Skoll Foundation


Global Witness

Skoll Awardee(s): Simon Taylor, Charmian Gooch, and Patrick Alley
Award Year: 2014
Issue Area(s) Addressed: Environmental Sustainability, Peace and Human Rights, Sustainable Markets

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“We all face a world of increasing demand for scarce resources. This could mean more conflict, more corruption, and the destruction of people’s livelihoods. But there is a choice before us, and together we can change such a grim future. We hope to work to shine a more powerful light on the shadow system to put an end to the kind of business practices that often make resources a curse instead of a blessing.”

Sub-Issues: Arresting Deforestation; Human Rights; Responsible Supply Chains Powerful and corrupt exploiters of natural resources often funnel the proceeds into war, conflict, and human rights abuses, in the absence of transparency and regulation in international trade systems.

The Skoll Awardees: 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 since joining the portfolio in 2014:

  • 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.




© 2015 Skoll Foundation.