find the facts
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Annual Report 2015
Berta Cáceres was a courageous activist who helped expose the alarming number of people being killed and threatened simply for defending rights to their ancestral land.
She was shot dead in her home town in Honduras on 2nd March 2016.
This Annual Report is dedicated to her memory.
Global Witness’s research reveals that every week at least two people are being murdered for taking a stand against land grabbing and environmental destruction. Global Witness continues its campaign to stop this.
VISION, VALUES & UNIQUE WAY OF WORKING
We want a better world - where corruption is challenged and accountability prevails, all can thrive within the planet’s boundaries, and governments act in the public interest.
Many of the world’s worst environmental and human rights abuses are driven by the exploitation of natural resources and corruption in the global, political and economic system. Global Witness is campaigning to end this. We carry out hard-hitting investigations, expose the facts, and push for change. We are independent, not-for-profit, and work with partners around the world in our fight for justice.
Courage and Tenacity for Justice.
Our unique way of working
The Global Witness team draws on a wide range of skills. From undercover investigations and painstaking financial research, to information gathering on the ground and close cooperation with partners and activists all over the world.
We use many techniques to gather evidence including interviews, secret filming, photography, document research and often just dogged physical presence – our investigators sometimes spend days counting logging trucks across borders and through checkpoints to monitor illegal timber trades.
Our reports are known for their meticulous attention to detail and are months and sometimes years in the making. Their release garners global attention and attracts headlines around the world.
But exposure is not enough: our goal has always been to achieve system-wide change that will starve corrupt dictators and warlords of looted funds, stop brutal resource-driven conflicts, and protect the planet’s natural resources for the equitable and sustainable benefit of all.
To achieve our goals, we use our hard-hitting reports and investigations to drive strategic advocacy by targeting decision-makers, campaigning to change laws, demanding accountability from political leaders and justice for perpetrators of crimes and human rights violations.
And we work in partnership with individuals and like-minded organisations across the world.
Together we will continue to expose the shadow systems that enable corruption and conflict, and lift the resource curse that condemns millions of people to lives of poverty and violence.
Global Witness has documented that globally at least two people a week – ordinary citizens - are murdered for defending their land and way of life against unwanted exploitation by agro-industrial, plantation, mining, oil and logging companies amongst others, and that this tragic trend is rising.
These killings are symptomatic of a broader problem: the relentless pursuit for natural resources which is driven by unsustainable consumption in the rich world, at the expense of the developing world.
They take place within an economic system that is failing to reconcile economic with planetary health. And they’re fuelled by the vast number of corporations and that put profit before any other consideration.
In recognition of this, in 2015 the Global Witness co-founders issued a Challenge to the organisation to focus our efforts to address these issues which threaten the societies we live in and the environment we all depend on. These are the defining issues of our time.
Everything Global Witness has done over the 23 years of its existence serves as an excellent rehearsal for what needs to be done now.
The appointment of Gillian Caldwell as our first externally-appointed CEO, and the expansion of our governing Board are concrete steps to ensure Global Witness will become an ever more powerful force going forward. We welcome our new colleagues, and we are, as ever, in awe of the wonderful people who work for and contribute to making Global Witness what it is.
Patrick Alley, Charmian Gooch, Simon Taylor
Global Witness has worked with some truly inspirational and courageous individuals this year.
People who’ve risked their lives to protect themselves and their families from vested interests.
People who’ve taken enormous risks working with us to expose and uncover hidden truths and networks of corrupt elites.
And of course our own staff who’ve shown yet again how their dedication and remarkable investigations and campaigns work can drive systems change.
I’d like to thank every one of them and pay tribute to those who have tragically lost their lives this year – like Berta Cáceres.
Our work has led to some truly transformative change in 2015.
We’ve exposed the previously hidden multi-billion dollar industry that is Myanmar’s jade trade, thrusting the practices of a corrupt elite into the international spotlight.
We’ve helped prevent the UK oil company Soco from drilling in the Virunga National Park – one of the world’s most unique and precious ecosystems.
Working in collaboration with local organisations in Cambodia, we’ve held companies to account for land grabbing and secured a ground-breaking agreement with a Vietnamese rubber company to return lands to their rightful owners.
In China, we provided vital input into the drafting of the country’s first ever guidance for business on sourcing natural resources from high-risk locations.
And our work has led to historic accountability measures: in the UK, banks now have to name a senior executive as personally responsible for ensuring the bank doesn’t enable corruption or money-laundering.
We’ve made progress on the global stage too.
Our investigators have defeated big oil’s latest attempt to gut ground-breaking U.S. and EU transparency laws that will benefit millions of citizens around the world.
And in the UK, EU and U.S. we’ve spearheaded progress on cracking down on the use of anonymous companies – vital to preventing dictators, warlords and other criminals from diverting billions away from spending on public services.
At the time of going to print, the ‘Panama Papers’ have thrust this issue of corporate secrecy onto the international stage. This is an issue that Global Witness has led pioneering campaigns on since first identifying the need for central registries of the real owners and controllers of companies in 2009.
None of this would have been possible without the help and generous support of our donors and I’d like to express our deep gratitude for their continued support.
I think we can be proud of all we have achieved in the last year - but there is still so much more to do.
People are dying every day while mining precious minerals for our phones and laptops. Corrupt elites – be they public officials, or private interests - continue to divert billions away from spending on public services around the world, harming us all. And the numbers of people murdered for defending their land and our planet is growing every year.
Our mission for 2016 and beyond is to continue our investigations, advocacy and campaigns to right these wrongs and end impunity for corruption and environmental and human rights abuses.
We invite you to be part of our work. By reading this report, following our campaigns, sharing our explosive findings, and donating to us if you can, you can help us make a real difference.
2015 IN NUMBERS
US$1.1bn: the amount of money that changed hands in a deal involving Shell and Eni, in exchange for one of Nigeria’s most lucrative oil blocks. In 2015 Global Witness showed the deal was corrupt and is pushing for accountability.
