Resources for At-Risk Digital Rights Defenders

From TCU Wiki

Team CommUNITY attempts to recommend evergreen resources, due to changing and variable funding landscapes, resources may appear out of date.

Well-being and Resilience

Programs that provide mental health services

ipso-care: empathy international (Global) - ipso-care offers personal, strictly confidential client-orientated tele-video sessions through the client portal. (Global)

Open Briefing (Global) - Open Briefing operates a rapid response mechanism to provide fully-funded holistic security mentoring and remote accompaniment to human rights defenders and other civic society actors at risk of physical, digital, or psychological harm. (Global)


Resources, research and guides

Self-guided, free online courses and guides designed for HRDs and journalists, available in various languages:

Miikka A.
  • Taking care of your mental health - In this course by Totem Project, you will learn different techniques to manage stress and thus acquire tools with which to regulate emotions and perform better in your work and personal life. These techniques will help you to attain a better quality of life and better understand the importance of mental hygiene.
  • Resources for Wellbeing & Stress Management by Front Line Defenders
  • Psychological First Aid - Take this course if you want to learn how to help those who need psychological support and to know what tools you should use to safeguard your own mental health in situations so requiring.
  • Psychological preparation before and after a reporting assignment by Totem Project - This course will help you systematize and become aware of the steps, strategies and tools needed for safe news reporting from a psycho-emotional perspective and, in turn, help you emotionally detach yourself from the event.
  • An online collection of self-care protocols by the Center for Victims of Torture.
  • Facilitated online course titled Being well; building resilience hosted by the Kairos Project.
  • Coping with Prison - A collection of resources for HRDs who are preparing to go to prison, and for their families, lawyers and supporters.
  • The Integrated Security Manual is a collection of group activities for facilitators interested in opening up a space to talk about the connection between human rights work, well-being and security.
  • Self-Care as a Political Strategy (article) - Adopting a self-care approach not only ensures the sustainability of social movements, but also constitutes an ethical-political viewpoint that looks at the practices and relations established at work at the personal and collective level. This article also discusses the experience of Casa La Serena, a place of rest and healing for women human rights defenders.
  • Mental Health Guide for Journalists Facing Online Violence by the International Women’s Media Foundation provides:
    • Downloadable exercises to help manage the mental health toll of online abuse
    • Information to understand the psychological reasons why abusers attack online
    • Self-assessments to address how online violence affects one’s well being  
    • Resources and organizations that can support journalists when facing online violence

Research articles and reports:

Well-being and resilience grants for HRDs

Lifeline rapid response resiliency grants provide support to at-risk CSOs to proactively avoid or mitigate the threats they face and help them continue to work in high-risk environments. These grants are highly flexible and support a range of activities including digital or physical security training; technical training on how to respond to restrictive CSO legislation; building peer-to-peer support networks, or establishing temporary collaborative space to help CSOs return to work.

Temporary relocation programs for study, rest and respite

Matese Fields

Shelter City is a global movement of cities, organizations and people who stand side by side with human rights defenders at risk. We offer them a safe and inspiring space where they re-energize, receive tailormade support and engage with allies to reinforce their local actions for change.

The International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN) is an independent organization of cities and regions offering shelter to writers and artists at risk, advancing freedom of expression, defending democratic values and promoting international solidarity. ICORN Member Cities offer long-term, but temporary, shelter to those put at risk as a direct consequence of their creative activities.

The Elisabeth-Selbert-Initiative provides threatened human rights defenders with a safe place to recuperate, cope with trauma, and when possible, to network and further develop their professional skills.

Protective Fellowship Scheme for Human Rights Defenders at Risk at the Centre for Applied Human Rights at the University of York (United Kingdom) - Human rights defenders are invited to come to York for periods ranging from three to six months. During this time, they benefit both from time away from a difficult environment, and from educational resources designed to increase their effectiveness and their ability to influence policy and practice when they return home.

Scholars at Risk works with its global network of higher education institutions around the world to arrange short-term, temporary research and teaching positions for threatened scholars. They also provide advisory, referral, and career support services for scholars.

