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Using digital technologies to strengthen global partnership

Provide a case study on how digital technology can help develop, strengthen global partnership for the achievement of all SDGs.
child overlooking deserted bombed buildings
© RMIT 2023

The seventeenth and final Sustainable Development Goal recognises that the SDGs can only be realised with strong global partnerships and cooperation between organisations. Although SDG 17 stresses the importance of global partnerships between major players, partnerships are also needed at regional, national, and local levels between organisations that share the same vision and goals, and similar values.

Levels of aid during the COVID pandemic decreased and many countries rely on this funding to reach their development targets. Major organisations that collaborate and share the same vision are best placed to make a significant contribution to the achievement of the SDGs.

Australian Red Cross and RMIT University

Two such organisations that are collaborating are Australian Red Cross and RMIT University. Australian Red Cross is involved in a wide range of projects and areas, including disaster support, migrants seeking asylum, war and conflict zone support, First Nation peoples, community services and support of people in the justice system, to name just a few. RMIT University is a large Australian University with a global outlook and footprint. RMIT’s College of Business and Law educates over 10,000 students annually, providing high-quality, industry-responsive business, management and law programs relevant to national and global marketplace. Sustainability education is a big part of the educational focus for business and law students. RMIT University adopted the UN’s SDGs as the basis of their own sustainability strategy and made a commitment via the Sustainable Solutions Network in 2017 to support, promote and contribute to the achievement of the SDG targets for 2030.

The partnership between Australian Red Cross and RMIT University that we cover in this case study arose from the Red Cross’s long-standing commitment to promote the importance of international humanitarian law (IHL), which applies to war or conflict planning zones. Engagement with the corporate sector – in Australia and globally – revealed low levels of knowledge of IHL amongst business people. Yet, many leading companies have operations, supply chains or customers in conflict-affected regions of the world. RMIT University’s Dr Jonathan Kolieb and Red Cross advisors set about addressing that gap in knowledge – producing an immersive learning simulation and guidance materials for the corporate sector.

In particular, Australian businesses that operate in conflict zones need to understand international humanitarian law so their policies and procedures are appropriately aligned to support employees and mitigate business risk and safeguard the lives of local people. In a context characterised by weakened State governance, the increased presence of security forces and armed groups, emergency measures, complex operating environments and a history of grievances and injustices, there can be increased risk that a company’s actions may exacerbate conflict or contribute to human rights abuse. If this is the case, a company must assess what action to take and even consider withdrawing from the country altogether.

War, law and business: International humanitarian law for future business leaders

The collaboration to develop an interactive online education module about international humanitarian law has been a great success. The online module, which takes around 1hr 10 mins to complete, uses scenarios to highlight common problems in war zones and discuss related IHL implications and is available free of charge. The participant plays the role of CEO of Ruskin Resources – a global, diversified (and fictitious) extractives company. They must learn and apply the fundamental rules of IHL to help navigate a conflict-related crisis.

Creating this online education module with RMIT University, has allowed Australian Red Cross to reach a new business audience. Online learning is a practical and sustainable education model, that makes education accessible to a larger audience. The Red Cross has been able to leverage RMIT University’s educational prowess, as well as Dr Kolieb’s content expertise, while RMIT University has benefited from the Red Cross content knowledge and credibility. The result is that hundreds of business leaders, as well as thousands of RMIT’s students who will be future business leaders, have been educated about how to operate in conflict zones.

Lessons learned for other organisations

  1. Partnerships can enable strong outcomes as each organisation involved can contribute their specialist expertise.
  2. The project shows the usefulness of collaborations between universities and humanitarian organisations to extend the reach of both.
  3. Both humanitarian organisations and businesses can leverage the expertise of thought leaders at Universities, and the know-how in developing engaging educational materials through partnerships of this type, instead of developing them privately.

Want to know more

If you would like to know more about the War, Law and Business module produced by RMIT University and Australian Red Cross, you can view a trailer below. You may also access the module on the Australian Red Cross website.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

© RMIT 2023
This article is from the free online

Advancing Social Impact with Digital Technologies

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