorism and, following the five chapters of the book, a further 102 pages which provide notes, appendices, and an index.

The introduction sets the scene. It defines, describes, and analyses the term “multilateral counter‐terrorism”, setting out its history since the 1880s. Describing the different terrorist groups across the world, it analyses how responses vary in approach and time. Nothing appears to be accepted at face value with each expression, piece of legislation, and political agreement being rigorously dissected and inspected.

Chapter 1 provides the historical framework for multilateral counter‐terrorism. It focuses on the pre Second World War period showing how trends formed which are observed even today. This includes the difficulty governments have in reaching consensus as efforts are made to constantly negotiate around political sensitivities in a constantly changing world.

Chapter 2 deals with the period between the end of Second World War and 9/11 (1945‐2001). This is a highly influential period; commencing with the demise of the League of Nations and the emergence of the United Nations in 1945. Romaniuk continues by highlighting the period between 1970‐2000 when approximately 100,000 terrorist attacks took place, personified by high profile attacks (Black September at the Olympic Games) and new approaches (highjacking).

Chapter 3 flows seamlessly forward, analysing the multilateral action from 9/11 onwards, showing how the unity generated by the atrocity ran into difficulty following concerns about the intrusiveness into domestic affairs and breaches of international human rights law. The reader is also presented with an understanding of the speed and ambition for change, which resulted in a multifaceted response covering financial regulation, migration and custom controls, movement of weaponry, and the use of communications technologies. This is followed by Chapter 4 that looks at multilateral counter‐terrorism beyond the United Nations explaining the proliferation of regional, sub regional or theme‐based affiliations.

The final chapter called “today and tomorrow” poses two questions. First, it asks whether a multilateral approach works. Analysis shows this is a difficult question to answer due to the problems in measuring both the level of terrorism and the impact of the response. Second, it enquires about the future prospects for multilateral counter‐terrorism, finishing on a positive note by pointing out that history now shows what co‐operative arrangements can achieve, and what they cannot.

In conclusion, the book provides a technical and detailed account of multilateral approaches to counter‐terrorism from the anarchism of the 1880s to the international terrorism of the twenty‐first century. Although the level of detail does not make this book an easy read it serves as an outstanding reference for those interested in the subject. It also shows that the inevitability of continued terrorist attacks will always brings nation states back to the negotiating table.

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