Skip to main content

In 2023, Australian Red Cross launched its foundational training module, ‘Security, Armed Conflict and International Humanitarian Law,’ tailored for mining companies and their security teams. This high-level introduction to the laws of war, which aligns with existing normative frameworks such as the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, bridges gaps in traditional security training, and offers companies an effective first step towards the meaningful integration of international humanitarian law (IHL) into heightened human rights due diligence. 

In this interview with Fauve Kurnadi from Australian Red Cross and Lisa Harris from Fortescue Ltd, we discuss the vital role of IHL in responsible business conduct and the relevance and benefits of proactive IHL education for safer environments and ethical corporate conduct.



In 2023, Australian Red Cross developed a training module for mining companies and their security personnel on ‘Security, Armed Conflict and International Humanitarian Law’.  Fauve, why is this a priority for Australian Red Cross and what was the catalyst for this idea?

Fauve: Not everyone is familiar with the relationship between international humanitarian law (IHL) and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (the Movement). As a member of this Movement – one of 191 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Society members around the world – Australian Red Cross has a mandated responsibility to promote IHL awareness and respect. One of the ways we do this is by providing IHL training to key audiences, such as government officials, humanitarians, and businesses with operations in conflict-affected areas.

IHL, also known as the laws of war, is the branch of international law that governs the conduct of hostilities and seeks to limit the harmful effects of conflict on people and objects. The law is binding on States, militaries, organised armed groups, and any other actors – including business personnel and security contractors – whose activities are closely connected to armed conflict. Despite this, IHL can often be overlooked in discussions about responsible business practices in complex environments. 

Your audience might be familiar with normative frameworks and initiatives like the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) and the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights (Voluntary Principles), which have received global attention and endorsement. These already call on businesses to comply with the standards of IHL in situations of armed conflict and facilitate appropriate capacity building in this respect. For example, the Voluntary Principles Initiative (VPI) considers security and human rights training to be a key step towards the effective and meaningful implementation of the principles. VPI guidance tools and other resources also specify the critical importance and relevance of IHL awareness in this respect. 

The idea behind ‘Security, Armed Conflict and International Humanitarian Law’ was to help businesses meaningfully incorporate IHL into their existing security and human rights education. In our experience, traditional security and human rights training – even among businesses that operate in conflict-affected areas – focuses solely on human rights, sometimes ignoring or conflating IHL. Australian Red Cross wants to ensure that any Australian connected to armed conflict not only understands their risks and responsibilities in these situations but also their rights and protections. Our training module offers this; supporting businesses in achieving a fuller, more genuine implementation of standards like the Voluntary Principles, and in creating safer environments for their people, and for local communities impacted by conflict.

So, what does this training module offer businesses?

Fauve: ‘Security, Armed Conflict, and International Humanitarian Law’ is a high-level introduction to the laws of war for mining companies and their security teams and personnel. The module covers a range of topics, including the relevance of IHL to corporate actors and examples of the risks that arise in conflict; the key principles that underpin IHL and how to identify an armed conflict; the intersection between IHL and the Voluntary Principles and how to take meaningful steps towards IHL implementation; and examples of unique IHL challenges that can give rise to corporate criminal liability, such as pillage.

IHL seeks to protect civilians and civilian objects while also placing responsibilities on those with a sufficient nexus to armed conflict – belligerent parties of course, but also private individuals. IHL training can give companies and their people a better understanding of which protections they’re entitled to, and which responsibilities they’re bound by. A lack of understanding, and failure to translate this knowledge into corporate policies and procedures, can have unintended and damaging consequences for businesses, individuals and their property and assets.

We’re grateful to have had several Australian companies, including Fortescue Ltd, support us in developing and testing this and other modules. Because of this, we have been able to create a training product that is not only educational but also practical and functional. Thanks to the vision and support of Fortescue, we’ve also been able to translate this training into four additional languages – French, Spanish, Portuguese and Russian – making it possible to distribute across global teams and operations.

This module is only the first step though.  Training isn’t only about stating the law, but also about effective integration. We hope the sharing and adoption of this resource prompts further whole-of-business discussions and innovation when it comes to security in conflict settings, for instance across vetting procedures, robust contracts, and effective control and oversight.

Why was Fortescue interested in adding Security, Armed Conflict and International Humanitarian Law to its existing human rights training? 

Lisa: There are a number of reasons why Fortescue was interested in this training. First, it aligns with our commitment to respecting human rights, second, it complements our existing human rights training programs, and third, it supports our work to align with the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights. 

