|Founded||1993 in London|
|Headquarters||London and Washington D.C|
|Focus||Natural resource-related conflict and corruption and associated environmental and human rights abuses.|
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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. In 2003 it was co-nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for its work on conflict diamonds.
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.
Investigations and advocacy campaigns conducted by Global Witness have led to arrests and international policy change. They have been both a catalyst for and a driver of a number of international mechanisms and initiatives established to regulate natural resource trading and promote accountability around revenues raised.
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 has been recognised for its instrumental role in documenting the trail of natural resource exploitation in countries across the globe.
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.”
In June 2007 the Cambodian government banned the distribution of the organisation’s new report 'Cambodia's Family Tree s: Illegal logging and the stripping of public assets by Cambodia's elite'. This report details the activities of Cambodia's most powerful illegal logging syndicate and implicates 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 “him them on the head until it broke." 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 Minster Hun Sen".
Global Witness was one of the first organisations to bring the world’s attention to the problem of conflict diamonds, or blood diamonds. In 1998 Global Witness released the report ‘A Rough Trade – The Role of Companies and Governments in the Angolan Conflict’ uncovering the role of the international diamond trade in funding the Angolan Civil War. This report, and further Global Witness campaigning, helped bring about the creation of the 2003 Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS). The KPCS, an international agreement to prevent the trade in conflict diamonds, counts 71 countries as voluntary participants. As an observer of the Kimberley Process, Global Witness meets once a year with participating governments and other observers, such as the diamond industry and other NGOs, to inform the development of the scheme. Global Witness is also active in numerous working groups which monitor participants' implementation of the scheme, assess applications to join, gather and analyze statistics and discuss technical issues.
Global Witness has also contributed in Sierra Leone, where diamonds are a resource curse. 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. Liberia’s two civil wars and the conflict in Sierra Leone resulted in high human cost, where 2 million people became refugees and almost half a million were killed. Diamonds did not cause these conflicts, but were central to funding them.
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 revealed how these 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.
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.
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. The work on the Burma-China trade was instrumental in getting the border closed. 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”.
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 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.
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. They also get 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.
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