Established in 1993 by the three friends working from their front rooms, Global Witness now numbers over sixty staff divided between its offices in London and Washington DC, and has a truly impressive track record of success.
Our first ever campaign aimed to stop the trade in illegal timber from Cambodia to Thailand which was funding the Khmer Rouge. Within 6 months we achieved an astounding victory: the overland border was closed. Our painstaking evidence-gathering, which entailed months of undercover work in the forests on either side of the border, paid off when our dossier and follow up lobbying convinced the authorities to act. The disruption of this trade, which was providing much-needed finance to the ruthless rebels, helped to bring about the final demise of an organisation that had terrorised a generation of Cambodians.
Having confirmed our hunch that there were important gains to be made by focusing on the role of natural resources in fuelling conflict and corruption we turned our attention to Angola where diamonds were financing a brutal civil war. Our work here, and later in Sierra Leone, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Cote d'Ivoire, dramatically brought the problem of blood diamonds to public and policy makers' attention. Our campaigning led to the creation of the precedent-setting Kimberley Process Certification Scheme and to our joint nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. Three years later we contributed to research and campaigning around the 2006 Hollywood blockbuster, Blood Diamond.
We have gone on to campaign internationally against natural resource-related corruption and conflict using a number of countries as case studies – including Burma, Indonesia, Liberia, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Equatorial Guinea, Turkmenistan, and the Ukraine. Initially focusing on specific resources, we have also broadened out to look at the general policies that enable state looting and prevent transparency. Global Witness is largely responsible for natural resources occupying the prominent role in the international agenda that they currently do. We were part of the coalition that successfully campaigned for the creation of the Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative.
Our hard-hitting investigations have had direct and major impacts, such as the IMF withdrawal from Cambodia in 1996 over corruption in the logging industry, the imposition of timber sanctions on Charles Taylor's Liberia in 2003, and the precedent-setting arrest of timber baron Gus Kouwenhoven, in the Netherlands in 2005. We have helped to stop wars and brought about change that has saved lives. Through high-level policy and advocacy, as well as campaigning and capacity building on the ground, we have built an understanding of the issues and changed the terms of the debate.
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