By Claire Fernandez

On 6 and 7 April, European Digital Rights (EDRi) network held its General Assembly in London. EDRi members elected three new Board members and a new President, Anna Fielder, a long-standing privacy expert, who succeeds Andreas Krisch – EDRi President of ten years who lead the network through years of achievements and milestones.

This General Assembly also marked the kick off of our strategic planning process that will lead to the adoption of EDRi’s strategy for the next five years in 2020. This is the beginning of a year-long journey of consultations and reflection to develop a new plan for continuing to efficiently work together as the leading European network of NGOs, successfully defending human rights in the digital environment.

We are committed to a transparent and inclusive process to strengthen the network’s theory of change. Looking back at our past achievements, we will be looking at long-standing and emerging topics, tactics and network and organisational development. At the heart of the strategy, we will put efforts to strengthen a network of organisations, and to equip individuals working for these organisations to deal with raising challenges, and to feel safe and empowered to be actors of change.

A new digital deal

In a changing environment, EDRi must adjust to stay relevant and offer redress to people affected by human rights violations online.

EDRi’s recent achievements on data protection, privacy and freedom of expression make our network more relevant than ever. Since our last strategy was adopted in 2015, there is not a day without data exploitations being uncovered, States attempting to curb freedom of expression online, and digitalisation increasing opportunities and risks for people. While more actors embrace this change, only a few continue to prioritise human rights as their key concern.

The weight of corporate lobby makes it hard for civil society organisations to have a meaningful contribution. “Alone you go faster, but together you go further,” says an African proverb. New connections with the broader human rights movement are needed to make our voice heard, while EDRi’s expertise and unique perspective remains intact and essential.

What we will do?

As a network of NGOs, we will look at some of the following questions to add strategic guidance, whether in our collective or individual work:

  • What have we learned since the last strategy in terms of organisation and work areas and how does this inform our strategic process?
  • How can we better define EDRi’s vision and mission?
  • What is the future of digital rights in Europe?
  • What are the changes we want to see happening in the field of digital rights in Europe to ensure protection of human rights in the digital envirdonment for all?
  • Who should we work with inside and outside the “digital rights bubble”?
  • How is the change most likely to happen? What are some methods and decision-making processes we need to get there?
  • What kind of resources do we need in order to achieve our goals?

Next steps on our journey

Based on a first survey on members and observers, we held a fruitful workshop with the participants of our General Assembly. An advisory group of members and Board members has been established to provide expert input, and we are currently processing the data collected to date. At the end of May, the Brussels office staff and Board will meet for a day to further work on the draft strategy, which will be followed by a consultation inside the membership and with external advisors. The second half of the year will be dedicated to formal reviews on the draft strategy.

We would like to thank our members based in the UK Open Rights Group, Article 19 and Privacy International for hosting the General Assembly in London as well as FabRiders and Aspirations for the skillful facilitation and invaluable advice. We welcome an ongoing dialogue with you on how we can aspire for a strategy that provides value for EDRi members, observers, and the broader movement. If you want to contribute to this collective reflection, please get in touch!