Balwan Nagial
Balwan Nagial

Global Security Challenges

Security is the state of being free from danger or threat, and it is derived from Latin securus, meaning freedom from anxiety. Security is freedom from, or resilience against, the probable damage triggered by others. Recipients of security may be of persons and social groups, objects and institutions, ecosystems or any other entity or phenomenon susceptible to unsolicited change. The security context is the relationship between a security referent and its environment. Security and insecurity depend firstly on whether the environment is beneficial or hostile to the referent, and secondly, how capable is the referent of responding to its/their environment to survive and thrive.

Capabilities of insuring security.

How a referent makes available for security vary widely. They include:

  • Coercive capabilities
  • Protective systems
  • Warning systems
  • Diplomatic and social action.
  • A policy intended to develop lasting economic, physical, ecological, and other security conditions.

Security like peace, identity, and other parlance in that fold of worldwide political theory defines security differently. Inappropriately, several academians dealt with the concept of security from their ideologies and conceptual thinking. Therefore there exist a broad concept of the term security. If defining security is so vague, then there is no wonder why functioning within its coverage of security is so diverse.  In the garb of security, people and governments have initiated actions where envisioned, and inadvertently consequences have become problematic and difficult to handle. For a reason, that of its seeming absence of conceptual dividing line, security, as a notion, is used to induce and whip up patronage for many political projects at the national as well as international levels of politics. Therefore, Paul D. Williams contended that “security is consequently an authoritative political tool in demanding consciousness for important items in the competition for government attention”[1]. Whereas Samuel Makinda defined security as “the preservation of the norms, rules, institutions and values of society.”[2] He further maintains that all the institutions, principles, and structures related to society, together with its people, must be guarded against both military and non-military threats. The term “preservation”, as a critical component of this definition that presupposes mindful, thoughtful and specific steps and actions. Therefore we can say that the perception of the leadership of a society governs its measures and guides its efforts. This perception becomes apparent in the length and breadth of the security agenda of the society.

Many times, efforts have been made to lay a clear division between national and global security. Though, in theory, a boundary is there amid these two conceptual frameworks, such a boundary is inadequate to preserve a clear-cut demarcation between them. Instead, they have a synergetic relationship, though restricted to the local security sphere, which many countries cannot handle unilaterally. Identically, there are issues in the international sphere that would require a domestic security mechanism to deal with them.

National security has been defined as the capacity of a country to provide protection and defence to its citizens. In simple words, human security means the safety of people from both violent and non-violent threats. Once it is imperative to frame international affairs issues regarding their impact and implication for human security, policymakers do so from human security. Makinda’s definition of security as described above goes well into this definition of national security.

On the other hand, Global security grew from the need that nature and many other happenings, notable globalisation, have placed on nations. These are demands that no national security setup can handle on its own and, as such, call for the support of nations. The global interconnectedness and interrelationship among nations that the world has accomplished and still experiencing since the Cold War make it obligatory for nations to collaborate more and work collectively.

The most critical challenge that the field of global security has to deal with is the concept of the security complex,  a situation in which the security concerns of nations are deeply interconnected to the point that one nation’s security needs cannot be realistically considered without taking into consideration the security needs of the other nations. However, the fear of security complex propagates enmity among various nations. Such enmity lies in cooperation which can only be found in global security initiatives among nations.

The post-Cold War international system is affected with more significant variability and lesser predictability. Dangers to international peace and security today are more disperse and multidimensional. Both nature and sources of threat have changed. The contests and dangers in today’s world threaten more and directly the safety, security and wellbeing of humankind. Threats and conflicts which were undercover during the era of the Cold War have resurfaced with greater intensity. Paramount among these are ethnic, racial, tribal animosities, inequalities, etc., which have taken the forms of nations’ conflicts and civil wars. Therefore terrorism, religious fundamentalism, narco-terrorism, cybercrimes, money laundering, violent extremism, etc., are the new source of violence and acts of war. Also, these conflicts and outbreaks of violence lead to ethnic cleansing, hate campaigns and extreme nationalism. Furthermore, such conflicts threaten the safety and security of citizens and the security of the nations.

Major global security threats.

The world faces unique conjunction of international intimidations and uncertainty. High-intensity conflict and variability span the globe, and the range of instability includes regions and nations that are not exactly in overt conflict but are institutionally and economically weak and vulnerable to shudders. The array of threats are regional coercion and meddling, transnational terrorism, health insecurity, chemical and other avantgarde weapons, massive displacement of populations, and overwhelming humanitarian crises, which create a complex operating environment.

  • The enduring possibility of terrorist attacks using nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons is an ongoing concern.
  • Financial and economic crisis begets political turmoil and drives destabilisation on national, regional and global scales.
  • Weather-related disasters attack humankind with high frequency and great intensity, but their risk has not been drawn much attention.
  • Cyber threats and potential cyber warfare illustrate the increased vulnerabilities and loss of control in modern societies.
  • Globalisation has facilitated the emergence of some interconnected threats, vulnerabilities, risks and transnational dangers.