Front Line Defenders Rest & Respite Programme enables human rights defenders to take some time out and to recharge their batteries in a safe environment while at the same time enhancing their skills so that they can work more effectively when they return home. Rest & Respite opportunities are offered on an invitation-only basis.

The Marianne Initiative has a Solidarity Fund for Innovative Projects (for HRDs in France), and selects fellows who will benefit from personalized support within a place of exchange and training, open to all those involved in the cause of human rights.

Security and Protection

Resources: guides, online courses, helplines, communities of practice

Access Now’s Digital Security Helpline works with individuals and organizations around the world to keep them safe online. If you’re at risk, we can help you improve your digital security practices to keep out of harm’s way. If you’re already under attack, we provide rapid-response emergency assistance. 24/7 services are available with support in nine languages: English, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, Tagalog, Arabic, and Italian. They respond to all requests within two hours.

Lucas Faragosa

Surveillance Self-Defense: Tips, Tools and How-tos for Safer Online Communications - This is an online resource from the Electronic Frontier Foundation that provides up-to-date guidance on basic digital security techniques, tools and further learning. It's very helpful! Resources are available in: EN, ES, AR, FA, FR, RU, Bur, Vie, and many more

Totem Project is a collection of online courses designed by human rights and journalist organizations from around the world. It is maintained and hosted by Greenhost and Free Press Unlimited. I have personally worked with them on a course related to human rights documentation. Many of their courses are related to digital security and privacy. This is a great way to learn about good security practices, and understanding why certain techniques are recommended. Courses are available in: EN, ES, AR, FA, FR, RU

Holistic Security is a strategy manual to help human rights defenders maintain their well-being in action. The holistic approach integrates self-care, well-being, digital security, and information security into traditional security management practices.

Committee to Protect Journalists’ resource center shares critical resources to help journalists prepare for an assignment or respond to an emergency.

Digital First Aid Kit is a free resource to help rapid responders, digital security trainers, and tech-savvy activists to better protect themselves and the communities they support against the most common types of digital emergencies.

Freedom of the Press Foundation Guides and Training on digital security

Organisational security community wiki - a resource created by and for security practitioners from all backgrounds to share useful resources and document innovative approaches to long-term security work.

Risk Assessment in Human Rights Defense Methodological Guide from the Psychosocial Approach, by Aluna - This guide’s content is based on international methodologies from organizations such as Protection International and Front Line Defenders, among others. Accordingly, we have incorporated some of these tools, complementing them with the accompaniment model proposed by Aluna and adapting them to the specificities of the contexts and the political subjects whom we accompany. Available in EN, ES

Regional protection networks for digital rights defenders


  • DefendDefenders promotes, protects, & strengthens the work of human rights defenders in the East & Horn of Africa sub-region.
  • West African Human Rights Defenders Network (Réseau Ouest Africain des Défenseurs des Droits Humains)
  • Southern Defenders - Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network
  • Digital Society of Africa (DSA) works to strengthen the resilience and ability of frontline activists; human rights defenders and other at-risk groups in the region to independently recognize and respond to digital threats and attacks. They seek to achieve this using the holistic security approach; through a range of activities including: organisational security audits; risk assessment; trainings, sustainable security accompaniment; security policy formulation and tech support.



Latin America and the Caribbean


  • Holistic Protection Collective - an independent collective of security practitioners that aims to improve the security of Rights-based organizations, initiatives, foundations and activist collectives.


Legal support

Amera International Pro Bono Directory - list of organizations and individuals that provide free legal assistance and support refugees (and asylum seekers) in the listed countries.

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Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network works to advance the rights and inclusion of refugees and other people in need of protection in the Asia Pacific region—including refugees, asylum seekers, torture survivors and complainants, trafficked persons, IDPs, stateless persons, migrants in vulnerable situations, and returnees—so they may have equal and adequate access to assistance and protection, and to timely durable solutions.

European Legal Support Center (ELSC) (Europe and UK) an independent organization that provides free legal advice and assistance to associations, human rights NGOs, groups and individuals advocating for Palestinian rights in mainland Europe and the United Kingdom.

System Justice (Europe) - an independent NGO that focuses on community-driven litigation for racial, social, and economic justice across Europe


Forcibly Displaced People Network (FDPN) (Australia) is the first registered LGBTIQ+ refugee-led organization in Australia. We work to support LGBTIQ+ people seeking asylum, refugees and migrants from non-Western countries to be safe in Australia.