£122bn: the value of property in England and Wales owned offshore. Global Witness’s work led to the UK government announcing a crackdown on corrupt money in the property market.
US$42bn: the amount covered by the World Bank’s worldwide procurement policy which now includes a commitment to collect and publish company ownership information.
US$31bn: an estimate of the value of Myanmar’s previously hidden jade production.
25% : the proportion of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas living in Africa’s Virunga National Park. Global Witness helped protect Virunga from oil exploitation, although threats still remain.
2/3: the proportion of the world’s top 200 publicly listed oil, gas and mining companies covered by transparency laws. Global Witness has defended these laws from attack.
2+: the number of people being murdered every week defending their land and environment.
10,000: the number of hectares of land returned to local communities in Cambodia after pressure exerted by Global Witness and others.
5: The number of officials held accountable for logging and oil scandals in Liberia. Evidence gathered by Global Witness was crucial to obtaining convictions.
134km (squared) (area over twice the size of Kathmandu): the amount of forest, savannah and farms acquired by the palm oil company Golden Veroleum during the Ebola outbreak. Global Witness has put forward evidence to show how the company took advantage of the crisis and resulting civil society vacuum, to double the size of its plantation, something which the company denies.
4:1: the proportion of U.S. public companies failing to do the minimum required to stamp out conflict minerals from their supply chains.
40%: the proportion of timber stock a Central African Republic logging company couldn’t sell due to our exposure of their payments to rebels guilty of mass murder, kidnappings, rape and recruitment of child soldiers.
CORRUPTION AND MONEY-LAUNDERING
The ability to hide and spend stolen money overseas makes corruption and criminal activity on a large scale not just possible, but attractively easy.
The result: citizens in poor countries are kept poor, our precious environment is squandered by global greed and corruption, and crimes like stealing vast sums from state budgets, drug trafficking and terrorism are more difficult to stop.
Global Witness is campaigning to fix the system by taking on the banks willing to take the money and ensuring it is no longer possible for criminals to hide their identity and ill-gotten gains behind an anonymous company.
Photo: Bullet holes and blood on a car windscreen from an assassination of a police officer in Mexico. The killing was part of drug war violence involving the Sinaloa Cartel which HSBC admitted taking money from.
Credit: Erich Schlegel/Corbis
CORRUPTION AND MONEY-LAUNDERING: IMPACTS
Mystery on Baker Street: Pushing the UK to stop being a safe haven for the corrupt
Global Witness has repeatedly shown the insidious role that corporate secrecy and anonymous shell companies play in aiding widespread corruption, crime, environmental destruction and violence.
By propping up abusive regimes, keeping developing economies dependent on overseas aid, allowing criminals to evade sanctions and carry out their dubious activities undetected, anonymous companies threaten the safety, security and well-being of people around the world.
As well as being an offshore problem, this is an ‘onshore’ one too; the UK and U.S. are two of the biggest money-laundering hubs on the planet. In 2015, Global Witness investigated the extent to which the UK’s property market is providing a safe haven for corrupt officials and their assets.
Our team used a network of intelligence, anti-corruption databases, court documents, Interpol notices, social media sources, video interviews and real life interviews to create the first ever detailed picture of the true owners and controllers of some of the UK’s most expensive and prestigious properties.
Our painstaking work revealed a sector shrouded in secrecy. The vast majority of UK properties that appeared to present a money-laundering risk were owned via networks of anonymous companies, making the work of finding out the real owners extremely difficult.
Our 2015 report, ‘Mystery on Baker Street’ detailed one such case, and the story we had pieced together despite the secrecy involved.
It revealed how an unknown individual had acquired a network of offshore-owned companies which had amassed a £147m property empire on London’s Baker Street – the famous central London home of Sherlock Holmes.
We showed how this network could be linked to a former Kazakh secret police chief – Rakhat Aliyev –a man accused of murder, torture and money-laundering.
The companies and the people involved in this case all deny that Aliyev is or was ever the owner of the properties. But they’ve refused to identify that owner, citing reasons of confidentiality.
Photo: Credit: Blandine Le Cain, Flikr
Our exposé produced quick results. Just weeks after publication, UK Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to crack down on corrupt money in the property market.
During a major speech on corruption in Singapore, he said:
He explicitly cited the findings of our exposé as direct evidence for what was needed.
A global problem that requires a global solution
At least £122bn worth of property in England and Wales is owned by companies registered offshore, making it impossible for people to work out who the real owners are.
And the UK is not the only safe haven. The U.S., France, Australia and countless other countries around the world are allowing dirty money to buy access through mansions and other luxury goods.
Global Witness is working with the UK government to develop strong legislation to get to grips with the problem of corrupt money flowing through the property market. And globally, we will be pushing other countries to do the same.
But money laundering is only part of the story. In 2016, we will be pushing the UK to go further to stop the corrupt travelling freely to the UK and elsewhere.
Photo: UK Prime Minister, David Cameron. Credit: Number 10 / Flikr
CORRUPTION AND MONEY-LAUNDERING: IMPACTS
This year, Global Witness’s campaigns for accountability in the banking sector and to end the use of anonymous companies have continued to gather momentum.
Accountability for senior executives at UK banks
Banks play an integral role in enabling corruption, and it’s one of the main reasons why poor countries stay poor. If you have millions of dollars in dirty money and looted state assets to hide, you don’t stuff it under a mattress - you need a bank to handle the money.
Global Witness’s campaigns have consistently exposed the serious consequences of banks’ failure to comply with their anti-money laundering obligations. For example we’ve shown how Barclays, HSBC and other banks in the UK accepted millions from two corrupt senior Nigerian officials. Meanwhile a World Bank study of over 200 large scale corruption cases found that US$56bn of stolen funds was handled by over 140 different banks around the world.
Banks can make a profit when taking embezzled and other illegally earned money, yet face little downside if they are caught out.
