|This article relies too much on references to primary sources. (October 2015)|
|Founded||1993 in London|
|Focus||Natural resource-related conflict and corruption and associated environmental and human rights abuses.|
Global Witness is an international NGO established in 1993 that works to break the links between natural resource exploitation, conflict, poverty, corruption, and human rights abuses worldwide. The organisation has offices in London and Washington, D.C.. Global Witness states that it does not have any political affiliation. Gillian Caldwell joined the organisation as Executive Director in July 2015
Investigation by Global Witness in April 2014 revealed there were nearly three times as many environmental defenders killed in 2012 than 10 years previously. Global Witness documented 147 deaths in 2012, compared to 51 in 2002. In Brazil 448 activists defending natural resources were killed between 2002 and 2013, in Honduras 109, Peru 58, Philippines 67 and Thailand 16. Many of those facing threats are ordinary people opposing land grabs, mining operations and the industrial timber trade, often forced from their homes and severely threatened by environmental devastation. Others have been killed for protests over hydroelectric dams, pollution and wildlife conservation.
|Charmian Gooch: Meet global corruption's hidden players, TED Talks, July 8, 2013|
Global Witness states that its goals are to expose the corrupt exploitation of natural resources and international trade systems, to drive campaigns that end impunity, resource linked conflict, and human rights and environmental abuses. The organisation explores how diamonds and other natural resources can fund conflict or fuel corruption. It carries out investigations into the involvement of specific individuals and business entities in activities such as illegal and unsustainable forest exploitation, and corruption in oil, gas and mining industries.
Global Witness’ methodology combines investigative research, publishing reports and conducting advocacy campaigns. Reports are disseminated to governments, intergovernmental organizations, civil society and the media. This is intended to shape global policy and change international thinking about the extraction and trading of natural resources and the impacts that corrupt and unsustainable exploitation can have upon development, human rights and geopolitical and economic stability.
Global Witness has worked on diamonds, oil, timber, cocoa, gas, gold and other minerals. It has undertaken investigations and case studies in Cambodia, Angola, Liberia, DR Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Kazakhstan, Burma, Indonesia, Zimbabwe, Turkmenistan and Ivory Coast. It has also helped to set up international initiatives such as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, the Kimberley Process, and the Publish What You Pay coalition.
Global Witness argues that natural resources can be, and have been, exploited to fund armies and militias who murder, rape, and commit other human rights abuses against civilians. It says that "natural resources can potentially be used to negotiate and maintain peace" and "could be the key to ending Africa's poverty".
Global Witness’s first campaign was in Cambodia in the 1990s where the Khmer Rouge was getting money by smuggling illegal timber across the border into Thailand. Global Witness's campaigning resulted in the border being closed. The Observer newspaper attributed the shut down of the border to Global Witness's "detailed and accurate reporting".
After a report implicating relatives of Prime Minister Hun Sen and other senior government officials, the prime minister's brother, Hun Neng, who is also a provincial governor, was quoted in a Cambodian newspaper as saying if anyone from Global Witness returned to Cambodia, he would "“hit them until their heads are broken." In 2009, Global Witness released 'Country for Sale', a report on corruption in the allocation of Cambodia's natural resources licenses. In 2010 the report, 'Shifting Sand' was published which looked at sand dredging for export to Singapore. The report claimed that the trade was "monopolised by two prominent Cambodian Senators with close ties to Prime Minister Hun Sen".
In 1998 Global Witness released the report ‘A Rough Trade – The Role of Companies and Governments in the Angolan Conflict’ describing the role of the international diamond trade in funding the Angolan Civil War.
Global Witness has also contributed in Sierra Leone. As part of its campaign against conflict diamonds, Global Witness helped in the establishment of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KCPS). The international governmental certification scheme that was set up to put a stop to trade in diamonds that fund conflict, requires governments to certify that shipments in rough diamonds are conflict-free. Like many other Sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries, Sierra Leone is amongst those countries that are endowed with oil/mineral resources amidst social inequality, high prevalence of poverty and conflict.
Under rebel movements headed by Charles Taylor, who dominated the diamond industry, diamonds were being traded for guns with the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). This rebel group alone brought in as much as $125m at its peak. In 1998, Global Witness stated that diamonds were spurring those conflicts. Backed by investigation done by the UN in 2000, it was then verified that the gems were being carefully smuggled out from eastern Sierra Leone through Liberia, and subsequently into the international market. Sanctions were later imposed by the UN on Liberian diamonds in March 2001.
On July 19, 2000, the World Diamond Congress adopted at Antwerp a resolution to reinforce the diamond industry's ability to block sales of conflict diamonds. Thereafter, with growing international pressure from Global Witness and other NGOs, meetings were hosted with diamond-producing countries over a 3 years, concluding in the establishment of an international diamond certification scheme in January 2003. The certification system on the export and import of diamonds, known as the KCPS, was called by the resolution, imposing legislation in all countries to accept shipment of only officially sealed packages of diamonds accompanied by a KP certificate guaranteeing that they were conflict-free. Anyone found trafficking conflict diamonds will be indicted of criminal charges, while bans were to be imposed on individuals found trading those stones from diamond bourses under the World Federation of Diamond Bourses.