Circle Green (Australia) helps people new to Australia who need professional legal migration advice and are disadvantaged in accessing legal services.

Emergency grants


Lifeline (an initiative by Freedom House and Front Line Defenders) provides small, short-term emergency grants to CSOs threatened because of their human rights work. Lifeline grants can address security, medical expenses, legal representation, prison visits, trial monitoring, temporary relocation, equipment replacement, and other urgently needed expenses.

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Front Line Defenders Protection Grants can pay for provisions (grants are for amounts up to a maximum of €7,500) to improve the security and protection of human rights defenders and their organizations including, but not limited to:

  • improving physical security of an organization or individual, digital security and communication security;
  • supporting legal fees for HRDs who are being judicially harassed;
  • paying for medical fees for HRDs who have been attacked or who have suffered a medical condition as a result of their peaceful human rights activities;
  • providing family assistance for imprisoned HRDs or family members who are at risk because of a HRD's activities.
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Urgent Action Fund’s Rapid Response Grants resource the resilience of human rights and gender justice movements by supporting the security and advocacy interventions of activists when a swift response is needed. Specifically, Rapid Response Grants offer quick, flexible funding to respond to security threats or unexpected advocacy opportunities experienced by women, transgender, or gender non-conforming, activists and human rights defenders.

CIVICUS Crisis Response Fund welcomes applications from formal or informal civil society actors & consortia, including social movements. Grants must be for a 3-6 month period. Amount: US$10,000 - US$20,000 for Advocacy Grants or Resiliency Grants.

The Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund provides rapid, flexible funding and direct logistical support to women HRDs from/working in crisis and conflict-affected areas, working at community, national, regional or international levels. For individuals they have an Advocacy Support Stream and a Safety Net Stream.

McCain Institute's Human Rights Defender Program (under the Democracy Program) provides temporary, transitional support to activists who are forced to work underground or flee their countries so they can continue to fight in the human rights arena.

The Dignity for All: LGBTQI+ Assistance Program is a consortium of six leading human rights and LGBTQI+ organizations that provides emergency assistance, advocacy funding, and security support to human rights defenders and civil society organizations under threat or attack due to their work for LGBTQI+ rights. provides a range of services to human rights defenders at risk, including an emergency helpline (run by Front Line Defenders), emergency grants, and temporary relocation.

Relocation and resettlement support specifically for HRDs at risk

Canada Global Refugee Stream for Human Rights Defenders - The Canadian government has established a dedicated refugee stream for human rights defenders for resettlement to Canada.

Rainbow Railroad is a global not-for-profit organization that helps at-risk LGBTQI+ people get to safety worldwide.

Journalists in Distress Network resources for journalists who have received serious threats or are in distress in relation to their work, and may need emergency relocation

Strategic Advocacy

Iris Wang

New Tactics in Human Rights Strategy Toolkit - activities and resources for developing an advocacy strategy. available in EN and AR

Advocacy in Restricted Spaces: A Toolkit for Civil Society Organizations is a practical resource that emphasizes that advocacy is possible even in restrictive contexts. The toolkit places the planning process within the context of risk assessment and mitigation, which is essential in these environments.  Available in AR, FR, ES, RU, VI, FA, EN

Video for Change Impact Toolkit by Engage Media - This toolkit will show you how to design and strategize for impact in your progressive social change initiatives. It is designed for documentary or journalist video-makers, established Video for Change organizations, and nonprofit organizations that are using or thinking about using video to engage their communities.


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Localization Lab - a community of 7000+ contributors working on making FLOSS technology and internet freedom resources accessible in 200+ languages including Azerbaijani, Basque, Shona, Chinese and Arabic, through collaboration with developers, organizations, end users, and communities in need.

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Engage Media -  a nonprofit that promotes digital rights, open and secure technology, and social issue documentary. Combining video, technology, knowledge, and networks, they support Asia-Pacific and global changemakers advocating for human rights. Engage Media has been working on regional localization efforts for Thai, Burmese, Indonesian, Khmer and Filipino.