What Help Do Human Rights Defenders Need in the Levant?

Our new piece reviews the communications, tech, and cybersecurity needs of human rights organisations working in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. What did we find?

In our previous post we spoke a little bit about what we’re doing to support human rights advocates working under very difficult conditions in the Levant, introducing our new project to support the media and strategic communications needs of human rights organisations and civil society organisations working in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan.

This week we’ll provide a few insights into the initial findings of our survey, and highlight some of the most urgent requirements for regional human rights defenders.

The results are in!

We’re very excited to introduce some results from the first phase of our needs assessment, which is aimed at evaluating the media and communication needs of human rights organisations (HROs) and civil society organisations (CSOs) active in the Levant.

Of the 100 organisations we contacted in the initial phase of our survey, we received 40 responses — each detailing the challenges faced by activists on a daily basis, and specifying the forms of support that are most urgently required.

The findings below allow us to begin sketching out a roadmap for the future development of regional HROs and CSOs’ media and communications strategies. They expose great needs for training and support in the areas of social media usage, technical knowledge, and cybersecurity.

So without further ado, here’s an overview of some of our main survey findings.

In which countries does your organisation operate?

70% of the organisations we surveyed operate in just a single country, with a further 30% operating across two or more nations in the Levant. The national political and social contexts in which HROs and CSOs operate will therefore be of great importance to our study.

Do you have a clear and up-to-date communications strategy?

Only 37.5% of regional organisations stated that they have a clear and up-to-date communications strategy. 30% conceded that they don’t have a comms strategy at all, with a further 32.5% of organisations noting that their existing strategies are outdated and in need of renewal.

Have you received sufficient training and support to plan your communications strategy?

Only 15% of surveyed organisations said that they had received sufficient support to enable them to effectively plan their organisation’s communication strategy. 12.5% of HROs and CSOs reported that they had received insufficient training, and a massive 57.5% said they had been given no substantive communications strategy training at all.

How frequently do you engage with the public on these platforms?

45.0% or surveyed organisations said they use Facebook on a daily basis as one method of communication, whilst 22.5% of them reported using Twitter on daily basis — just half as many.

Plenty of platforms have untapped potential, and greater support should be offered to HROs and CSOs to help them make the best use of the advocacy and outreach tools at their disposal.

Would you consider participating in targeted capacity building programmes or training workshops to improve your communications strategies?

92.5% of surveyed organisations reckon that participating in targeted capacity building programmes or training workshops will improve their communications strategies, exposing a big need for development in this sector.

Has your organisation received sufficient…

…technological support?

…cybersecurity training?

77.5% of surveyed organisation said they have either received no technological support, or insufficient support for their needs. The same number of people had received either zero or insufficient training in cybersecurity measures.

These results suggest a great deal of vulnerability amongst HROs and CSOs, to whom safe and secure communication is of the utmost importance.

In all, the survey results expose the need for significant investment in the development of media and communications training programmes in the Levant.

  • Many popular social media platforms are being under-utilised, limiting the audience for HRO and CSO advocacy efforts and research publications.
  • Regional HROs and CSOs rarely have well-developed and up-to-date strategic communications and media outreach plans, leaving some groups in the position of having to formulate plans on an ad hoc basis.
  • Organisational communications are being left exposed to the risk of government surveillance and malign third-party hackers, as regional HROs and CSOs are left without sufficient levels of technical and cybersecurity knowledge.
  • There is a great deal of enthusiasm amongst HROs and CSOs for participation in capacity building programmes, but some wariness about taking part in substandard training initiatives. Training and support must therefore be effective, targeted, and delivered by trusted partners.

These first results provide some insights, but they aren’t comprehensive. Next time we’ll be releasing more of our survey findings, alongside the results from our upcoming interviews with some high-profile organisations working in the region. Stay tuned!