An open society ensures that individuals feel safe and free to express themselves. And that they have the information and opportunities to make informed decisions. Therefore we work to increase the safety of human rights defenders under (digital) threat or attack, and improve  digital emergency response networks.

Why rights defenders need protection online

Internet has become an indispensable tool for citizens to express their views and fight for their rights. But online privacy and freedom are becoming part of the civic space we see shrinking worldwide. Technological advances can further global collaboration and social innovation. Yet they also help states and groups to repress, survey, and censor human rights defenders in unprecedented ways. People are increasingly arrested for publishing, sharing, even “liking” content online. And authoritarian governments are using ever more sophisticated ways to curb freedom of speech. Those most at risk are often not well equipped to defend themselves digitally, with limited capacity to anticipate risks and know how to respond if a threat or attack occurs.

Our approach to free expression online

Digital Defenders Partnership (DDP) was initiated in 2012 by the Freedom Online Coalition and is managed by Hivos. It takes a rights-based approach, focusing on core principles such as human rights and internet freedom, inclusivity and diversity, trust and confidentially, do-no-harm and mentorship and partnership. DDP’s mission is to provide a holistic response to digital threats and create resilient and sustainable networks of support to human rights defenders. To this end, DDP provides emergency response and sustainable protection funding, strengthens rapid responders and local protection networks, increases trainers’ capacities through field building efforts, and contributes to long-term organizational safety through Digital Integrity Fellowships.



Results so far

Since its inception, the program has supported individuals and organizations working on issues including environmental rights, LGBTI+ advocacy, gender equality, and election monitoring. For example, DDP supported the first transgender organization in Siberia in response to growing attacks against LGBTI+ communities in Russia. An independent media organization in Yemen received DDP’s support to continue their valuable reporting about the ongoing conflict. And a women’s organization in Brazil received digital security training so they could continue providing safe access to abortion. DDP, as a member of CiviCERT and Rarenet, also developed a Digital First Aid Kit to help activists, human rights defenders and journalists handle common digital security attacks.


• Demand for DDP’s Incident Emergency Funding continued to increase in 2021, with 396 requests being received and 410 processed. • DDP opened 18 new Digital Protection Accompaniment projects. • Nine new projects were supported with Community and Network Funding (CNF) in 2021 to develop resources and hold collaborative meetings among rapid responders. • The Digital First Aid Kit (DFAK) was maintained, and three new languages were added: Burmese, Indonesian, and Thai.

Period and budget

Current strategic period: 2020-2023: annual budget of € 3.5 million


Since the end of 2012, the following donors have contributed to the Digital Defenders Partnership: The Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom; along with the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and the US State Department.


Media Defence, Front Line Defenders and VirtualRoad.