Integrating Environmental Justice into DDP’s Culture, Programmes and Activities

Reflections and ideas for DDP’s community-building strategy for the 2024-2027 period.

2023 was the hottest year on record. The number of climate refugees and MAPAs (Most Affected People and Areas) continues to rise. Yet, there is still so much work to be done on all fronts to change this trajectory to one where our societies are capable of putting the rights of the planet, all species and MAPAs at the centre of how we produce, consume, and distribute growth and wealth.

From April to May 2023, DDP has been travelling to specific events focused on building bridges between digital rights and environmental justice organisations to better understand the current state of the art, who is doing what, what types of collaborations and partnerships are most needed, and where we should focus our expertise and funding in the next DDP strategic period. 

In May, we attended the Digital Green Society, organised by the Share Foundation, where a wide range of organisations presented their ideas or current work promoting environmental and climate justice from and within the digital rights field. The Greenweb Foundation presented their ideas for a fossil-free internet and other solarpunk projects, Narmine Abou Bakari, Circular Tech Economy campaigner for the Greens/EFA in the European Parliament presented their work on the right to repair policy at the EU level, and Sarah Chandler and Laurence Meyer presented the critical work of EDRI and DFF on degrowth and decolonising digital rights.

In June, we gave a presentation on feminist infrastructure at the Doctoral School on Sustainable ICT (SICT 2023), where students from different academic backgrounds came together for a week to discuss with academics, professionals and change-makers how to work towards sustainable and equitable ICT. The 5-day programme focused on “radical changes and rethinking ICT, decolonising ICT: Understanding digital extractivism, how radical changes in ICT are transforming research on computing, taking the place of IT designers, and transforming imaginaries around ICT”. Amazing experts presented their work and research on these topics. All sessions were streamed online, though they still need to be uploaded online (hopefully, they will be soon; you can watch videos from past editions here).

Finally, we attended a retreat organised by the Critical Infrastructure Lab, the Green Web Foundation and the Share Foundation on Infrastructural Imaginaries. The retreat looked at ways to create a sustainable and equitable internet by questioning which power shifts in media infrastructures are required through three lenses: standards, environment and geopolitics. This text presents some of the key highlights discussed during the retreat.

We acknowledge the text’s concluding comment on the importance of “carefully seeking out, living through, and taking into account the experiences produced by contemporary infrastructural geopolitics, standards, and environments in a wide range of local contexts across the planet” in developing infrastructural futures together. DDP’s position in the digital rights ecosystem is to take an active role in mainstreaming environmental justice into our activities, programmes and organisational culture to support progress towards more just societies that consider human rights, digital rights, the rights of the planet and other non-human beings.

DDP’s position in the digital rights ecosystem is to take an active role in mainstreaming environmental justice into our activities, programmes and organisational culture.

The priority audiences of the Digital Defenders Partnership for our current strategic period (2020-2023) are women, feminist and LGTBQIA+ organisations, defenders of land and environmental rights, and journalists and other actors who provide information to the public. We recognise that these profiles do not exist in silos and that there is often overlap between them. During this strategic period, we have provided emergency and sustainable funding to various land and environmental rights defenders as holistic and digital security accompaniment to multiple organisations and collectives at risk because of their commitment to mitigating the effects of climate change and protecting their lands and the planet. We have learned the specific and unique needs of these different types of activists, HRDs, organisations and networks, and we are ready to continue supporting them.

For now, we include some ideas about other ways in which DDP’s research and community-building activities can influence frameworks for sustainability and environmental justice within the holistic security protection of Human Rights:

  • Understanding local and indigenous knowledge: Recognising that environmental justice activists and indigenous communities deeply understand their local ecosystems and the traditional practices that have sustained the environment for generations. They also know how to communicate in areas of poor connectivity and have developed strategies to create their own networks and practices for connectivity. Community-led documentation of these processes would make planning for a slow and low-impact internet possible.
  • Highlighting disproportionate impacts: Research on environmental justice activists and land defenders highlights the disproportionate impact of environmental degradation on the Most Affected Areas and People (MAPAs) and the criminalisation of their work through ICTs and AI to track, monitor and harass them. Digital rights organisations can advocate for privacy, security, data sovereignty and ownership, and the responsible use of technology in environmental monitoring and conservation, ensuring that digital tools are used ethically and transparently.
  • Advocate for environmental accountability: Environmental justice activists, indigenous communities and land defenders often advocate and campaign to hold corporations and governments accountable for their environmental actions. Research on their efforts can highlight the importance of establishing clear mechanisms for accountability within the sustainability frameworks used by digital rights organisations.
  • Promoting global solidarity: Understanding the work of these groups can promote global solidarity in the struggle for environmental justice. Holistic security frameworks that aim to promote HRDs can benefit from recognising the interconnectedness of environmental issues across borders and fostering cooperation between different stakeholders.
  • Promoting holistic approaches: Research on these issues and with these groups can highlight the need for holistic approaches to environmental justice, recognising that holistic security for HRD is intertwined with ecological concerns.

If you would like to keep delving into how these dimensions cross-cut and overlap, we invite you to visit those fantastic research, publications and fellowship opportunities:

Over the next few months, we at DDP will continue to fine-tune an operationalisation of our new strategic plan for the following four years, and we will do so with feminism, decolonisation, and social and environmental justice at its heart. We hope to publish new proposals and guidelines for this work soon.