On the rare occasions where investigations are pursued and penalties are handed out, they have typically been in the form of a fine for the bank as a corporation (the biggest to date in the UK being £72m for Barclays Bank for failing to minimise the risk that it may be used to facilitate financial crime). The actual people calling the shots rarely face financial consequences.
An historic new initiative
Global Witness has campaigned for many years to change this.
Our experts have scrutinised crucial pieces of UK legislation, made submissions to Parliament, given evidence to Parliamentary Committees, and briefed members of both the House of Commons and the Lords.
And in 2015 our campaigning paid off.
The UK banking regulator published rules which mean that a named senior executive will now be held personally responsible for their bank’s efforts to prevent corrupt officials using it to launder ill-gotten gains.
This is the first system of its kind in the world, for which the UK government and the banking regulator deserve recognition. Done well, it could provide a credible deterrent to UK banks violating the rules.
But like any sound policy, it will only be as good as its implementation. Our campaign to ensure banks don’t prop up corruption continues.
Photo: HSBC executives called before a U.S. Senate committee hearing in 2012 about anti-money laundering failures at the bank, for which it later received a US$1.9bn penalty. Enforcement actions against banks have rarely targeted individual executives.
Flickr: Talk Radio News Service.
Significant progress towards knowing who really owns and controls companies
Global Witness was the first to draw the world’s attention to the problem of anonymous companies and the need for public registries of the real owners and controllers of companies.
There is a common misunderstanding that anonymous company owners always look to sunny or mountainous tax havens like the Cayman Islands or Switzerland for the secrecy they need to cover their tracks. But the services they require are as readily available in major financial centres like the U.S., UK and EU – and often more so.
In 2015, our campaign continued to make considerable gains:
o The UK approved legislation that will create the world’s first publicly-accessible register of who really owns and controls companies.
o The European Union (EU) Anti-Money Laundering Directive will provide some public access to information on the true owners of companies.
o The World Bank’s new procurement policy covering US$42bn in projects across the globe includes a commitment to examine ways to collect and publish information on company ownership.
o The annual meeting of the heads of the Overseas Territories resulted in a promise to create private registers of the real owners and controllers of companies.
o The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), which Global Witness helped found, now requires all 51 resource-rich countries to report on the real owners and controllers of oil, gas and mining companies. The active participation of civil society in the EITI process is now also guaranteed through the newly established Civil Society Protocol.
OIL, GAS AND MINING
Properly managed, money derived from oil, gas and mining could build schools, hospitals and roads, dramatically reduce dependency on international aid and help to lift countries out of poverty.
But all too often, the money goes missing as deals are done behind closed doors, allowing small, corrupt elites to profit at the expense of ordinary citizens.
There has been progress. Over two-thirds of the world’s top 200 publicly listed extractive companies are now covered by transparency laws that Global Witness conceived of and campaigned for.
We continue our campaign for everyone - citizens, journalists, and government officials – to have access to information about natural resource deals.
Photo: Jade mine in Myanmar: The true scale of Myanmar’s jade trade has been a closely guarded secret. But in 2015 Global Witness revealed that jade production was worth up to US$31bn in 2014 alone –that’s equivalent to nearly half of Myanmar’s stated GDP. But the money isn’t reaching state coffers or local people. Instead it is empowering some of the country’s most dangerous opponents of reform.
OIL, GAS AND MINING: OUR IMPACTS
Myanmar’s Jade trade: revealing a secret US$31bn industry
Jade is one of the planet’s most precious gemstones. In China it has a cultural significance that bestows it an almost mythical status, with the highest quality stones fetching millions of dollars apiece. The world’s most valuable jade deposits are found in Myanmar’s war-torn Kachin State.
In 2013, reports came out indicating that Myanmar’s jade industry was worth far more than the US$3-US$4bn reported in official sales. With more than one in three people living in poverty in the country, this begged the question – where were these riches going?
At the start of what led to over a year of investigative work, we started asking questions in Kachin State, revealing widespread rumours of notorious figures controlling the jade business.
Digging further, we gathered information from over 400 public officials, major industry figures and associations, small-scale miners, smugglers and community groups. We were leaked previously unseen data including maps and official jade sales figures. And we worked with the Open Knowledge Foundation and OpenCorporates to analyse company records and substantiate connections between powerful figures and government-licensed jade companies.
We also drew on the talents of an incredibly talented local photographer, Minzayar Oo, who was able to bring out images from an area kept off-limits to foreigners, and on independent research by a local civil society organisation, the Kachin Development Networking Group (KDNG), into the devastating human impacts of the industry.
Our findings were explosive.
Our estimates put the value of official production in 2014 alone at up to US$31bn– an eye-watering figure equivalent to 48% of the country’s official GDP – and 46 times the amount spent by the government each year on health.
Our investigations revealed how the local community has been systematically squeezed out of the industry – and that the trade is controlled through networks of anonymous companies by a small handful of military families, U.S.-sanctioned drug lords and crony companies associated with the darkest days of junta rule.
This rush for jade has had a devastating impact on Kachin State and its people.
Hills once covered in forest have been transformed into a desolate moonscape dotted with water-filled craters, leaving the area prone to major flooding and pollution. Landslides caused by the reckless dumping of mining waste have become a regular occurrence, costing hundreds of lives. And the community is wrestling a drugs epidemic tied up with the jade industry, with countless jade miners in the grip of heroin addiction.
Our report launch in Myanmar sparked a media storm. Former dictator Than Shwe, and U.S.-sanctioned drug lord Wei Hsueh Kang were just two of the faces splashed across front pages as big money-makers from the shady industry. There were rumours of major jade tycoons convening an emergency summit to decide what to do.
The story was covered by a host of international outlets – the BBC, the New York Times, the Economist and TIME Magazine to name but a few. Bootleg report copies were printed locally, selling in the markets and streets, and the story spawned a dedicated Facebook page set up by local activists, ‘Save our Pharkant’, to push for change.
