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20 Years of Global Impact

In 1993, three friends working together at the Environmental Investigation Agency set up a new organisation called Global Witness. They sourced their first computer out of a bin outside their office and relied on friends and family to pay for their international calls.

They were the first to see the link between natural resources, conflict and corruption and to systematically document and expose how this sustains poverty, fuels instability and destroys the environment.

1995–97. GLOBAL WITNESS CAMPAIGNING CUTS OFF FUNDING TO THE GENOCIDAL KHMER ROUGE

Global Witness’s 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.

1998. GLOBAL WITNESS ALERTS THE WORLD TO BLOOD DIAMONDS – WORK FOR WHICH IT IS LATER CO-NOMINATED FOR THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE

Global Witness exposes how diamonds are fuelling civil war in Angola and across Africa, thrusting the practices of the global diamond industry into the spotlight for the first time. 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.

2001. GLOBAL WITNESS PREVENTS THE CREATION OF THE BIGGEST TIMBER CONCESSION IN HISTORY

Global Witness investigates a massive logging deal between the Zimbabwean Forestry Commission and the DRC government, revealing links to the military arm of Zimbabwe’s ZANU PF. The deal, which would have led to the eventual destruction of an area of forest equal in size to the UK, is halted.

2002. GLOBAL WITNESS’S WORK LEADS TO THE CREATION OF THE WORLD’S FIRST EXTRACTIVE SECTOR ANTI-CORRUPTION MECHANISM: EITI

Global Witness conceives the Publish What You Pay campaign, and co-launches it with George Soros, Transparency International and other leading NGOs. This leads to the establishment of the world’s first international anti-corruption mechanism in the extractives sector – the Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). EITI has led to details of more than $1 trillion of oil, gas and mining revenues being put in the public domain for the first time.

2003. GLOBAL WITNESS REVEALS THAT RIGGS BANK HELD $300-500M OF OIL REVENUES FOR EQUATORIAL GUINEA’S PRESIDENT

Working with the LA Times, Global Witness revealed that Riggs Bank in Washington DC held millions of dollars under the personal control of Equatorial Guinea’s president, Teodoro Obiang. The subsequent devastating investigation by a Senate committee resulted in $25 million of fines and the bank being sold off at a fraction of its value, after being found guilty of money-laundering violations.

2003. GLOBAL WITNESS’S CAMPAIGN RESULTS IN UN SANCTIONS BEING IMPOSED ON LIBERIA’S TIMBER TRADE

Global Witness works with local Liberian activists to expose how Charles Taylor’s regime is colluding with armed groups, timber companies and arms traffickers to control the country’s timber trade and fund regional war. The investigation reveals a $100 million black hole in the nation's finances in one year alone. UN Security Council sanctions are placed on Liberian timber and Charles Taylor flees into exile but is eventually arrested and convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity

2005. GLOBAL WITNESS CAMPAIGN LEADS TO CHINESE BAN ON ILLEGAL TIMBER TRADE FROM BURMA

Global Witness investigations reveal that China has been importing up to 1.3 million cubic metres of timber from Burma per year, and that around 98% of this trade was illegal. Chinese diplomats attempt, unsuccessfully, to persuade Global Witness not to publish its findings. The furore generated by the ensuing Global Witness report prompts the Chinese government to close its land border to timber from Burma in early 2006.

2007. GLOBAL WITNESS EXPOSE CONTRIBUTES TO THE RENEGOTIATION OF A $900M LIBERIAN MINING CONTRACT

Global Witness publishes a leaked iron ore contract between the steel giant Mittal Steel and the Liberian government. The publication embarrassed the company, strengthened the hand of the Liberian Government, and helped lead to the renegotiation of what was initially an opaque and inequitable deal.

2010. GLOBAL WITNESS CAMPAIGN SECURES GROUND-BREAKING MEASURES TO BREAK THE LINKS BETWEEN MINERALS AND CONFLICT

Section 1502 of the Dodd Frank Act in the USA 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.

2010. GLOBAL WITNESS REVEALS GADDAFI’S $65BN OFFSHORE EMPIRE

Global Witness publishes a leaked document showing the investments made by the Libyan Investment Authority. By exposing the vast amounts of cash held offshore, Global Witness put a spotlight on the role western banks played in propping up the brutal Gaddafi regime and locked down the money during the revolution.

2013. GLOBAL WITNESS CAMPAIGN RESULTS IN TWO THIRDS OF THE GLOBAL VALUE OF LISTED EXTRACTIVES COMPANIES BEING COVERED BY TRANSPARENCY LAWS

The PWYP campaign now consists of over 650 organisations operating in more than 60 countries around the world. Its campaign to force oil, gas and mining companies to open up their books to scrutiny has a major success as ground-breaking transparency laws passed in the EU combine with similar laws passed in the US in 2010 (Section 1504 of the Dodd Frank Act) to form the basis of a global transparency standard.

2013. GLOBAL WITNESS AND OTHER NGOS SECURE A BREAKTHROUGH COMMITMENT TO TACKLE CORPORATE SECRECY

David Cameron announces that the UK government will make public the names of who actually owns and controls British companies. Global Witness reports have repeatedly highlighted examples of companies, many of them British, with hidden ownership being used to launder money and in other corrupt deals. Global Witness set out the problem systematically for the first time in the Undue Diligence report in 2009.