Photo showing intact forest and biodiversity in Acre state, Brazil, November 2020.  Lalo de Almeida/Panos/Global Witness

About us

Our goal is a more sustainable, just and equal planet. We want forests and biodiversity to thrive, fossil fuels to stay in the ground and corporations to prioritise the interests of people and the planet.

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. 

Our campaigns

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:

Over 25 years of creating change

Soldiers escorting illegally-logged luxury timber, Phnom Aural Wildlife Sanctuary, May 2004. Credit: Global Witness
Deadly Environment Report Cover
Jade: Myanmar's Big State Secret
Milan Palace of Justice, Italy
Corporate accountability illustration
Forests explainer video still - thermometer

1995-1997

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.

1998

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.

2002

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.

2010

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.

2012

We publish the first in what has gone on to be an annual report into killings and threats against land and 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. Our research helps shine a light on this hidden crisis and force it onto the political agenda.

2014

Our co-founder Charmian Gooch makes a public call for an end to the use of anonymous companies, as she and Global Witness win the TED Prize

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.

2015

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.

2017

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.  

2019

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.

2020

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.

How we work

We have just under 100 staff, and offices in London, Washington DC and Brussels. We work with a global network of partners and allies, from forest communities in Papua New Guinea to civil society groups in Democratic Republic of Congo and through our partnerships with land and environmental defenders.

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.

This work is made possible by our dedicated development, finance, HR, facilities, legal and operations staff. See latest job vacancies to work for us or contact us to work with us.

Recent impacts

How we're achieving change through investigations, advocacy and awareness-raising.

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    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.

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    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. 

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    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.

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    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.

  • Governance

    Find out more about Global Witness's Governance structure.
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  • Meet our CEO

    Mike Davis became Global Witness’ CEO in February 2020
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