Internet and mobile communications have become part of our everyday lives. Still, internet freedom is not a given; human rights offline are not always translated to the online environment. Around the world, human rights defenders, (citizen) journalists and ordinary citizens are getting arrested for their activities online. In recent years repressive and transitional environments have seen an increased crackdown on internet freedom. In times of crisis, communication lines are down and critical forms of expression are met with censorship, harassment and arrests. In this fast changing political and technological environment there is an urgent need to protect internet freedom and to give rapid, timely and flexible support to the internet’s critical users.

In late 2012, the Digital Defenders Partnership (DDP) was established to provide rapid response to threats to internet freedom. The Partnership aims at keeping the internet open and free from emerging threats, specifically in internet repressive and transitional environments. It also wants to increase and better coordinate emergency support for the internet’s critical users, such as bloggers, cyber activists, journalists and human rights defenders, whenever and wherever they are under threat. The DDP will reach these objectives by providing grants to individuals and organizations, investing in applied research projects and by connecting different stakeholders.


Are you in direct need?

If you are a human rights defender, journalists, blogger, activist, NGO or media organization and you need immediate help to mitigate a digital emergency please click here. If  you think something is wrong with your computer, phone or accounts (email, social media, website or other) please get in contact with us via email.

The Digital Defenders Partnership is a competitive grant making mechanism providing support to organisations and individuals working in the digital emergency field. The Partnership was established to provide rapid response to a range of threats to internet freedom: from supporting bloggers and cyber activists who find themselves under attack, to facilitating the deployment of emergency internet in countries where the internet is not free or not accessible.

The Digital Defenders Partnership has its origins in the Freedom Online Coalition, and is managed by Hivos, an international NGO based in the Netherlands. As an initial investment, the governments of the Netherlands, the United States, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Estonia, Republic of Latvia, Czech Republic and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) have dedicated financial support. The Partnership invests in organisations and individuals working on solutions to digital threats faced by journalists, bloggers and human rights defenders. This can range from individual threats to national emergencies. Our aim is to stimulate a robust digital emergency sector which can respond to threats in a timely and comprehensive manner. The assessment and approval of potential grantees will be made by the DDP’s independent Investment Committee. Read more about our grant making process here.

An independent Investment Committee is responsible for assessing, rejecting and approving potential grantees. The Committee currently consists of four members who are installed for a period of two years. The Committee members meet at least four times per year. The current members of the Investment Committee are:

Anja Kovacs; is Project Director at the Internet Democracy Project in India which engages in research and advocacy on the promises and challenges that the internet poses for democracy and social justice in the developing

Amira Al Hussaini; Amira is a leading journalist, columnist, blogger and a free speech advocate. She is also the Middle East and North Africa Editor at Global Voices Online.

Claudio Guarnieri; is an independent security researcher specialized in tracking, dissecting and understanding malware and botnets. He co-authored several researches in the last year concerning commercial surveillance technologies, such as FinFisher, and their use in countries with critical human rights records.

Janet Haven; Associate Program Director at the Information Program of the Open Society Foundations (OSF). Janet oversees OSF’s efforts to support the use of new technologies and information strategies by civil society actors.

The Digital Defenders Partnership supports projects which address digital emergency situations, regarding both network-related emergencies (internet and mobile) and user-related emergencies (bloggers, journalists and human rights defenders), in internet repressive and transitional environments.

Projects of individuals and organizations are eligible for support if they plan to work on directly mitigating digital emergencies or improving their digital security apparatus. Support may be direct support to replace equipment, secure hosting, VPN connections, providing personal legal protection, temporary support which is needed to mitigate a specific digital emergency situation, kick start the digital security or testing and research on a specific threat of internet critical users.

Potential grantees can apply for three types of grants; emergency grants, direct support grants and strategic grants. After submission the emergency and direct support grant proposal are reviewed, approved or rejected by the DDP. An independent Investment Committee will review the strategic grants. Read more about the scope of the grants, our grant making process and eligibility criteria below or in the Grant Fact sheet .



Emergency grants

Emergency grants are for rapid support to journalists, human rights defenders, NGOs, activists and bloggers who are facing an urgent digital emergency  because of their online activities. The emergency grants can provide direct advice and financial support that can be used for emergencies related to cyber attacks, compromising of accounts and devices, digital security audits, replacement of equipment, secure hosting, VPN connections, internet connections, legal fees and other types of urgently needed expenses . The support can only be awarded if it concerns an emergency in internet repressive and transitional countries.

Scope of the grant

The emergency grants:

  • Range from 1 USD maximum to 5,000 USD
  • Run for a maximum period of four months
  • Open to individuals and organizations
  • Process time of proposal max. of 2 weeks
  • The emergency Grants can provide financial emergency assistance that can be used for:
    • digital security audit for organization
    • equipment replacement
    • secure hosting
    • VPN connections
    • safe internet connections
    • finding legal representation
    • payment of legal fees
    • other types of urgently needed expenses

Note that projects are only eligible if there is a digital emergency situation. This type of grant will not support projects addressing digital security issues that are more structural in nature.

Emergency grant process

The grant making process for emergency Grants consist of the following steps;

  1. Potential grantees can submit their proposal by completing the online grant application format for emergency grants
  2. An initial assessment is made on the DDPs eligibility criteria
  3. The DDP secretariat will review and approve or reject the proposal

The DDP secretariat will inform the potential grantee of the outcome.

By email

ddp (at)

By snail mail

Attn. Digital Defenders Partnership
P.O. Box 85565
2508 CG Den Haag
the Netherlands

By phone

+31 (0)70 3765500