One Decade Protecting Activists and Human Rights Defenders

While another challenging year for activists and human rights defenders facing digital threats is about to end, our programme, Digital Defenders Partnership, is celebrating its tenth anniversary.

DDP was created at the end of 2012 by the Freedom Online Coalition (FOC) as a grant-making mechanism to keep activists and human rights defenders safe and to strive toward internet freedom. Since 2013, we have been hosted by the international cooperation organisation Hivos.

When I started as programme manager back in 2014, DDP consisted of three European workers. Over the past years, we have grown into a team of 35, many of whom are activists or have close ties with the communities we work with. Today, in 2022, DDP has a presence in almost 20 countries in 5 different regions.

We are very thankful to our donors, FOC members dedicated to internet freedom and the protection of human rights defenders and activists for their continued support of our programme. We are also grateful to our global and regional partners and collaborators for their trust, partnership and shared collaborative aims of increasing protection for human rights defenders and activists.

Celebrating our existence comes, however, with mixed feelings. Yes, we are proud of the work we have been doing and how we have transformed as a programme. At the same time, celebrating in times of the rising of repressive regimes and increased demand for protection toward human rights defenders draws us to be modest.

Even if it comes with challenges, looking toward the future does excite us. Next year, we will be creating our following four-year strategy to address the needs of our grantees and team members. We are exploring how regional teams can have even more autonomy; how power can be shared, for example, by starting participatory grant-making; and how to hand over autonomy to the networks we work with, like the feminist helplines community we facilitate. We will also begin exploring a transition of leadership to the Global South.

Implementing our programme is a journey that requires continuous reflection and analysis regarding changing political contexts and the needs of target groups, as well as examining our team and our working culture.  We hope you will continue to accompany us while we engage in this exciting journey in the years to come.

Frerieke van Bree
Programme Manager
Digital Defenders Partnership