As one local activist explained,
Shining a light on the inner workings of the jade trade has turned it from a dirty secret into a matter of national and international debate.
This has created a platform for local voices to be heard, and opened up a crucial discourse on the changes needed, from an immediate halt on activity and an end to hidden ownership, to wholesale management reform and a locally-endorsed agreement on resource sharing.
As Myanmar emerges from decades of military dictatorship, and a new civilian-led government takes power, the need to turn the jade industry from a slush fund for a corrupt elite, into a force for public good is firmly on the agenda.
Picture of mother holding picture.
The colossal vehicles used by jade companies pose a daily threat to those living and working in Hpakant, Kachin State. Here, a mother holds the picture of her late son, killed in an accident while searching for jade in a company waste pile.
Film poster picture (desktop only)
The jade business is a fundamental part of life in Kachin State. The hero of this Kachin film (in English titled: ‘The Jade Boy and the High Class Girl’) is a young jade miner who risks the perils of police and landslides to make his living from the stone.
Credit: Global Witness
OIL, GAS AND MINING: OUR IMPACTS
Virunga National Park: Protecting Africa’s oldest and most biodiverse park from oil exploitation
For the past three years, Global Witness has been driving a major international campaign to protect Virunga - Africa’s oldest national park and a designated World Heritage site.
Virunga is one of the most biodiverse areas on the planet. It boasts savannah, rainforest, active and dormant volcanoes and one of Africa’s great lakes. It is also home to around a quarter of the world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas, as well as other endangered species like elephants and hippos. 200,000 people depend on Lake Edward, which is at the heart of Virunga’s ecosystem, for their livelihood and food.
As the easier-to-tap oil supplies in more traditional oil-producing regions of Africa have dwindled, more and more companies have shown a willingness to push into uncharted and remote areas.
So when the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo declared that parts of Virunga had been divided into oil blocks, international oil companies did not take long to react.
Two European companies – the French Total and the London-listed Soco International– secured rights to explore for oil in areas that overlapped Virunga, something which quickly led to an international outcry.
But while Total responded to calls to protect Virunga by promising to refrain from any oil activities within the current boundaries of the park, Soco pushed on in its search for oil.
Divestment and withdrawal
Since 2012, when Global Witness published previously unseen permits appearing to give Soco the green light to explore for oil in Virunga, we have been campaigning to prevent them from doing so, and hold them to account for their activities in the park.
Our Congo team has travelled to Virunga, met with the Head of the National Park and spoken to numerous sources. We’ve also worked closely with Congolese NGOs and the makers of the Oscar-nominated ‘Virunga’ film to expose the dark underbelly of Soco’s business model: a pattern of bribery and allegations of intimidation and violence against anti-oil activists.
Soco has sought to threaten those who have written about its activities in eastern Congo with legal action. The company says that it “does not condone, partake in or tolerate corrupt or illegal activity whatsoever”.
But the strength of our investigative work and exposés succeeded in keeping the spotlight on Soco’s activities both in Congo and internationally. And in 2015, this has led to some major breakthroughs.
In July, the Church of England announced that it was fully divesting from Soco after the company failed to satisfy the Church with its response to evidence of human rights abuses, bribery and corruption linked to its operations in Virunga. This removed £3m from the company’s balance sheet. The Church also issued a strong statement calling for an independent inquiry into Soco’s Virunga operations and demanded a commitment to permanently end its operations in the Park.
On the day of Soco’s 2015 AGM, we published explosive leaked material we had obtained from a key source. Cheques showing Soco had paid tens of thousands of dollars to a Congolese military officer accused of bribery and of brutally silencing opponents of oil exploration in the park, proved beyond doubt that Soco had paid bribes, as Global Witness had alleged all along.
The story was picked up by two TV nightly news programmes in the UK, the New York Times, Le Monde and numerous outlets in Africa.
The resulting media storm led to the Congolese Environment Minister saying, just two days after our exposé, that he is “not in favour” of drilling for oil inside the park. Major investors also called for the Chairman of Soco to resign.
A few months later Soco abandoned its claims to the Virunga block.
Global Witness is calling on the UK’s Serious Fraud Office to launch an investigation into the allegations of bribery, to determine whether Soco has acted illegally.
A new threat from Uganda
At the time of going to print, Virunga is facing a new threat. While our campaign has prevented any companies from bidding in the current licencing round, the Ugandan government is still intent on granting an oil licence in Lake Edward at the heart of the Virunga ecosystem.
Global Witness continues to work with other organisations to fight this threat and save this beautiful and precious park.
A mountain gorilla seen in the jungles of eastern Congo in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2009. Virunga is home to around a quarter of the world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas. Global Witness’s work has helped protect the park from oil exploitation.
Credit: Paul Taggart/Corbis
(Desktop only) Young boy in Munigi village, North Kivu. 200,000 people depend on Lake Edward, which is at the heart of Virunga’s ecosystem, for their livelihood and food.
Credit: Orlando Von Einsiedel for Virunga Movie
OIL, GAS AND MINING: OUR IMPACTS
In 2015 Global Witness has continued its ground-breaking global campaign to force companies to open up their books to scrutiny.
And we’ve continued to push for accountability by exposing the shocking details of a US$1.1bn corrupt deal involving Shell and Italian oil giant Eni in Nigeria – providing the case study used by lawmakers to demonstrate why laws regarding transparency in mining transactions globally are so necessary.
Protecting historic transparency laws
Big oil has been investing significant resources into finding ways to side-step or even scrap two groundbreaking transparency laws which Global Witness and its allies helped secure over the past two decades: Section 1504 of the 2010 U.S. Dodd Frank Act, and the EU Accounting and Transparency Directives.
These laws require oil, gas and mining companies to publish details of the hundreds of billions in payments they make to governments across the world for mining concessions. Over two-thirds of the world’s top 200 publicly-listed oil and mining companies are covered by these rules.
