Security, like peace, identity and other terminologies in that fold of international political theory has attracted many definitions. Unfortunately, many contributors approach these concepts from their own ideologies. Hence, broad areas of description of the term “security” exist. If defining security is that elusive, there is little wonder why operating within its coverage is so fluid. In the name of security, people and governments have taken actions where intended and unintended outcomes have become difficult to handle. Because of its seeming lack of conceptual boundary, security, as a concept, is used to entice and whip up patronage for many political projects both at the state and international levels of politicking. Hence, Paul D. Williams argued that “security is therefore a powerful political tool in claiming attention for priority items in the competition for government attention”.1

In the context of this article, Samuel Makinda’s definition of security as “the preservation of the norms, rules, institutions and values of society”2 appears to be useful. He further argues that all the institutions, principles and structures associated with society, including its people are to be protected from “military and non-military threats”.3 The term “preservation”, as an important component of this definition, presupposes conscious, deliberate and definite steps and actions. Hence, the perception of the leadership of a society determines its actions and guides its efforts, which becomes evident in the width and depth of the security agenda of that society.

In many forums on the topic of security, there has been an attempt to establish a divide between national and global security. Although, in theory, a boundary exists between these two conceptual frameworks, such a boundary is not sufficient to maintain a clear-cut delimitation between them. Rather, they have a symbiotic relationship, although limited to the local security sphere, which states lack the capacity to handle unilaterally.  Equivalently, there are issues at the international sphere that will require a domestic security apparatus to deal with.

This article is aimed at articulating reasons for more collaboration, cooperation and synergy between national and global security apparatus and mechanisms.

National security has been described as the ability of a state to cater for the protection and defence of its citizenry. Makinda’s definition of security fits into this confine of national security. Global security, on the other hand, evolved from the necessity that nature and many other activities, particularly globalization, have placed on states. These are demands that no national security apparatus has the capacity to handle on its own and, as such, call for the cooperation of states. The global interconnection and interdependence among states that the world has experienced and continues to experience since the end of the cold war, makes it necessary for states to cooperate more and work together.

One of the major challenges that the field of global security has to contend with is the concept of security complex,4 a situation in which the security concerns of states are deeply interconnected to the point that one state’s security needs cannot be realistically considered without taking into consideration the security needs of the other states.5 The fear or threat content of security complex breeds rivalry among states. The remedy for such rivalry lies in cooperation which can only be found in global security initiatives among states.

With the advocacy of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) human security elements have acquired a wider dimension, for they go beyond military protection and engage threats to human dignity. Accordingly, it has become necessary for states to make conscious efforts towards building links with other states and to consciously engage in global security initiatives. OCHA’s expanded definition of security calls for a wide range of security areas:

1.    Economic: creation of employment and measures against poverty.

2.     Food: measures against hunger and famine.

3.    Health: measures against disease, unsafe food, malnutrition and lack of access to basic health care.

4.    Environmental: measures against environmental degradation, resource depletion, natural disasters and pollution.

5.    Personal: measures against physical violence, crime, terrorism, domestic violence and child labour.

6.    Community: measures against inter-ethnic, religious and other identity tensions.

7.    Political: measures against political repression and human rights abuses.6

A critical examination of these OCHA human security measures makes global security an important exercise to analyse. For instance, there are many states where the capacity to deal with issues of unemployment are grossly lacking. The same applies to food provision and other areas.

Health care poses a challenge in varying dimensions at different levels in many states. As a result of globalization, people from different parts of the world crisscross between geographical boundaries. As much as this has claimed to bring economic prosperity, it is also replete with challenges, particularly in regard to the spread of communicable diseases, crime and terrorism.

Aside from spillouts resulting from deliberate human activities, another area of concern is the consequences of internal conflicts, which include refugee problems and which transcend geographical contiguity. Environmental and climate change issues are other areas that call for more cooperation among states, especially when dealing with the aftermath of an earthquake or a tsunami.

Disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction are other areas that make global collaboration and cooperation necessary. The acquisition of nuclear weapons and similar armaments, which started as a national security option, has become today a major threat to national and global security. The seemingly hard-line posture of many state actors towards disarmament requires the development of a moral consciousness that can only be reinforced by cooperation and collaboration at the international level.

It might be true that states are in competition, as argued by Jabeen Musarrat.7 To a great extent, there seems to be distrust at the global level, even after the end of the cold war. This leads one to think that perhaps the cold war did not actually come to an end but merely changed its nature.

Louis Beres’ observation over 40 years ago that “world leaders continue to act as if security of their respective states is based upon national military power”8 remains valid even today. His advice that states need to embrace a new spirit of oneness is crucial for all. There is, therefore, an urgent need to re-evaluate Beres’ argument that states “continue to misunderstand that their only safe course is one in which the well-being and security of each is determined from the standpoint of what is best for the system as a whole”.9 Here lies the attraction in global security—“what is best for all”.

The global community stands to benefit from greater intra-states collaboration and cooperation, for greater interaction will help build trust and confidence. National and regional security breakdowns are a global security problem. Therefore, it is in the interest of all that no national security challenge be allowed to escalate into a global problem.


 1 Williams, Paul D. ed. Security Studies: An Introduction, Routledge, UK, 2008.

2 Makinda, Samuel M. Sovereignty and Global Security, Security Dialogue, 1998, Sage Publications, Vol. 29(3) 29: 281-292.

3 Ibid.

4 McSweeney, Bill. Security, Identity and Interests: A Sociology of International Relations, Cambridge University Press, 1999.

5 Ibid.    

6 Human Security Unit, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Human Security in Theory and Practice (

7 Musarrat, Jabeen. Governance Divide, Pakistan Horizon, The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs, Karachi, Vol. 56, No. 4, 2003.

8 Beres, Louis Rene. Terrorism and Global Security: The Nuclear Threat, Westview Press Inc., 1979.

9 Ibid.