We are committed to respecting the human rights of all people (including our employees, workers in our supply chains and the communities in which we operate). To achieve this, we work to align with the UNGPs which provide guidance to businesses on how to conduct their activities in a way that respects human rights. We also understand it is the responsibility of business to respect the standards of international humanitarian law when operating or present in areas affected by armed conflict in addition to internationally recognised human rights.  

We recognise ‘Security and Conflict’ as one of our salient human rights risk areas for our business, particularly as our activities grow internationally and our geographical footprint expands to jurisdictions with varying security and conflict risk profiles. 

To assist us in addressing security and conflict salient human rights risks, we are working to align our activities to the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights. The Voluntary Principles provide a framework guiding businesses on how to conduct security operations in a way that respects human rights such as policy commitments, due diligence, risk assessments, engagement with public and private security, and guidance on training requirements.  

While security and conflict, and international humanitarian law are referenced in our general human rights training, we recognised the need to build a better and more in-depth understanding of international humanitarian law, how it relates to security and our presence/operations in conflicts, and our role, responsibilities, and obligations if an armed conflict arises.

Partnering with Australian Red Cross on this interactive online training module was a great way to do this. It enabled us to deliver focused and more detailed training to our employees located all over the world and ensure a consistent standard of training. 

Enhancing our understanding of international humanitarian law in different areas of our business provides a strong foundation to enhance our approach to identifying and managing our security and conflict risks, our engagement with communities, and ultimately strengthening our approach to respecting human rights

How many people at Fortescue have completed/will complete this training?

Lisa: The first phase of the training was targeted to specific teams and groups in our business including our Corporate Intelligence and Protection; Global Governance and Compliance; Sustainability; Communities; Legal and Regional Teams both in Australia and overseas.  As of February 2024, this first phase has been completed by 206 Fortescue team members.  

We surveyed the first phase of participants and have received positive feedback on the training. Of those who responded to the survey, 96 per cent found the training very or somewhat helpful in improving their understanding of IHL. Following the training, 60 per cent of respondents felt very confident in identifying the risks and responsibilities of businesses in conflict affected areas, and 60 per cent felt very confident in identifying actions to address these risks. Our participants found the course material to be engaging, clear and easy to understand. The scenario and case studies were particularly informative. Numerous respondents commented that they found the distinction between IHL and human rights to be interesting. Others identified the risks, responsibilities and implications for business when operating in high-risk and conflict zones of particular interest. Some respondents also noted the relevance of the training to our business as we expand and the importance of considering risks to people.  

In addition to assigning the training to targeted teams, it is also freely available in our digital learning library for anyone at Fortescue to complete. The training has been translated into French, Spanish, Portuguese and Russian to make it more accessible to our international teams.

What is Fortescue’s advice to other businesses about IHL training?

Lisa: If your business is looking for ways to enhance its security and/or human rights approach in conflict-affected and high-risk contexts, we encourage you to reach out to the Red Cross for ways you can enhance or implement IHL capacity building in your organisation. Conflict can arise anywhere and quickly. The more informed businesses can be about IHL, and the roles and responsibilities of business, the better our responses can be to support safer environments for our employees and the communities in which we operate.

The online module gives flexibility in delivery and being available in multiple languages increases the accessibility of the content globally. 

Fauve, who is this training available to, and how can businesses that are interested in integrating IHL into their security training access this resource?

Fauve: Whether a business is looking to enhance its staff inductions, ESG and sustainability learning, conflict-sensitivity and risk management training, or board and corporate leadership education programs, this introductory module lends itself to a variety of capacity-building opportunities.  

We recommend this product to businesses, whether they operate in conflict and high-risk areas or not. The best time to deepen understanding of IHL, and integrate these rules into relevant policies and processes, is before conflict or violence breaks out. In fact, educating your people in peacetime settings will ensure they have a better grasp of their rights and responsibilities in conflict settings; allowing them to leverage this knowledge to identify and manage conflict-related risks for themselves, others and their employer.

While ‘Security, Armed Conflict, and International Humanitarian Law’ was designed specifically for Australian mining companies and their security personnel, the content (and the law) is universal. We encourage any interested businesses, in any industry, to reach out.

For more on accessing ‘Security, Armed Conflict and International Humanitarian Law’, please contact Ms Fauve Kurnadi at Australian Red Cross –

Australian Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross have also produced a range of other, relevant guides and tools, which might be of interest.  These can be accessed here:





The views and opinions presented in this article belong solely to the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the stance of the International Code of Conduct Association (ICoCA).