Deadly connections: The role of IGO membership in state vulnerability to transnational terrorism

Crystal E Shelton, Purdue University


While states increasingly turn to intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) for counterterrorism assistance, little is known about the role IGOs play in shaping the targeting decisions of terrorist groups. This study addresses this gap by using a mixed methods approach to examine the direct and indirect paths by which IGO membership alters a state's vulnerability to attack. Overall, this project has three main findings. First, IGO membership motivates groups to commit transnational attacks in member states. Terrorist groups punish member states for their association with IGOs they believe wronged the group in some manner. Second, IGO membership encourages transnational terrorism indirectly by fostering democratic transitions, although this relationship is substantively small. Instead, autocracies that belong to democratically dense IGOs are more likely to experience terrorism over the long run because tensions between non-democratic and democratic members unintentionally created safe havens for terrorists to regroup and launch attacks at a future date. Finally, the relationship between IGO membership and transnational terrorism shifted after the September 11th attacks, where democratic and non-democratic states that belong to greater numbers of IGOs are less likely to experience attacks than countries that belong to fewer organizations.




Hoffman, Purdue University.

Subject Area

International Relations|Political science

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