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Global Witness
History and Background

Global Witness was not just the first organisation that sought to break the links between the exploitation of natural resources, and conflict and corruption. We gave birth to the concept, and have remained its leading practitioner. Established in 1993 by the three founding directors working from the front rooms of their homes, Global Witness now numbers over forty staff divided between its offices in London and Washington DC, and has built a truly impressive track record of success.

The campaigns Global Witness conceived are now regularly cited in rafts of international policy, treaties and laws, and by leading academic institutions. But more importantly, Global Witness has brought about real change; change that has saved lives, helped to stop wars, that has cost traders in conflict or illicit resources hundreds of millions of dollars, and has seen one of them jailed; hopefully the first of many.

In 1995, within five months of commencement, our very first campaign closed the Thai-Cambodia border to the $20 million per month timber trade between the Khmer Rouge and Thai logging companies. Our work to expose the funding of the Angolan civil war through oil and diamonds put conflict diamonds on the world map, and resulted in the groundbreaking creation of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme to end the trade in conflict diamonds. The work on the Angolan elite''s massive asset stripping of the country off the back of the civil war spawned the now global effort to deliver transparency of extractive industry revenues.  Global Witness conceived and co-launched the Publish What You Pay campaign, now a coalition of over 300 NGOs, which in turn created the impetus for the UK to launch the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a major international initiative to ensure revenue transparency.  

And along the way, in Liberia, Burma, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Sierra Leone and the oil rich Caspian states, Global Witness'' investigations have exposed the trade in conflict and illicit resources, have brought government attention to bear on previously untouched criminal operations, and have deprived wars of the funding they need to continue.

But more than this, we have worked with local civil society which operates at great risk under some of the world''s most oppressive regimes. We have been able to publicise issues they could not risk publicising themselves, and we have helped create a space for some of these organisations to operate in that they previously didn''t have.

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