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  • Awarded: 2014
  • Issue Areas: Arresting Deforestation · Clean Energy · Environmental Sustainability · Human Rights · Peace and Human Rights · Responsible Supply Chains · Sustainable Markets
  • Countries Served: United Kingdom
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    About the Organization

    Global Witness investigates and campaigns to prevent resource-related conflict and corruption, and associated environmental and human rights abuses. From investigations to high level lobby meetings, they aim to engage on every level where they might make a difference and bring about change.

    For two decades they have been campaigning for full transparency in the mining, logging, and oil and gas sectors, so that citizens who own those resources can benefit fairly from them, now and in future.

    Global Witness believes that the only way to protect peoples’ rights to land, livelihoods, and a fair share of their national wealth is to demand total transparency in the resources sector, sustainable and equitable resources management, and stopping the international financial system from propping up resource-related corruption.

    The Global Witness team draws on a wide range of skills, from undercover investigations and painstaking financial research, to information-gathering on the ground and close cooperation with partners and activists all over the world.

    Powerful and corrupt exploiters of natural resources often funnel proceeds into war, conflict, and human rights abuses.

    Global Witness investigates problems at the intersection of conflict, corruption, and natural resource exploitation.

    The GW founders seek to end the business practices that make resources a curse instead of a blessing.

    Over the years their work has contributed to the successful expose' and prosecution of warlords such as Charles Taylor. Currently they're working to create public registries that end anonymous companies.

    Ambition for Change

    Financial transparency uncovers the flow of funds fueling conflict and corruption, making it difficult to continue these activities.

    Path to Scale

    Build a Movement, Policy Advocacy

    Evidence from investigations and cases influences regulatory frameworks and legislation. Governments, industry leaders, and other actors are held accountable; human rights are respected and ordinary citizens benefit from natural resources.

    Patrick Alley, Charmian Gooch, and Simon Taylor, co-founders and directors of Global Witness, met while working for an environmental organization, and discovered a shared horror in what was happening in the forests of Cambodia, where Khmer Rouge rebels were financing murderous campaigns by clearing forests and selling timber to Thai companies. They posed as buyers to document and expose the traffic, and succeeded in shutting it down. They founded Global Witness to act as a credible investigator, uncovering problems that exist at the intersection of conflict, corruption, and natural resource exploitation. Their investigations follow the money – where it comes from, where it goes – to spotlight the drivers of environmental destruction and uncover paths to combat corruption in the extractive sector and international financial systems. They seek to unmask anonymous companies set up to hide the identities of perpetrators and profit seekers. GW campaigns engage media, governments, civil society, and international bodies to end the vicious cycles of illegal trade, corruption, and violence. Its Publish What You Pay Campaign is a global movement for transparency. At the time of the Award, GW had made major contributions to exposing illicit trade in conflict diamonds, minerals, oil and gas, and land use; bringing down the Charles Taylor government in Liberia, and to the global movements driving change in global governance systems. Two-thirds of the world’s oil, gas, and mining companies (measured by value) were covered by laws that require transparency about the payments they make.

    Impact & Accomplishments

    • In March 2014, Global Witness announced a TED “wish” to end anonymous companies. Queen Elizabeth shortly thereafter announced her government’s intention to introduce legislation establishing a public register of company ownership. It was enacted and finalized in March 2015. The EU Parliament has also voted in favor of public registries.


    Alice HarrisonCommunications Advisor, Global Witness
    Charmian GoochCo-Founder and Board Member, Global Witness
    Christine OramDirector of Development, Global Witness
    Patrick AlleyCo-Founder and Board member, Global Witness
    Simon TaylorCo-Founder and Board Member, Global Witness

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