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.



Selection of results

  • Over its 10-year existence, DDP directly supported 335 organizations, activists and human rights defenders, including journalists, artists, women’s rights defenders, LGBTIQ+ rights activists, environmental, land or Indigenous rights defenders, and digital rights initiatives.
  • In 2022 DDP directly supported 90 organizations and 15 individuals.
  • The Bessy Ferrera Emergency Fund, managed by DDP, assisted some 30 people and organizations in Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America since it launched in 2020.
  • 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.

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.