With the support of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), human security elements have attained a broader meaning, which goes beyond just military protection and involves threats to human self-esteem.[3] Consequently, it has to be essential for nations to undertake responsive initiatives to foster links with other nations and absorb global security initiatives determinedly. OCHA’s long-drawn-out definition of security calls for a wide range of security areas:

  • Economic: the creation of employment and measures against poverty.
  • Food: measures against hunger and famine.
  • Health: measures against the disease, unsafe food, malnutrition and lack of access to primary health care.
  • Environmental: actions against environmental degradation, resource depletion, natural disasters and pollution.
  • Personal: steps against physical violence, crime, terrorism, domestic violence and child labour.
  • Community: to counter inter-ethnic, religious and other identity tensions.
  • Political: to check political repression and human rights abuses.

An in-depth analysis of these OCHA human security initiatives put global security a vital exercise to examine. For example, in many nations, the ability to deal with unemployment issues is not there. The same goes for food provisioning and other issues. Health care causes many challenges of diverse magnitudes in many countries. As a result of globalisation, people from different parts of the world traverse topographical borders. As much as this has demanded economic prosperity, it is also replete with challenges, particularly concerning the spread of transmissible diseases, crime and terrorism.

Another area of concern is the ramifications of internal conflicts and refugee problems and rise above geographical contiguity.

Environmental and climate change problems are other parts that call for more collaboration among nations, particularly when encountering the aftermath of an earthquake or a tsunami.

The possession of nuclear weapons and similar armaments, which started as a national security option, has become a significant threat to national and global security today.

To a great degree, there seems to be distrust at the global level, even after the Cold War. This forces one to think that perhaps the cold war did not end but merely changed its nature. [4]

World leaders in the 21st century continue to act as if the security of their respective states is based upon national military power.[5]

How to cope up with Global Security Challenges?

Dangers of terrorism, climate change, communicable diseases, etc., are escalating day in and day out. Cold War mindset and gunboat diplomacy remain. To address these dangers and challenges, the prerequisite is to adjust our actions and philosophy concerning:

  • There is a need to bring up-to-date and modify our security concept. The Cold War mindset is still there. There has been a budding backlash against globalisation in the last few years and free trade in some nations. Liberalism, isolationism, protectionism and populism are gaining ground, and, as a result, various kinds of conservative, narrow-minded security concepts are on the rise. History has repeatedly told us that a self-centred approach would only escalate tensions and lead to more conflicts. We must rise to the global security challenges and adopt a new security concept that keeps up with the times.
  • We need to progress in our security governance. In order to boost the global governance system, nations must resolutely support the resolves and principles of the UN Charter. Better force for the part of the joint security apparatus set up under the aegis of UN Charter and additional enhancement of the governance capacity and efficiency of the United Nations Organisation and its affiliated institutions.
  • We need to resolve protuberant security concerns. Regional and international trouble spots in the Middle East, Syria and other places trigger turmoil and disorders, dislocating millions of refugees. Terrorism and Extreme Violent Acts are increasing in many parts of the world, including India, Afghanistan, the US, Middle East, UK, France, Germany and many other European countries. What ought to do in such a turbulent world? In such a scenario, it is crucial to adhere to the three principles: making joint efforts, fulfilling our due responsibility, reforming the approach to address security challenges.
  • Other Measures. Helping countries build and sustain the capacity and effectiveness of institutions to provide security, safety, and justice for their people and contribute to efforts that address common security challenges.  The pursuit of arms control and nonproliferation; reduction of transnational organised crime and strengthening the rule of law (ROL); countering the drivers of recruitment and radicalisation to violence; and securing cyberspace.   To counter violent extremism, nations should focus on the drivers of violent extremism.


The return of great power competition, an arms race conducted through the development of cutting-edge technologies, a traumatic pandemic, the rising influence of non-state actors like terrorist organisations and hacker groups, and the expansion of the conflict into space, cyberspace, the ocean, and the Arctic all present severe challenges to maintaining global stability and security.

Global security is at the present time is closely associated with the concept of globalisation. These two concepts seem to be fundamental in today’s political and economic situation. Therefore, to begin with, we ought to recognise the notion of global security. Global security is the set of measures accomplished by nations and numerous international organisations to provide shared safety in world politics. This set of measures encompasses the execution of both military actions and diplomatic treaties and agreements. Both types of security – national and global are meticulously related.

Geopolitics has changed dramatically since the end of the Cold War. The economic growth of countries in the Global South – and of China in particular – has challenged the dominance of the West. At the same time, nationalism and populism have shifted some countries’ foreign policy objectives away from cooperation. In an increasingly multipolar and multi-conceptual world, singular ideas about how best to look after global affairs have been replaced by a diffusion of power and political values. This fractured landscape calls into question alliances and multilateral institutions that have been cornerstones of the global order since World War II. It also risks undermining humanity’s ability to respond to pressing global challenges like pandemics, climate change, and the impacts of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

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

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

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

About the Author
Colonel Balwan Nagial retired from the Indian Army in 2019 after serving for thirty years. Managed administration, security, project mgt throughout his service. He loves writing and contributing in newspapers and magazines in India. He loves Israeli culture.
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