The human rights alarm powered by social media

Swedish communications agency RBK has created an alarm system for human rights workers that is powered by social media.


Swedish communications agency RBK has created an alarm system for human rights workers that is powered by social media.

The “Natalia Project” – named after Natalia Estemirova, a Russian human rights activist who was murdered in the North Caucasus in 2009 – is a GPS-equipped bracelet that when triggered, emits an alarm that informs staff at human rights group Civil Rights Defenders of the wearer’s location. It also notifies people who like or follow the project online so they can send out alerts and calls for help on social media.

Each bracelet is set up with individual security protocols based on the wearer’s protection needs – the alarm response will depend on their location, the type of work they are involved in and the infrastructure in their local area. “The idea is to be able to react in the best possible way, if an alarm is triggered, depending on these factors,” says Mathias Wikström, chief executive of RBK.

The bracelets cost just a few hundred euros to make, but as each wearer has to be trained to use it and will be monitored by a security team around the clock, the estimated average annual cost of each system is around € 5,000, making the project heavily reliant on fundraising.

Designed in collaboration with students at Hyper Island, the Natalia Project has been praised by the United Nations and will feature at this year’s Strasbourg World Forum for Democracy in November.

As well as saving lives, Civil Rights Defenders hope it will put pressure on corrupt governments and help expose oppressive regimes where attacks on human rights workers are rife. The organisation is hoping to equip and train 55 workers by 2014, and six are already undergoing training.

The bracelet isn’t discreet but as Wikström explains, its design had to be capable of withstanding a brutal attack and had to incorporate GSM and GPS technology and a long lasting battery. “The field edition will be more discreet than the version pictured, and we are also looking into a concealed version,” he adds.

The success of the Nathalia Project depends ultimately on whether wearers under attack can be located and safely reached by those sent to help them, but by linking the alarm system to social media, it will help draw global attention to attacks on human rights workers and ensure they don’t go unnoticed.


Creative Director: Johan Pihl
Digital Creatives: Tobias Snäll, Anders Sjönvall & Mathias Høst Normark
Film production: Bsmart
3D: Real Eyes / Imsa CAD
Sound: Flickorna Larsson
Alarm Technology: PFO Technologies

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