The Kimberley Process (KP) in Sierra Leone was efficient in limiting the flow of conflict diamonds in a short time. More importantly, the KP assisted in restoring peace and security in the lives of these people, and by creating stability in these delicate environments, it facilitated their development. It was successful at channelling larger amounts of diamonds into the international market, boosting government revenues and consequently aiding in tackling development concerns. In 2006, an estimated $125m worth of diamonds were legally exported from Sierra Leone, compared to almost none in the 1990s.
Despite its success, nine years later, on 5 December 2011, Global Witness announced that it has left the KP, stating that the scheme’s main flaws have not been mended, as governments no longer continue to show interest in reform.
Oil, gas and mining
Global Witness campaigns for more transparency in the oil, gas and mining sectors. It is a founding member of the Publish What You Pay (PWYP) coalition, which campaigns for “the mandatory disclosure of company payments and government revenues from the oil, gas, and mining sector”. Over 300 civil society groups worldwide are member of PWYP. Other PWYP founders include CAFOD, Oxfam, Save the Children UK, Transparency International UK and George Soros, Chairman of the Open Society Institute.
Global Witness also helped set up the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, which was announced by then UK Prime Minister Tony Blair at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in September 2002 and formally endorsed by the World Bank in December 2003. The EITI is a result of the efforts of the PWYP campaigners. It is now supported by a majority of the world’s oil, mining and gas companies and institutional investors - in total worth US$8.3 trillion. Global Witness is a member of the EITI International Advisory Group and sits on the EITI Board.
Democratic Republic of Congo
Global Witness is active on a range of issues in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Their website section on DRC reads; “Politicians, military and militia groups have plundered the country's natural wealth and used it to enrich themselves at the detriment of the population.” Global Witness has lobbied the UK government and the UN Security Council to stop the trade in minerals fuelling war in Eastern Congo.
Global Witness defines conflict resources as “natural resources whose systematic exploitation and trade in a context of conflict contribute to, benefit from or result in the commission of serious violations of human rights, violations of international humanitarian law or violations amounting to crimes under international law.”
Global Witness has done a lot of work on forests. They produced reports on how timber helped to fund the civil war in Liberia and also looked at timber smuggling from Burma into China. Recently, Global Witness launched a court case in France against DLH, a company that they allege bought timber from Liberian companies during the civil war between 2001–2003, thereby providing support to Charles Taylor's regime.
Global Witness describes forests as the “last bastion against climate change”, with deforestation accounting for 18% of total global carbon dioxide emissions. On UN efforts to agree a deal on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) Global Witness said: "REDD carries considerable risks for forests and local communities and will only succeed if civil society is engaged as an independent watchdog to ensure that the money is used in accordance with national laws and international guidelines."
Global Witness criticizes the World Bank endorsed approach of encouraging industrial export-based logging as a means to economic growth in developing countries, which it argues has been repeatedly shown to fail. Instead, Global Witness advocates management strategies which benefit the communities who are dependent on forests, the home countries and the environment and treat forests as an “international asset”.
Global Witness campaigns against anonymous companies and for registers of beneficial ownership. Anonymous companies are a legal business practice but can be used for purposes such as laundering money from criminal activity, financing terrorism, or evading taxes.
In 2009 Global Witness launched a campaign on the role of banks in facilitating corruption. Its report, Undue Diligence, names some of the major banks who have done business with corrupt regimes. It argues that 'by accepting these customers, banks are assisting those who are using state assets to enrich themselves or brutalise their own people' and that 'this corruption denies the world's poorest people the chance to lift themselves out of poverty and leaves them dependent on aid.'
Global Witness is on the Coordinating Committee of Taskforce on Financial Integrity and Economic Development, and is a member of BankTrack, and the UNCAC Coalition of Civil Society Organisations. In May 2009, Global Witness employee, Anthea Lawson, testified before the U.S. House Financial Services Committee on 'Capital Loss, Corruption and the Role of Western Financial Institutions'. In a letter to The Guardian dated 9 February 2010 Ms Lawson accused UK Banks of "demonstrated complicity" in corruption.
Global Witness has campaigned for transparency in Sudan’s oil industry. Global Witness published 'Fuelling Mistrust' in June 2009, a report that detailed discrepancies of up to 26% between the production figures published by the Sudanese Government and those published by the main oil company operating in the region, CNPC. This peace deal between the north and the south was predicated on an agreement to share the revenues from oil.
In June 2010 Global Witness criticized Zimbabwe for large-scale human rights abuses committed in the Marange diamonds fields. It published a report 'Return of the Blood Diamond' which criticised the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme for repeatedly failing to react effectively to the crisis in Zimbabwe. In July 2010 Tendai Midzi, writing in The Zimbabwe Guardian, accused Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada of being “but a figment of the western governments they represent'.
