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25 years of creating change

From alerting the world to blood diamonds to halting forest destruction deals, Global Witness investigations have changed the world.

1994: GLOBAL WITNESS FOUNDED

Sourcing their first computer out of the trash, and relying on friends and family to pay for their international calls, our founders are the first to identify the link between natural resources, conflict and corruption and to systematically document and expose how this sustains poverty, fuels instability and destroys the environment.

Truck with illegal timber, Cambodia

Soldiers escorting illegally-logged luxury timber, Phnom Aural Wildlife Sanctuary, Cambodia.

1995-97: GLOBAL WITNESS CAMPAIGNING CUTS OFF FUNDING TO THE GENOCIDAL KHMER ROUGE

Global Witness’s first campaign exposes how the illegal timber trade between Cambodia and Thailand is funding the genocidal Khmer Rouge rebels. The exposure and advocacy leads to the closure of the border, depriving the Khmer Rouge of $90 million a year, and contributing to their downfall.

1998: GLOBAL WITNESS ALERTS THE WORLD TO BLOOD DIAMONDS

Global Witness exposes how diamonds are fuelling civil war in Angola and across Africa, thrusting the practices of the global diamond industry into the spotlight for the first time. The campaign leads to the establishment of the precedent-setting Kimberley Process diamond certification scheme and to Global Witness being co-nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003.

2001: GLOBAL WITNESS PREVENTS THE CREATION OF THE BIGGEST TIMBER CONCESSION IN HISTORY

Global Witness investigates a massive logging deal between the Zimbabwean Forestry Commission and the DRC government, revealing links to the military arm of Zimbabwe’s ZANU PF. The deal, which would have led to the eventual destruction of an area of forest equal in size to the UK, is halted.

2002: GLOBAL WITNESS’S WORK LEADS TO THE CREATION OF THE WORLD’S FIRST EXTRACTIVE SECTOR ANTI-CORRUPTION MECHANISM: EITI

Global Witness conceives the Publish What You Pay campaign, and co-launches it with George Soros, Transparency International and other leading NGOs. This leads to the establishment of the world’s first international anti-corruption mechanism in the extractives sector – the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). EITI has led to details of more than $2.4 trillion of oil, gas and mining revenues being put in the public domain for the first time.

Teodorin Obiang Equatorial Guinea

Teodorin Obiang (center right). Credit: Flickr.com/Embassy of Equatorial Guinea

2003: GLOBAL WITNESS REVEALS THAT RIGGS BANK HELD $300-500M OF OIL REVENUES FOR EQUATORIAL GUINEA’S PRESIDENT

Working with the LA Times, Global Witness revealed that Riggs Bank in Washington DC held millions of dollars under the personal control of Equatorial Guinea’s president, Teodoro Obiang. The subsequent devastating investigation by a Senate committee resulted in $25 million of fines and the bank being sold off at a fraction of its value, after pleading guilty to money-laundering violations.

2003: GLOBAL WITNESS CAMPAIGN RESULTS IN UN SANCTIONS BEING IMPOSED ON LIBERIA’S TIMBER TRADE

Global Witness works with local Liberian activists to expose how Charles Taylor’s regime is colluding with armed groups, timber companies and arms traffickers to control the country’s timber trade and fund regional war. The investigation reveals a $100 million black hole in the nation's finances in one year alone. UN Security Council sanctions are placed on Liberian timber and Charles Taylor flees into exile but is eventually arrested and convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

2005: GLOBAL WITNESS CAMPAIGN LEADS TO CHINESE BAN ON ILLEGAL TIMBER TRADE FROM BURMA

Global Witness investigations reveal that China has been importing up to 1.3 million cubic metres of timber from Burma per year, and that around 98% of this trade was illegal. The furore generated by the ensuing Global Witness report prompts the Chinese government to close its land border to timber from Burma in early 2006.

2007: GLOBAL WITNESS EXPOSE CONTRIBUTES TO THE RENEGOTIATION OF A $900M LIBERIAN MINING CONTRACT

Global Witness publishes a leaked iron ore contract between the steel giant Mittal Steel and the Liberian government. The publication embarrassed the company, strengthened the hand of the Liberian Government, and helped lead to the renegotiation of what was initially an opaque and inequitable deal.

conflict minerals DRC Phil Moore April 2015

Digging for conflict minerals, DRC. Credit: Phil Moore

2010: GLOBAL WITNESS CAMPAIGN SECURES GROUND-BREAKING MEASURES TO BREAK THE LINKS BETWEEN MINERALS AND CONFLICT

Section 1502 of the Dodd Frank Act in the USA includes requirements for companies sourcing minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo to carry out due diligence of their supply chains to identify whether they are funding warring parties.

2010: GLOBAL WITNESS REVEALS GADDAFI’S $65BN OFFSHORE EMPIRE

Global Witness publishes a leaked document showing the investments made by the Libyan Investment Authority. By exposing the vast amounts of cash held offshore, Global Witness put a spotlight on the role western banks played in propping up the brutal Gaddafi regime and locked down the money during the revolution.

2012: GLOBAL WITNESS PUBLISHES FIRST ANNUAL REPORT INTO KILLINGS OF ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENDERS

The death of Cambodian activist Chut Wutty, murdered by military police while showing journalists an illegal logging site, prompts us to research others who had been killed protecting their land, forests and rivers. We publish the first in what has gone  onto be an annual report  - and, later, a high-profile collaboration with the Guardian - into killings of land and environmental defenders. Our research helps shine a light on this hidden crisis and force it onto the political agenda.

