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A letter from our founder

by Chris Abbott

Barbed wire

Dear friend,

Open Briefing began in 2011 with a simple idea: the defence, security and foreign policies that progressive think tanks were developing and advocating for could be made stronger by using open source intelligence to provide a solid evidence base.

Over the next five years, we concentrated on providing intelligence support to organisations working to protect civilians in conflict. In the process, we made a name for ourselves for both our intelligence activities in support of other NGOs and our own publications and research, particularly in relation to armed drones and the other elements of remote warfare.

During this time, we also became increasingly concerned for the human rights defenders, humanitarian aid workers, peacebuilders, environmental defenders, independent journalists and others who are risking their lives every day to protect vulnerable communities and a fragile environment within an increasingly restricted civic space.

Thousands of NGO workers are robbed, harassed, surveilled or injured each year by state security agents, armed militia or criminals. So far in 2017, 153 environmental defenders, 90 aid workers and 45 journalists and media workers have been killed. In 2016, 281 human rights defenders were killed, 259 journalists were imprisoned and 89 aid workers were kidnapped. In 2015, 185 environmental defenders were killed in the worst year on record. One hundred journalists and media workers were killed that year and 200 imprisoned. In the 15 years between 2000 and 2014, over 3,000 aid workers were killed, injured or kidnapped.

In response, Open Briefing harnessed the unique skills and experiences of its team of former military, intelligence, law enforcement and government professionals to develop a range of security risk management services and safety and security training courses specifically for NGOs. We launched these new services a year ago today with the vital support of Oak Foundation, the Polden-Puckham Charitable Foundation and our other funders, supporters and partners.

Our mission is to protect and inform all those striving for social and environmental justiceClick To Tweet

Twelve months on, and Open Briefing is working hard to spread good security practice throughout the NGO community. This includes creating and distributing free resources, such as our Security Risk Assessment Tool, and running free workshops on security risk management for senior managers and others responsible for security and duty of care. We have also worked with numerous NGOs to meet their security needs in more complex situations. We have helped human rights defenders, LGBT activists, privacy campaigners, development workers, researchers, conservationists and child rights campaigners in Europe, Africa and the Americas. Examples of how we have kept people safe include:

  • Risk assessments for human rights defenders in Iraq, Russia, Mozambique, the Central African Republic and Ethiopia.
  • Security plans for war crimes investigators in Liberia and local staff protecting civilians in northern Iraq.
  • Safety and security training to groups working on wildlife conservation, sexual violence and international development.
  • First aid training for an international team supporting anti-poaching initiatives in southern Africa.
  • Advice on GPS trackers, insurance, evacuation, first aid kits, incident reporting and security to human rights groups.

We have also recently added cyber security, including audits and online training, to the catalogue of ways in which we help NGOs around the world. And, of course, we continue the research and policy work that spurred us into existence in the first place. (For example, we are currently producing monthly briefings on the deadly Boko Haram insurgency in north-eastern Nigeria.)

Our plans for the future include launching a ‘virtual’ security manager service for smaller human rights and peacebuilding organisations that are unable to fund a full-time role; purchasing essential but expensive safety and security equipment, such as vehicle trauma packs and body armour, to loan or rent to NGOs that cannot afford them; and developing safety and security training specifically for environmental defenders, who are being killed in record numbers globally.

Our vision remains a stronger civil society that can protect vulnerable communities and a fragile environment and support the development and implementation of policies based on diplomacy, human rights and the rule of law.

We need your support to continue this vital work. If you would like to play a meaningful part in protecting those who protect others, please consider making a donation to Open Briefing today.

Thank you.
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Chris Abbott
Founder and executive director, Open Briefing

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