Global Witness exposed corruption in land deals within the administration of Taib Mahmud, the chief minister of the state of Sarawak in Malaysia through the video titled "Inside Malaysia's Shadow State." The video featured footage of conversations with relatives of Taib and their lawyer where Global Witness' agents posed as potential investors.
Honors and awards
Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada were jointly nominated by U.S. House of Representatives and Senate members for the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize for work on links between conflict and diamonds in several African countries.
- Winner of the Gleitsman Foundation prize for international activism (2005)
- Winner of the Center for Global Development/Foreign Policy Magazine Commitment to Development Ideas in Action Award (2007)
- Charmian Gooch, one of the three founding Directors of Global Witness, was awarded the Ted Prize in 2014. Her stated Wish was 'for us to know who owns and controls companies, so that they can no longer be used anonymously against the public good. Let's ignite world opinion, change the law, and together launch a new era of openness in business.'
- Winner of the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship 2014
The majority of Global Witness’ funding comes from grants made by foundations, governments and charities. One of their main funders is the Open Society Institute, which also funds Human Rights Watch. Ironically, The Institute's Chairman is George Soros who was convicted in France of Insider Trading in 2002 (www.bloomberg.com, 6 October 2011). Global Witness also receives money from the Norwegian and British governments, the Adessium Foundation, and Oxfam Novib.
In an interview in The Guardian newspaper in 2007, Patrick Alley, one of the Founding Directors, rejected the claim that receiving money from governments could bias their campaigns: "Being campaign-led, rather than funding-led, means that our independence is never comprised," he argued. "The Department for Trade and Industry did once ask if we'd like to sign a confidentiality clause. We said we wouldn't take the funding under those conditions. No other government has ever tried to impose any restrictions."
From December 2008 to November 2009 Global Witness's income was £3,831,831. Of this, approximately 61% came in the form of grants from private trusts and foundations, 33% from governments, 3% from multi-lateral and non governmental organisations, and 3% from bank interest and other. Global Witness says it spends 75% of its funds on campaigns, 7% on communication and fundraising, and 18% on support and governance.
- Surge in deaths of environmental activists over past decade, report finds The Guardian 14 April 2014
- Mark Boulton Design. "Global Witness". globalwitness.org.
- Mark Boulton Design. "Global Witness". globalwitness.org.
- "Stakeholders". eiti.org.
- Observer Newspaper, 'Going Underground', by John Sweeney, 26 March 2000
- "The dangers for journalists who expose environmental issues" (PDF). Reporters Without Borders. September 2009. p. 2.
- "Country for Sale". globalwitness.org.
- Global Witness, 'Shifting Sand, how Singapore's demand for Cambodian sand threatens ecosystems and undermines good governance', May 2010
- "A Rough Trade". globalwitness.org.
- "The Kimberley Process". globalwitness.org.
- Omeje, K., eds. Extractive Economies and Conflicts in the Global South Multi Regional Perspectives on Rentier Politics. Hampshire/Burlington: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2008.
- "History of the Conflict". globalwitness.org.
- World Diamond Council website: DiamondFacts.org (accessed February 20, 2012)
- "Breaking News, U.S., World, Weather, Entertainment & Video News - CNN.com". CNN. 19 February 2014.
- "Global Witness leaves Kimberley Process, calls for diamond trade to be held accountable". globalwitness.org.
- "News & Broadcast - WBG Endorses Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative". worldbank.org.
- "Democratic Republic of Congo". globalwitness.org.
- "Conflict". globalwitness.org.
- "Corruption could undermine REDD". Mongabay.
- Wired, Charmian Gooch: anonymous company ownership is fuelling corruption
- "Committee on Financial Services, US House of Representatives, 111th Congress, First Session" (PDf). May 19, 2009.
- "Letters: Banks, tax havens and corruption". the Guardian (London). 9 February 2010.
- "Fuelling Mistrust: The need for transparency in Sudan's oil industry". globalwitness.org.
- "Inside Malaysia’s Shadow State". Global Witness. Retrieved 20 March 2013.
- "Taib denies cousins his land brokers, says he goes by government procedures". The Star Online. 19 March 2013. Retrieved 20 March 2013.
- "TED Prize winner Charmian Gooch reveals her wish at TED2014 - TED Blog". TED Blog.
- "The Skoll Foundation Announces Seven 2014 Skoll Awards for Social Entrepreneurship « Skoll Foundation". skollfoundation.org.
- "Our supporters". globalwitness.org.
- "Open Society Foundations". soros.org.
- "Adessium". adessium.org.
- Alison Benjamin (31 January 2007). "Rough diamonds". the Guardian (London).
- "Global Witness Annual Report, 2009, Financial Information" (PDF). p. 27.