We want justice for those disproportionately affected by the climate crisis: people in the global south, indigenous communities and communities of colour, women and younger generations. We want corporations to respect the planet and human rights, governments to protect and listen to their citizens, and the online world to be free from misinformation and hate.
When founded in 1993, we were pioneers in seeing the link between natural resources, conflict and corruption. For over 25 years, we have investigated and exposed environmental and human rights abuses in the oil, gas, mining, and timber sectors, and tracked ill-gotten money and influence through the global financial and political system.
Today, we continue to focus on abusive actors, misuse of power and financial flows, but have turned our focus on some of the most urgent issues facing humanity: the climate emergency and attacks on civic space.
We work to hold companies and governments to account for their destruction of the environment, their disregard for the planet and their failure to protect human rights via campaigns to:
- curb the flow of finance enabling destruction of climate-critical tropical forests
- challenge industry efforts to present fossil gas as climate-friendly
- end corporate complicity in environmental and human rights abuses
- protect land and environmental defenders standing up to climate-wrecking industries
- tackle the spread of division, hate and disinformation on digital platforms
- end corporate corruption and ensure companies in the natural resource sector can no longer operate above the law
Over 25 years of creating change
Our 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. Since then, we have revealed how Cambodia’s elite have exploited first forests, then oil, gas, mineral reserves, and land for agribusiness, to shore up their own positions of power.
We alert the world to ‘blood diamonds’ fuelling civil war in Angola and across Africa, thrusting the practices of the global diamond industry into the spotlight.
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. We later resigned as an official sponsor of the Kimberley Process, but continued to campaign for the industry to source diamonds responsibly.
We conceive the Publish What You Pay (PWYP) campaign, and co-launch it with George Soros, Transparency International and other leading NGOs.
PWYP leads to the establishment of the world’s first international anti-corruption mechanism in the extractives sector – the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) - and to ground-breaking transparency laws being passed in the EU and later in the US (Section 1504 of the Dodd Frank Act), forming the basis of a global transparency standard.
Our campaigning with partners secures ground-breaking measures to break the links between minerals and conflict
Section 1502 of the Dodd Frank Act in the US 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. In 2017, following ongoing advocacy with partners we secured a similar law in the EU: the Responsible Sourcing Regulation.
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. Our research helps shine a light on this hidden crisis and force it onto the political agenda.
She argues for the creation of public registries of beneficial ownership so that companies can no longer be used anonymously against the public good. Since then, our campaigning with partners has led to the creation of such registers in the UK and later its overseas territories, in the EU, and historic steps in the US.
Our landmark investigation reveals the secret control of Myanmar’s multi-billion dollar jade trade.
We show that Myanmar’s jade trade is worth far more than previously thought - as much as $31bn in 2014 - yet hardly any of this money reaches ordinary people or state coffers. Our subsequent investigations expose the hidden control of the sector by the military, as we advocate for better governance of Myanmar’s extractives as crucial to securing a lasting peace.
Oil majors Shell and Eni are ordered to stand trial on corruption allegations over a deal we exposed.
The companies and their senior executives are taken to court over their role in a 2011 deal for Nigerian oil block OPL 245. We and our partners first filed a complaint over the deal in 2013. Though disappointed when they were found not guilty in March 2021, we continue to campaign for accountability in this case and across the fossil fuels industry.
After our campaigns expose EU-based investors’ roles in projects linked to harms against people and planet, the EU takes steps to create a more ethical financial sector.
Both the European Parliament and Council vote unanimously for new rules that mean investors must put measures in place to ensure their activities do not cause human rights abuse or environmental destruction – a move backed by big industry players. It follows years of our campaigning to highlight how Europeans’ money and EU-based investors have played a key role in projects linked to harms.
Responding to the greatest challenge facing the world, we step up our ambition towards tackling the climate crisis
Recognising it is no longer enough to simply demand accountability and transparency, we join calls for a revolution - a new global system in which the protection of the planet is put ahead of profit-making. We resolve to tackle the corporate capture of decision-making, misuse of power, misinformation and greenwashing that are standing in the way of government action to advance climate justice, particularly for those disproportionately affected.
Campaign to ending corporate complicity in environmental and human rights abuses sees world-leading EU effort to put people and planet over profit
In March 2021, the European Parliament voted to give a clear message that they want to see a robust and meaningful law to hold companies to account for their harms on people and planet. This vote was a result of over one year of our advocacy and mobilisation efforts - half a million people took action to urge the EU Commission to act. Despite stringent internally scrutiny fuelled by a massive business lobby, by the end of 2021, both the Commission President and key MEPs had publicly voiced their support to move ahead with the proposal in 2022.
How we work
Our methodology is: find the facts, expose the story, change the system.
Global Witness investigations are known for their meticulous attention to detail and we use an ever-evolving variety of techniques including undercover filming and scraping and analysing open source and leaked data sets. For instance, in 2020 we conducted our most ambitious data-driven investigation to date, uncovering the illegal deforestation linked to Brazil’s biggest beef companies.
Our communications, events and partnerships bring issues to the attention of audiences around the world and onto the political agenda.
Meanwhile, through our advocacy we successfully shape and secure laws, sanctions and changes in business practice to ensure transition to a just and sustainable future.
Global Witness is committed to adhering to the guidelines set out in the IPSO Editors Code.
If you have a complaint or feedback about our campaigning, research or investigative work, please contact us at [email protected]. Your comments are very welcome as they keep our standards high.
How we're achieving change through investigations, advocacy and awareness-raising.
UK brings forwards deforestation law
Informed by our work with partners to build a strong case and mobilise support, in 2020 the UK government brought forward draft legislation to tackle deforestation in UK supply chains.
Global voices heard
In early 2021, our digital tool enabled almost half a million people around the world to input into the EU’s public consultation on planned legislation to hold companies to account for human rights abuses and environmental destruction.
Spotlight on Land and Environmental Defenders
Our latest report on the threats faced by land and environmental defenders was picked up by 1000 media outlets internationally with a potential reach of over 3 billion. Defenders tell us this global awareness makes it harder for governments and companies to ignore their campaigns.
EU takes steps to end support for fossil gas expansion
Following months of pressure from Global Witness including a series of exposés, in 2020 the European Commission proposed in a review of its key infrastructure law to no longer support fossil gas projects.