In 2015, Global Witness has worked across the globe to protect these laws from oil-industry lobbying.
By highlighting instances of corruption in the sector, we helped to ensure that oil-industry lobbying to weaken the EU laws didn’t succeed.
In the U.S., the Securities and Exchange Commission proposed a strong rule which includes our key recommendations: that companies must publish payments separately for each project they’re invested in, that there should be no exemptions, and that it must match the rules in place in the EU.
Our work in the UK led to the government implementing the crucial EU Accounting and Transparency Directives in a meaningful and robust way.
2016 will be the first year that citizens will have access to information from companies that are registered or listed in the EU. Global Witness is working with partners across the world to ensure the data is used to hold governments and companies to account, and to defend the laws from further industry attack.
Showing how Shell and Eni conspired to devise acorrupt deal
Global Witness has been at the forefront of exposing details of a US$1.1bn corrupt deal carried out by Shell and Eni for one of Nigeria’s largest oil fields - OPL 245.
Made in 2011, the US$1.1bn payment was equivalent to more than 80% of Nigeria’s proposed health budget for 2015 but the money did not benefit the country’s citizens. Instead it went to a company called Malabu Oil and Gas which was secretly owned by the former oil minister, who had granted his company rights to the oil field in 1998.
Since our first exposure of the deal in 2012, Shell and Eni have denied paying anyone other than the Nigerian government for the block.
In 2015, we were able to show these statements were false. Analysing leaked internal emails between senior Shell and Eni managers, we were able to prove that they were intimately involved in the design, negotiation, and execution of the deal to ensure the funds were sent to Malabu rather than the Nigerian government, and that they conspired to hide their arrangements from public scrutiny and prosecutors.
Investigations in Nigeria, the UK and Italy
In Nigeria, the OPL 245 case is frequently mentioned as one of the most pressing examples of corruption in the country, and there are consistent calls for accountability.
The Nigerian Economic & Financial Crimes Commission, a body with the power to bring criminal charges, reopened its investigation into the deal in 2015 and interviewed some of the key players.
In 2015, the UK and Swiss courts rejected attempts by Dan Etete (the former oil Minister at the centre of the scandal) and a middle man involved in the deal to unfreeze US$195m in proceeds from the deal.
Global Witness’s campaign has been crucial to these recent moves towards accountability, and evidence gathered by us has been used successfully as part of court proceedings.
Throughout 2016, we will continue our investigations into the case. And we’ll be keeping up the pressure on relevant authorities to hold individuals and corporate interests accountable, and to strip Shell and Eni of the block.
A slum on the water in the Nigerian city of Lagos.
LeBristol, a luxury Paris hotel, where some of the negotiations to buy OPL 245 took place, reportedly over iced champagne.
Credit: Patrick Janicek, Flickr
FORESTS, LAND AND CLIMATE
Soaring demand for food, fuel and other commodities is cranking up pressure on the environment, land, forests and communities worldwide.
Regulation governing how land is bought and sold is largely non-existent. As a result, human rights abuses are on the rise as secretive deals force indigenous communities on to the front lines of the increased competition over natural resources.
Global Witness works with groups and leaders in the Amazon, Congo and Asia. We’re campaigning alongside them to make sure their voices are heard, that they have full control over the use of their land, and that their human rights are protected.
In 2016 we’re significantly scaling up our efforts on our climate campaign – exposing instances of fossil fuel companies having an undue influence on government decisions, and campaigning for countries around the world to take the required action to make a fast and fair transition to a low carbon future.
Photo: Aerial view of Prey Long forest canopy in Cambodia
Credit: Global Witness
FORESTS, LAND AND CLIMATE: OUR IMPACT
Defending the defenders: exposing a hidden crisis and a rising death toll
Over our 23 year history, Global Witness has worked with and seen countless communities, NGO workers, individuals and journalists intimidated, beaten up and sometimes killed over disputes about how land and forests are used and managed.
In 2012, Global Witness’s friend and partner Chut Wutty was murdered by military police while showing journalists an illegal logging site. Wutty had spent years exposing how Cambodia’s political and business elite have accumulated vast fortunes by selling off the country’s land and forests.
In response to Wutty’s death, we put together the first ever picture of the situation for environmental and land defenders across the globe – an analysis we now do annually.
This work revealed a hidden crisis: a rising trend of death, intimidation and human rights abuse.
Our 2015 report confirmed this rising trend. Every week at least two people are being killed for taking a stand against land grabbing and environmental destruction. In 2014 alone, at least 116 environmental activists were documented as murdered for their opposition to these practices, and many were from indigenous communities. Most are dying amid disputes over hydropower, mining and agri-business.
Global Witness’s exposure of this crisis is leading to concerted international attention on this issue. And influential bodies like the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the UN Human Rights Council are using our data to inform their policies and practice.
In Peru, our exposé of the killing of Edwin Chota and indigenous leaders in the Amazon put pressure on the government to better protect environmental defenders. Chota’s community now have official land titles – crucial to their struggle against illegal logging.
Chut Wutty was a long standing friend and former employee of Global Witness. On April 26th 2012, he was murdered by members of Cambodia's military police whilst tracking illegal logging.
Credit: Global Witness
(Desktop only) Honduran police have been involved in intimidation, threats and suspected killings of environmental and land defenders. Global Witness’s research shows Honduras is the world’s most dangerous country per capita to be an environmental or land defender, with at least 109 people killed between 2010 and 2015.
Berta Cáceres’ story
This report is dedicated to the memory of Berta Cáceres, a courageous Honduran activist who was murdered amid a conflict over a dam set to destroy her community’s water source and agricultural land. Two international development banks, the Dutch FMO and the Finnish FinnFund were the main investors in the project.
In 2015, Global Witness travelled to Honduras as part of our ongoing investigations into defenders around the globe. It was then we met her and heard her story.
