While security is an extremely important concept, its true definition varies based on context and location. Contributions to security are all subject to the unique approaches and ideologies that govern them, thereby resulting in fluctuations in implementation and enforcement. While nuances reign supreme in this field, there are two branches of security that are closely monitored and discussed in modern political environments: National and Global Security.

In order to understand how the two terms differ, it is first crucial to understand how experts in the field define “security.” In a 1998 document titled Sovereignty and Global Security, Security Dialogue, Samuel Makinda described it as: “the preservation of the norms, rules, institutions, and values of society.” Other definitions can be found in traditional sources like the Merriam-Webster dictionary which prefers the following definitions:

“a) freedom from danger (safety)” and “b) freedom from fear or anxiety.”

When it comes to national and global security, the Merriam-Webster definition more closely applies, although an argument could be made that National Security encompasses both. Before I break down these terms I feel I must explain that, while they are two separate concepts, they are symbiotic in nature. It might even be reasonable to imply that one cannot exist solely and in certainty without the other. That being said, it is necessary to understand their difference.

National security specifically refers to a state’s ability to protect and defend citizens of that state from threats. It involves measures taken within predetermined borders. By contrast, global security refers to the ability to protect and defend humanity as a whole, almost as if the borders were erased, and it is extremely necessary. Some threats are too large for a single state to handle on its own. They may not have the right resources or enough funds or even the proper context. Changes in large-scale weather patterns, for example, would fall under this category as they are a potential threat to everyone.  

In recent decades, as globalization has firmly taken root and nations increase their dependency on one another for goods and services, national and global security have closely intertwined. Let’s take a look at an example.

Suppose State A receives the majority of their grains from State B. In return, State A sends State B textile goods. The arrangement is beneficial as long as both states are able to maintain their end of the trade. But what if severe weather patterns or political conflict break out in State B, impacting their ability to produce as much grain as they normally would? National security indicates that they should keep what they produce in order to protect and provide for their own citizens in dire circumstances. Global security, however, indicates that State A and State B should work together to minimize damages on both sides.

Naturally, there’s so much more to global security than weather and trade. The digital age has brought about a new era of cybercrime capable of causing damage on a massive scale. Developing countries scrambling to create their own spot in the chain of command pose widespread risks, as does the existence of weapons of mass destruction. Now more than ever, it is crucial that we understand that our national security directly coincides with global security. We cannot hope to separate them once and for all in a world where connectivity is king.