• Civic Rights in a Digital Age

    Across the world, we see profound challenges: shrinking civic space and freedoms; multiplying divisive narratives; increasing exclusion of the most marginalized; collapsing trust in democratic institutions. These challenges are magnified by the rapid, unequal digitalization of our societies. Yet, we also see critical opportunities to bolster the people, initiatives and organizations that confront these challenges with powerful alternatives. These are the opportunities we want to seize to create the civic societies we need now and in the future.

    Our ambition is that, by 2025, underrepresented voices expressing these alternatives have greater reach and influence. We want to see institutions become more open and inclusive, and enable meaningful and diverse civic participation and oversight in public decision-making, especially at local levels.

    Our approach

    Hivos aims to ensure that digital transformations both increase and safeguard the participation of underrepresented voices and stimulate greater accountability of duty bearers. Key to our approach is that rights holders understand and are able to influence how public and private actors use digital technologies. We will encourage and support greater engagement of groups that are often underrepresented in governance processes. In particular, we will help CSOs make good use of new national and sub-national policy instruments that expand transparency and accountability mechanisms. Furthermore, we will capitalize on decentralization processes that increase government openness and responsiveness to citizen’s actual needs.

    We will devote our expertise and experience to four specific areas.

    • Digital Rights and Responsibility. We believe many more diverse civic actors should propel a rights-based digital transformation that ensures technology is used to increase human freedom and well-being and preserve the health of our planet.
    • Creativity and Expression. We will work with rights holders and CSOs to broaden the reach and influence of underrepresented voices in the digital sphere. The aim will be to express and widely share alternatives to social, economic and environmental injustices. If these voices can freely express themselves online, and if everyone has access to pluralist media, we can better hold power to account and challenge exclusionary beliefs and narratives.
    • Participation and Accountability. Institutions should be open and inclusive. They should enable meaningful and diverse civic participation in public decision-making and oversight (especially at local levels). We believe this is crucial for restoring and expanding the public’s trust in democratic institutions to uphold human rights and effectively use investments and public resources to improve human welfare and protect the planet.
    • Security and Protection. People need security and protection to be confident about gathering data and using information technology. Increasing the safety and resilience of human rights defenders, activists, journalists, and other vulnerable individuals and groups gives them the freedom to express themselves and collaborate online and offline.

    Track record

    Hivos has built up extensive experience and networks in the field of accountability and freedom of expression through a wide range of programs, including:

    • Open Up Contracting, which ran from 2016 to 2020, promoted the adoption of open data standards for public spending. It provided technical advice to governments, connected and supported CSOs, and worked with 20 multi-actor initiatives across the world.
    • In the Open Government Partnership (OGP) governments and civil society create action plans to make governments more transparent, responsive and accountable. Hivos is a longtime supporter of the OGP
    • Through Resources of Open Minds (R.O.O.M.) we support artists and creative hubs around the world in diversifying dialogue and using the power of art to spark debates and bring about structural social change.
    • Digital Defenders Partnership, hosted by Hivos, protects rights activists under (digital) attack and helps them navigate the digital highway safely, while strengthening rapid-response networks.

    How this affects Hivos

    Hivos sets great store by being accountable and transparent ourselves. We will ensure our partners have a greater say in setting priorities for and managing programs, and increasingly, Hivos too. Governance and decision-making will be done more jointly with these partners. In the (digital) safety and security realm, we will put more emphasis on setting an example ourselves, while at the same time continuing to offer services and tools to activists and civil society.