Human rights are the ballast: how we’re supporting the activists defending your rights

In the midst of COVID-19, and at a time of upheaval and mass protests in countries across the globe, the world is shifting significantly for all of us, at both the micro and macro levels. Human rights are exactly the right tools to guide us through these uncertain times, and the need for a secure, powerful, and well-resourced community of advocates has never been more clear and urgent. At Access Now, through our work at the Digital Security Helpline, in the global #KeepitOn and #WhyID coalitions, and RightsCon, we can see the movement for human rights in the digital age needs to keep growing and expanding. That’s why we’re working to ensure that everywhere across the globe, the digital rights community can organize a groundswell of response when our rights are threatened, and can marshall the expertise and trust to represent those who are most at risk — yet often go unheard.

With this mission in mind, we are taking a moment to reflect and report on the support Access Now Grants provided in 2019 in pursuit of our strengthened vision and mandate. Our true north in these turbulent times is the understanding that only by elevating the experiences, demands, and agendas of the communities that are directly experiencing harm can we achieve a full realization of digital rights. That means that our priority is to fund activists and organizations working with and from the perspective of the communities that are most severely impacted by a wide range of intersecting issues — from content moderation, doxxing, and surveillance to online hate speech, harassment, and censorship. Much of the support we provided in 2019 is being used to carry activists and organizations through the current uncertainty.

Last year, Access Now provided $721,185 in direct financial support across 32 grants to 26 separate groups and organizations. Beyond these 32 core support and project grants, we provided 17 additional partners with urgent and discrete micro-grants.

The vast majority of Access Now’s grantees are grassroots organizations. Over half of the organizations supported in 2019 have budgets of less than $200,000. Below are additional statistics that provide an overview of the extent of our support.

Total grants 32
Total grantee organizations 26
Total number of countries 22
Total amount granted $721,185.00
Average grant amount $22,537.03
# of grantees who were new to the grants program in 2019 8
Average grantee organizational budget $330,119
% of grants going to organizations with $200k or less in their organizational budget 53%

We have the great privilege of learning from and being inspired by the work of the grantees we support. The individual and cumulative contributions they are making to human rights are enormous and critically needed. The chart below provides some small insight into each of the grants we made last year.

As we approach the midpoint of 2020, we are poised to significantly increase our grantmaking relative to 2019. We are humbled and invigorated by the new work we have already been able to support this year. The global digital rights community is rising to meet the needs of this moment, and we stand with you in your efforts to create a better future for everyone.

2019 Grants

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Grantee Type of Grant Amount Focus Country Grant Description
7amleh Discretionary $9,972 Palestine Support for Palestinian Digital Activism Forum 2020, a forum which aims to raise awareness about digital rights, increase the accountability of digital rights power holders, and build capacity of the Palestinian public and civil society in digital security and campaigning
7amleh Project $31,500 Palestine International advocacy and coalition building related to digital rights in Palestine
Acoso Online Project $30,000 Latin America and Caribbean Victim-oriented remedy and policy/advocacy related to non-consensual pornography
Center for Advancement of Rights and Democracy Project $19,929 Ethiopia Trainings and workshops to increase capacity of online independent media, researching and publishing a report on techniques for identifying, and reducing the dissemination of false or misleading information and hate speech
CIPESA Discretionary $10,000 Uganda Support for FIFAfrica 2019, which convenes a spectrum of stakeholders to discuss gaps, concerns, and opportunities for advancing privacy, freedom of expression, non-discrimination, and the free flow of information online

[tab title=”D-I”]