Berta Cáceres was an indigenous Lenca woman who had received frequent death threats for her work as the General Coordinator of COPINH (Civic Council of Popular Indigenous Organisations of Honduras), a non-profit organisation fighting for more than 20 years for indigenous rights in Honduras.
Since 2011, COPINH had been campaigning for its community to be consulted over plans to build the Agua Zarca dam, a project that looked set to force them off their ancestral land.
Over that time, several members of Cáceres’ organisation had been murdered, harassed and been subject to death threats.
Cáceres herself had been forced to live a fugitive existence. Criminalised by the Honduran government in collusion with corporate interests, she and her family had been subject to threats of sexual violence, kidnapping and death.
When construction on the Agua Zarca dam project restarted in late 2015, the threats against her escalated. She was shot dead by gunmen in the late hours of 2nd March 2016.
At the time of going to print Cáceres’ death has caused an international outcry. Alongside more than 50 other organisations, Global Witness is demanding an independent international investigation into the circumstances behind it, and guaranteed protection for her family and colleagues.
Our campaign won’t stop until land and environmental defenders are able to live and work without fear or intimidation.
Berta Cáceres, Credit: Global Witness
(Desktop only) Site of the Agua Zarca dam project. Since 2011, Berta Cáceres and her organisation COPINH had been campaigning for its community to be consulted over plans to build the Agua Zarca dam, a project that looked set to force them off their ancestral land.
Credit: Giles Clarke/Getty Images Reportage
FORESTS, LAND AND CLIMATE: OUR IMPACT
In 2015, Global Witness has worked alongside local communities to hold companies to account for land grabs. We have also been central to moves in Liberia to hold people to account for natural resource corruption and promote alternatives to industrial logging.
Holding companies to account for land grabs
As much as 62 million hectares has changed hands in land deals over the last decade, or is under negotiation – an area roughly the size of South Sudan.
But the deals are often done in secret, without consulting those most affected. Environmental damage and human rights are paid lip service at best, and more often completely ignored. Communities can’t find out who has been given their land or see the contracts, so they don’t know what it is worth or who to blame for taking it.
Global Witness collaborates with local organisations working directly with communities at risk, ensuring we’re properly representing the concerns and wishes of those impacted by land grabbing, and are able to most effectively campaign alongside them.
Our 2013 report ‘Rubber Barons’ documented the devastating impact of Vietnam’s rush for rubber on local communities in Laos and Cambodia. Hundreds of thousands of hectares of land have been handed over without the knowledge or consent of the people who live on it.
The report revealed how Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL), one of Vietnam’s biggest companies, was routinely bulldozing local communities’ land and clearing large areas of intact forest.
It also exposed the role of international financiers in these land grabs, namely Deutsche Bank and the private investment arm of the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, who both had investments in HAGL at the time.
Since then, Global Witness and Cambodian organisations have continued to engage with HAGL’s investors, asking them to use their influence to compel the company to provide redress for communities impacted by their plantations.
In 2015, following more than a year of negotiations with 14 local communities in Cambodia and pressure exerted by investors informed by Global Witness and others, HAGL announced it would not clear or develop any more of their land, that it would establish a community grievance mechanism for its Cambodia operations, and that it would return more than 10,000 hectares of land that has not yet been planted with rubber to its original owners.
This is a highly unusual agreement in Cambodia, a huge victory for the communities and a massive turnaround by a company that previously refused to acknowledge wrongdoing exposed by Global Witness and our partners.
Global Witness welcomes this long-overdue decision but will continue to monitor HAGL to ensure they deliver on all promises made to these communities. We also urge the company to begin similar restitution processes with the other communities in Cambodia and Laos who are still suffering the devastating impacts of its plantations.
Photo: Cambodia, 2013. Villagers affected by HAGL rubber plantation watch ongoing forest clearing activities by HAGL. Global Witness has documented the devastating impact of Vietnam’s rush for rubber on local communities in Laos and Cambodia.
Liberia is laden with natural resources. Its forests cover two thirds of the country and it has recently emerged as a frontier market for the world’s cheapest, most popular vegetable oil – palm oil.
At the same time, the country has a history of conflict, corruption, land grabs, and poor governance; its natural resources frequently do the country more harm than good.
Prosecutions and accountability in the natural resource sector
Using evidence uncovered by Global Witness, Liberia has made real progress in its fight against natural resource corruption in 2015; the government prosecuted officials involved in logging and oil scandals, and obtained guilty verdicts against those who broke Liberia’s forest laws.
2015 also saw Global Witness step up its fight against companies grabbing Liberian’s land and committing human rights abuses. Our 2015 report, The New Snake Oil, documented the assaults, threats, and arrests committed against Liberian citizens on an oil palm plantation linked to Indonesian giant Golden Agri-Resources.
The company involved had accelerated its operations at the peak of the 2014 Ebola outbreak. With Liberia’s NGOs focusing their attention on fighting the outbreak rather than helping communities negotiate for their land, Golden Veroleum almost doubled the size of its plantation at that time.
Liberia’s Minister of Agriculture suddenly resigned a month after our report was published. Our campaign continues to push for more substantial reforms.
Promoting alternatives to industrial logging
2015 also marked a turning point for how Liberia manages its forests. Global Witness worked with the Liberian government and Liberian civil society to discuss how to give forests back to the people after decades of illegal logging.
Attended by over 200 people from across Liberia, the ‘Rethinking Liberia’s Forests’ conference marked the first time Liberia had discussed the practicalities of ensuring its natural resources are used to benefit the country and communities in which those resources are found.
Palm oil saplings in a Golden Veroleum nursery, Sinoe, Liberia. Global Witness revealed the company had grabbed an area the size of Malta from the Liberian people.
MINERALS AND CONFLICT
Global Witness was the first organisation to draw the world’s attention to the issue of so-called ‘blood diamonds’ – diamonds that were sourced and traded in ways that are driving violent conflict.
The trade in minerals such as gold, tungsten and jade has funded some of the world’s most brutal conflicts for decades. These resources can enter global supply chains, ending up in our mobile phones, laptops, jewellery and other products, making it very difficult for consumers to know if their favourite products fund violence overseas.
