Blog | Dec. 20, 2019

Our campaigning moments of 2019

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As the year comes to a close, we asked some of our Global Witness colleagues to tell us about their personal campaigning highlights of the year. From corruption trials to climate protests to the brave work of our partners, these are the moments which have lifted our spirits and given us real hope for the new year.

“The Global Climate Strike was a highlight of the year for me. Our staff walked out of the office to join millions worldwide. The youth climate strikers are the real climate leaders, not governments. They have helped transform the climate debate and given new power to our movement. Seeing adults embrace even just a little bit of their courage, and walk out of work, was inspiring.

I got quite emotional seeing a video of a local councillor in Belfast, my home town, addressing youth climate strikers. He spoke with emotion about his 6-year-old child, how he wanted him to live a long and happy life in a stable climate, and that he was “in this fight – until the day I die.” It's all not enough yet – we need every adult out joining them – but it’s a start! I’m really excited to see what they accomplish in 2020.” – Adam McGibbon


“In 2019, we published investigations revealing how Denis Christel Sassou-Nguesso and Claudia Sassou-Nguesso, son and daughter of Republic of Congo’s President and elected members of the Congolese parliament, apparently stole over $70 million from state coffers for their personal gain.

My favourite moment was when a coalition of Congolese NGOs filed a complaint with the country's Public Prosecutor to investigate the facts revealed in our investigations. Criticisms to the Presidential family can be heavily repressed in Congo and these NGOs were very brave for taking this step in the fight for justice.” – Mariana Abreu


“In June, the Crown Dependencies – Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man – pledged to table legislation to introduce public registers of beneficial ownership by 2023. For the first time, the real people behind anonymously-owned companies incorporated in these tax havens will be brought out of the shadows.

This dramatic shift would have been hard to imagine two years ago, and shows just how far we’ve come in shifting the debate on transparency.” – Martina Mlinaric


“The biggest moment of 2019 for me came when the UK Serious Fraud Office announced it was officially investigating London-listed commodities giant Glencore for possible bribery. We’ve spent years exposing Glencore’s questionable mining deals in DRC and urging authorities to investigate – this has the potential to be a precedent-setting case and a major boost for corporate governance in the UK.” – Peter Jones


“The most important moment for me in 2019 was the hard work of our partners in the Philippines – who not only helped us launch our report in country with a series of events, press conferences and meetings, but allowed us to work with them to investigate and expose the attacks against defenders like Gloria Capitan, Renato Anglao, Ruben Arzaga and Jimmy Saypan – all at the hands of destructive industries like coal, agribusiness, logging and mining.

As the issue of defenders rises up the headlines, in 2020 I’m excited about driving forward our campaign to stand with defenders with more determination than ever before.” – Heather Iqbal


“My highlight was watching the US House of Representatives’ vote on the Corporate Transparency Act, and seeing the votes come in one by one for the win. This was the first time in over ten years of advocacy and investigations by Global Witness that a bill in the US requiring company ownership transparency to combat illicit finance in the US had successfully passed through a Chamber of Congress.

It was also gratifying to see lawmakers who faced pressure to reject the bill stand firm and vote for it anyway – in part thanks to our advocacy efforts, and those done in close partnership with a diverse set of allies, including law enforcement organizations, national security experts, anti-human trafficking advocates and many others.” – Mark Hays


“2019 saw the publication of the long-awaited EU Communication on Stepping up EU Action to Protect and Restore the World’s Forests which left open the option of regulatory action to tackle deforestation in EU supply chains, and also addressed the role of financing. This was a particular highlight for me as Global Witness, along with other NGOs, has been campaigning for years for the EU to take action to tackle the deforestation associated with its imports and investments.

I was also pleased to see this picked up in the EU’s Green Deal and also the recently agreed Council Conclusions which backed regulatory measures. 2019 has been a dire year for the world’s forests with the Amazon fires dominating the headlines, but the signs of political will at EU level are encouraging and we hope to see this translated into action in 2020.” – Jo Blackman


“One highlight for me was when a company we exposed for exporting illegal timber, WCA, was banned from exporting anymore timber to the US by the Office of the United States Trade Representative, which was a recommendation we and other organisations working on and in Peru had been calling for. This sent out a strong signal to many Peruvian timber exporters that the US will not accept illegal timber into its market.” – Laura Furones


“My highlight of 2019 has been being able to follow the landmark corruption trial of oil giants Shell and Eni blow by blow. The court in Milan this year heard details of hundreds of millions of dollars being moved into cash to allegedly pay bribes, a key accuser claiming Eni had tried to bribe him to change his testimony (denied by the company) and the role of intelligence agents in this major oil deal.

Shell experts were being put on the spot over findings from our investigation Take the Future, which exposed tax breaks worth almost $6bn in the highly unusual 2011 deal for Nigeria's oil. Ultimately they were forced to concede that they could not name a similar deal in Nigeria since the early 1990s in the era of military rule.” – Barnaby Pace


"My highlight came towards the end of the year, as the UK government announced that, against serious odds, it would be including the Registration of Overseas Entities Bill (aka ‘the property register’) in its legislative programme. This is an issue we've been campaigning on for five years, fighting to keep it on the government's agenda when Brexit threatened to move all other issues aside.

Given that the property register didn't feature in the Conservatives' election manifesto, we had our serious doubts that it would make an appearance, especially as after the election we had less than a week to make the case for its inclusion. It was a fantastic end to the year to see that our last-minute campaigning had paid off." – Ava Lee


2020 will see many more campaigning moments and, we hope, more progress towards a world where corruption is challenged and accountability prevails, all can thrive within the planet’s boundaries, and governments act in the public interest.

You can help us get there by donating to our end of year appeal, and stay up to date with our work throughout 2020 by signing up to our mailing list.


Banner/listing image photo credit: Global Witness, iStockphoto and George Osodi/Panos