Grantee Type of Grant Amount Focus Country Grant Description
Digital Security Lab Ukraine Core…… $22,993 Ukraine Continuing digital security support for high-risk organizations; providing rapid response and consultations to human rights defenders and journalists in the event of digital attacks; raising awareness of human rights violations online; and working with members of parliament to develop legislation ensuring legal protection of human rights online.
Digital Security Lab Ukraine Project $12,722 Ukraine Incident response and longer-term accompaniment for human rights organizations and journalists
Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA) Project $20,000 Philippines Support to continue activities related to media literacy and disinformation, including the formation of a digital rights coalition; privacy and data protection; holding a national internet governance forum; gender and ICT, including the mapping of online gender-based violence
Fundacion Acceso Core $52,348 Costa Rica Research on digital attacks against human rights defenders, preventative digisec, and regional digital rights community-building
Hiperderecho Project $17,000 Peru Providing customized digital security consultancy and accompaniment program on digital security for women, LGBTQ activists, and organizations vulnerable to gender-based online attacks in Peru
i freedom Uganda Project $10,000 Uganda Digisec and digital infrastructure support to LGBTQ and sex worker rights groups
i freedom Uganda Project $20,892 Uganda Hold organization’s annual General Meeting, capacity building retreat for staff, and in-house needs assessment for member organizations towards the mission of protecting the digital rights and digital security of LGBTQ and sex worker rights organizations

[tab title=”K-T”]

Grantee Type of Grant Amount Focus Country Grant Description
KICTANet Project $26,224 Kenya Document the human rights impact and policy concerns on the Huduma Namba project with a view to use the same for its advocacy work
Mawjoudin Project $10,000 Tunisia Workshops on digital protection for LGBTQ refugees, asylum seekers, migrants and additional workshop on digital security for Mawjoudin Queer Film Festival participants on safe online communication
Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) Discretionary $9,989 West Africa Support for MFWA’s conference on Social Media, Fake News & Elections in Africa which aims to address the increasing trend of governments resorting to network disruptions and shutdowns during elections under the pretext of maintaining public order and mitigating the spread of fake news via social media
Mnemonic Project $40,008 Syria Preservation of digital content and proactive strategic engagement on content takedowns in conflict settings
Social Media Exchange (SMEX) Discretionary $9,992 Lebanon Support for the second edition of Bread&Net, which focuses on supporting and developing improved strategies for engaging broader, diverse communities on practices and policies that implicate human rights in digitally networked spaces and fostering strong connections between digital rights advocates across the Middle East and North Africa region
Sursiendo Core $31,227 Mexico Core support to allow the organization to fully systematize digital security process with Chief Security Officers, expand network, and strengthen research and documentation activities
Sursiendo Project $52,637 Mexico Individualized digisec accompaniment process with five human rights organizations in Chiapas
Tecnicas Rudas Core $21,844 Mexico Emergency response, support and accompaniment, as well as ongoing remote training, support, accompaniment for defenders of the rights of the disappeared in Mexico and their families, journalists at risk, and feminist/land rights/digital rights defenders
Turkey Blocks Discretionary $10,012 Turkey Detecting and reporting on internet shutdowns
Confidential Grantee Project $30,250 Country in MENA Connectivity in the face of shutdowns and documentation of shutdowns, throttling, and censorship
Confidential Grantee Discretionary $10,000 Country in South Asia Short-term bridge funding to enable operational staff to continue supporting key policies and digital security work
Confidential Grantee Core $24,900 Venezuela Digisec incident response, secure digital infrastructure for civil society, policy, and advocacy work
Confidential Grantee Discretionary $9,950 Honduras Educating community about threats to freedom of expression, digital rights as well as methods for mitigating threat and evading censorship
Confidential Grantee Project $20,000 Honduras Digisec accompaniment and digital rights capacity-building with social movements
Confidential Grantee Project $24,900 Country in South Asia Digital threats facing minority communities: research, platform accountability, and community capacity-building
Confidential Grantee Discretionary $10,000 Country in Africa Support for a group of local activists from a country in crisis to attend the FIFAfrica Conference, as well as an additional private three-day workshop in an effort to build a network of digital rights activists in the country
Confidential Grantee Project $30,000 MENA Region Securing digital infrastructure to address hacking attempts and the associated security risks posed to the organization’s platform and users.
Confidential Grantee Core $60,000 Country in South Asia High-level policy work related to privacy and protection for human rights defenders and women’s rights activists in digital spaces, online harassment, and holistic accompaniment related to online harassment