2013: GLOBAL WITNESS CAMPAIGN RESULTS IN TWO THIRDS OF THE GLOBAL VALUE OF LISTED EXTRACTIVES COMPANIES BEING COVERED BY TRANSPARENCY LAWS

The PWYP campaign now consists of over 700 organisations operating in more than 50 countries around the world. Its campaign to force oil, gas and mining companies to open up their books to scrutiny has a major success as ground-breaking transparency laws passed in the EU combine with similar laws passed in the US in 2010 (Section 1504 of the Dodd Frank Act) to form the basis of a global transparency standard.

2013: GLOBAL WITNESS AND OTHER NGOS SECURE A BREAKTHROUGH COMMITMENT TO TACKLE CORPORATE SECRECY

Prime Minister David Cameron announces that the UK government will make public the names of who actually owns and controls British companies. Global Witness reports have repeatedly highlighted examples of companies, many of them British, with hidden ownership being used to launder money and in other corrupt deals. Global Witness set out the problem systematically for the first time in the Undue Diligence report in 2009.

Charmian Chris

Founder Charmian Gooch talking at TED. Credit: TED

2014: TED PRIZE FOR GLOBAL WITNESS CAMPAIGN AGAINST ANONYMOUS COMPANIES

The TED Prize goes to Global Witness and co-founder and director Charmian Gooch for her public call for an end to the use of anonymous companies and the creation of public registries of beneficial ownership so that companies can no longer be used anonymously against the public good. Read more about Anonymous Companies

2014: CO-FOUNDERS AND GLOBAL WITNESS RECEIVE PRESTIGIOUS SKOLL AWARD

The Skoll Foundation recognises Patrick Alley, Charmian Gooch, Simon Taylor and Global Witness for their work over two decades, “driving transparency to lift the ‘resource curse’ of conflict and human rights abuses”. Skoll’s annual awards aim to support social entrepreneurs who are “society’s change agents, creators of innovations that disrupt the status quo and transform our world for the better.”

2014: TRANSPARENCY MOVEMENT MAKES MORE GAINS AGAINST INDUSTRY RESISTANCE

Despite huge resistance from the extractives industry over many years, a growing number of countries require oil, gas and mining companies to report all licence fees and royalties paid to governments. The first EU countries to enact new laws are the UK and France with Norway following suit; the other 26 EU member states and Canada then require payment disclosure by 2015. In the US, legal challenges to new transparency laws by the American Petroleum Institute are countered by vigorous campaigning by Global Witness and others in the anti-corruption and transparency movement.

2014: UK COMMITS TO FIRST PUBLIC REGISTER OF COMPANY OWNERSHIP

Following sustained lobbying by Global Witness and other civil society groups in the run up to the 2013 G8 summit and beyond, the UK approves legislation that will create the world’s first publicly-accessible register of who really owns and controls companies. It is to demonstrate the feasibility of public registers to other countries, and sets new standards in publishing data in open formats. 

2015: OIL EXPLORATION IN AFRICA’S OLDEST NATIONAL PARK HALTED AFTER GLOBAL WITNESS EXPOSÉ

We reveal how Soco International and its contractors made illicit payments, appeared to have paid off armed rebels and benefited from fear and violence fostered by government security forces in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, as they sought access to Virunga national park - a UNESCO World Heritage site - for oil exploration. Oil exploration in Virunga is halted after Soco withdraws from Virunga in late 2015, though we continue to monitor threats.

Portrait of mountain gorilla in the jungle of volcanic Virunga Mountains in Uganda.
Virunga is home to a number of endangered species. Credit: Martin Mecnarowski/Shutterstock

2015: Landmark Global Witness investigation reveals secret control of Myanmar’s billion dollar jade trade

Our 12-month investigation reveals that Myanmar’s jade trade is worth far more than previously thought - as much as $31bn in 2014, or almost half the country’s GDP - yet hardly any of this money reaches ordinary people or state coffers. Our exposure of the hidden military control of the sector and scale of the illicit trade leads to the government suspending all new and existing gemstone permits in 2016, and the creation of a multi-stakeholder process to develop a new gemstone policy.

2017: GLOBAL WITNESS AND PARTNERS SECURE EU RESPONSIBLE MINERAL LAW

A new EU law on responsible mineral sourcing is introduced, following years of advocacy efforts from Global Witness and partners. The Responsible Sourcing Regulation requires EU importers of key minerals to carry out due diligence checks on their supply chains from across the globe.

EU flags in Brussels.

EU importers required to follow The Responsible Sourcing Regulation. Credit: Alex Mihis

2017: EU COMPANIES AND TRUSTS REQUIRED TO REVEAL REAL OWNERS

Ground-breaking changes agreed to in the EU Anti-Money Laundering Directive at the end of December mean that EU companies and trusts must reveal their true beneficial owners by 2020. Specifically EU governments must introduce public registers of the beneficial owners of companies within the EU. We continue to push for more progress on transparency of trusts.

2017: BILLIONAIRE MINING MAGNATE SANCTIONED AFTER GLOBAL WITNESS INVESTIGATIONS

Dan Gertler, a billionaire mining magnate and close friend of Democratic Republic of Congo’s president, is sanctioned  by the US government and has his assets frozen. The move follows over seven years of investigations by Global Witness into his dealings in Congo and his role in transactions which saw the Congolese people lose out on over a billion dollars in potential mining revenues.

2017: Shell and Eni ordered to stand trial on corruption allegations over oil deal Global Witness exposed

An Italian judge orders oil giants Shell and Eni and their senior executives to stand trial over their role in a 2011 deal for Nigerian oil block OPL 245, which saw the Nigerian people lose out on over $1 billion. We and our partners first filed a complaint over the deal in 2013. Then in early 2017 we got Shell to admit it knew it was dealing with a former oil minister and convicted money launderer all along.