Over our 23 year history, we have pioneered global campaigns to break the links between minerals and conflict.
We want companies to take responsibility for the people who work at every stage of their supply chains so that minerals can help support development in some of the world’s poorest and most fragile nations in the world.
Mining in the Congo: Meeting the men and women working in Congo’s mines
Working with Congolese civil society, Global Witness travelled to remote parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s South Kivu Province – an area rich in mineral deposits.
We wanted to speak to the people working at the very start of the supply chain for tin, tantalum and tungsten – minerals used in familiar and everyday objects like mobile phones and cars.
Here are some of their stories: (more can be found on the Global Witness website)
A tin digger
International and domestic supply chain reforms are helping some, but many diggers and their families still face daily challenges linked to armed looting of minerals.
A tin digger who asked to remain anonymous describes an attack he lived through at a tin mine, Mwenga territory in March 2015:
Efforts to change the way that eastern Congo’s supply chains work have begun to create opportunities for reform, but have also been accompanied by problems.
A combination of a six-month mining ban by the Congolese President in 2010, improper interpretation of the new supply chain laws and standards by some industry groups and a slump in market confidence badly affected some tin, tantalum and tungsten mining communities.
Although official mineral exports are increasing again, some companies irresponsibly chose to avoid sourcing minerals from eastern Congo, which has cost some artisanal diggers their jobs.
Espoir, a digger at a tin and tungsten mine in Walungu territory, said:
Noella and Romance
Increased international scrutiny has helped to create opportunities for some in local civil society to improve working conditions at mine sites.
Noella and Romance from a women’s committee based in Mwenga territory have worked since 2011 to improve conditions for women employed on the outskirts of coltan and tin mines:
Tin digger who asked to remain anonymous
(Desktop only) Espoir
(Desktop only) Noella and Romance
MINERALS AND CONFLICT: OUR IMPACTS
Armed conflict in places like Colombia, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan and the Central African Republic are still financed through the exploitation and sale of natural resources.
In 2015, Global Witness has continued to expose the companies failing to do enough to stamp out conflict minerals from their supply chains. And we secured a significant win in our campaign to ensure the EU enacts strong laws to tackle this problem.
Photo: Picking an emerald out of dirt in Panjshir, Afghanistan.
Credit: Kate Holt
Exposing companies failing to check for conflict minerals
In 2015, we worked with Dr. Denis Mukwege - the world-renowned gynaecologist, and Founder and Director of the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, to highlight what more needs to be done by companies to contribute to ending the unspeakable violence in the Congo by cleaning up their supply chains.
Research we conducted with Amnesty International revealed that almost 80% of U.S. public companies, many of which are household names, were failing to do the minimum required by the law.
Conversely, our analysis also shows that one in five surveyed companies did comply with the law’s requirements. This dismantles the argument put forward that implementation is too difficult and too expensive - there is no excuse for companies failing to properly investigate their supply chains.
We continue to call on companies to urgently improve the quality of their reporting. And in May 2016, we’ll be closely analysing the next tranche of reports.
Securing progress towards strong EU conflict minerals laws
Europe is a major player in the global trade in minerals. In 2013, it accounted for over 15% of worldwide imports of raw forms of tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold, worth an estimated €123bn globally.
Global Witness has been campaigning for many years to bring the EU in line with the U.S. and the Great Lakes Region of Africa who have laws in place aimed at cleaning up the trade.
In May 2015, we secured a major victory as MEPs voted for a strong, binding law that could put Europe at the helm of global efforts to clean up the minerals trade and encourage businesses to source minerals in a way that benefits local communities, not armed groups.
There is still a lot of work to do as negotiations on the final form of the law continue. We’re working hard to make sure Parliament’s strong position is not weakened.
Chinese action on sourcing from high-risk locations: precedent setting guidance
As key buyers of minerals from high-risk locations around the world, Chinese companies have a significant responsibility to prevent and mitigate conflict and human rights abuses associated with their purchases.
Following an invitation by the Ministry of Commerce, Global Witness, alongside the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, provided direct assistance to the Chinese Chamber of Commerce for minerals traders (CCCMC) in the drafting of their guidelines to help Chinese companies source minerals responsibly.
The guidelines are the strongest measure to date by a Chinese government-affiliated body to address the link between the minerals trade and human rights abuses.They have boosted awareness within industry circles of the growing international norm of responsible sourcing. By not limiting the guidelines to particular locations or specific minerals, the Chinese chamber of commerce has also shown commendable leadership on this issue.
Photo: Richard Fisher, Flikr
Disrupting financial flows behind conflict
Central African Republic
The Central African Republic (CAR) has been rocked by a violent civil war since 2013. By 2015, more than two million people were in need of assistance and around 400,000 had been displaced from their homes.
In 2015, Global Witness looked in detail at how timber was being used to fuel the conflict in CAR.
Our 2015 report Blood Timber, revealed how logging companies in CAR had paid millions of Euros into the hands of rebels guilty of mass murder, kidnappings, rapes and the forced recruitment of child soldiers.
Europe was a key player in this scandal – as the primary destination for illegal imports of CAR wood, and via continued trade links with companies implicated in our report.
As well as publishing our exposé, Global Witness contacted the buyers of the illegally sourced timber, held meetings with key players at the EU level – including those responsible for the EU’s flagship illegal logging policy – and called for urgent action to cut trade and aid ties to the country's logging industry. This work had a significant impact on the trade.
“Since the publication of Global Witness’s report in July, which accuses loggers of having partly financed rebels of the ex-Seleka coalition, sales have plummeted. From his office in Bangui, Ibrahim Fakhoury, Deputy Director General of SEFCA, doesn’t even have to consult his order book, he knows the figures by heart.
Throughout 2015, Global Witness also continued to investigate and expose the role of gold and diamonds in funding conflict in CAR – and the supply chains that bring those conflict resources to major markets like the EU.
South Sudan descended into civil war in 2013. Oil has been a key driver of the devastating conflict with battles to control the oil fields characterised by serious human rights abuses, and weapons used in the fighting bought with oil money.
By demonstrating how the looting of billions of dollars of oil revenues since independence in 2005 has undermined democratic state-building, created toxic rivalries between elites, and set the stage for renewed conflict, Global Witness’s work in 2015 deepened the way in which key players in the international community understood the conflict.
We identified the Addis Ababa peace process as one of the only real opportunities for change in the country. Working with lawyers, we devised detailed recommendations based on the principles of international law which could help stamp out corruption within a transitional government of national unity.
Along with a clear recognition of the role corruption has played in the conflict, our recommendations were reflected in the final peace agreement.
THANK YOU TO OUR DONORS
Global Witness relies on the generosity of our supporters. Your help allows us to continue our campaigns to prevent conflict, corruption, human rights abuses and environmental destruction around the world.
All our donors have one thing in common: they share our vision of a better world - where corruption in the global, political and economic systems is challenged and accountability prevails, where people’s rights to land and livelihood are protected, where governments act in the public rather than the private interest, and where the environment on which we all depend is protected.
We are indebted to everyone who has given their time, assistance and advice throughout 2015.
In 2011 The Open Society Foundations (OSF) pledged a Challenge Grant of £4.5m (US$6.6 million) to Global Witness to ensure our long term sustainability, but only if we matched it by raising twice that amount from new donors by the end of 2016.
Everyone who has generously given a direct financial donation in 2015 has helped take us one step closer to reaching this goal. We now expect to meet it in the first few months of 2016, nine months before the deadline.
This income has helped develop and strengthen our organisation - allowing us to continue our hard-hitting investigations, exposés and campaigns for change.
We have ambitious plans for 2016 and beyond and we would truly appreciate any support you can offer in helping us achieve our goals.
Bennett Freeman (Chair), Misha Glenny, Arlene McCarthy, Christopher Mitchell, Aryeh Neier (Honorary Chair), Silas Siakor, Alexander Soros, Darian Swig, Mabel van Oranje, Edward Zwick
Trustees of Global Witness Trust (UK)
Jeremy Bristow, Caroline Digby, Lorna Mackinnon, Christopher Mitchell (Chair), Tony Stevenson
Directors of Global Witness Foundation (U.S.)
Patrick Alley (President), Stafford Matthews, Bennett Freeman
Board of Directors
Jan – Nov 2015: Patrick Alley, Charmian Gooch & Simon Taylor
Dec 2015-Present: Patrick Alley, Charmian Gooch, Samuel Nguiffo, Stephen Peel, Mark Stephens CBE (Chair), Simon Taylor
Volunteers and pro bono supporters
We extend our deepest thanks to all our volunteers who provide research and campaigning support on a daily basis and to all those who support us with pro-bono legal advice. With special thanks to Advocates for International Development (A4ID) and Simmons &Simmons.
Aaron Clements-Partridge, Adam Corlett, Angus Brown, Anne Travers, Anthony Cowan, Benjamin Rutledge, Brian Massimino, Charles Ward, Dan Walsh, Danielle van Oijen, Darian W. Swig, Dominika Arseniuk, Douglas Bender, Edith Brown Weiss, Eliza Ladd Schwarz, Gary Mortimer, Glenn Hurowitz, Hitoshi Yamauchi, Isabel Bigelow, Izhar Patkin, Jim Bennett, John Jones, Jonathan Fox, Kai Kuhnhenn, Keirnan Fowler, Ken Grossinger, Kimberley Hikaka, Laura and John Arnold, Laura Einstein and Helene Madonick, Lawrence Simanowitz, Leslie Nuchow & Emily Hartzell, Loren McArthur, Lydia Lau, Lynn Taliento, Mark Shaffer, Mary L. Beebe, Miriam Miller, Mmu Cheng, Musa Okwonga, Natalie Foster & Matt Ewing, Nicola Hodges, Richard Stebles, Robin Mize, Robert Sprocket, Roger Manser, Roshanak Ameli-Tehrani, Sally Girvin & Nina Schwalbe, Shalni Arora, Sherry Hall, Stephen & Yana Peel, Steve Lustgarden, Timothy Phillips, Tina Yee-wan Pang, Vicky Bowman, Will Snell
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Our 2015 reports
Jade: Myanmar's "Big State Secret"
The biggest natural resources heist in modern history?
Lords of Jade
How Southeast Asia’s biggest drug lord used shell companies to become a jade kingpin.
Turning the Tide
Building a clean oil sector through South Sudan's Peace Agreement.
How to lose £4bn
Credibility test for global transparency standard as £4bn lost to anonymous oil and mining companies.
The New Snake Oil?
The violence, threats, and false promises driving rapid palm oil expansion in Liberia.
Mystery on Baker Street
Brutal Kazakh official linked to £147m London property empire.
How Europe played a significant role in funding war in the Central African Republic.
Banks and Dirty Money
How the financial system enables state looting at a devastating human cost.
Our exposé warns that EU and US company executives could face jail terms for illegally importing Congolese timber.
Digging for Transparency
How U.S. companies are only scratching the surface of conflict minerals reporting.
How Many More?
Report shows killings of environmental activists are increasing, with indigenous communities hardest hit. We shine a spotlight on Honduras - the most dangerous country to be an environmental defender.
Guns, Cronies and Crops
Global Witness exposé: how Myanmar’s business, political and military cronies conspired to grab farmers’ land, leaving communities struggling to survive.
The Cost of Luxury
The Chinese craze for antique-style furniture has given rise to a multi-million dollar timber smuggling operation in Cambodia, and is driving rare trees to extinction.
Two World's Collide
How construction in Japan is driving destruction in Malaysia's last rainforests. Will Japan change its ways ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics?
Front cover image: Peter Wood