Global Witness’ methodology combines investigative research, publishing reports and conducting advocacy campaigns. Global Witness reports are disseminated to governments, intergovernmental organizations, civil society and the media. This is intended to shape global policy and change international thinking about the extraction and trading of natural resources and the impacts their corrupt and unsustainable exploitation can have upon development, human rights and geopolitical and economic stability.
Global Witness’ investigations and advocacy campaigns have been both a catalyst for and a driver of a number of international mechanisms and initiatives established to regulate natural resource trading and promote accountability around revenues raised. Examples of such mechanisms include the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, the stated objective of which is ‘to increase transparency over payments and revenues in the extractives sector in countries heavily dependent on these resources’.
Global Witness developed a concept they call Independent Forest Monitoring (IFM), a tool for assessing and strengthening legal compliance in the forest sector internationally.
Global Witness has been recognised for its instrumental role in documenting the trail of natural resource exploitation in countries across the globe. In 1998 Global Witness released the report ‘A Rough Trade – The Role of Companies and Governments in the Angolan Conflict’ uncovering the role of the international diamond trade in funding the Angolan civil war. This report, and further Global Witness campaigning, played an integral role in the creation of the 2003 Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS). The KPCS, an international agreement to prevent the trade in conflict diamonds, counts 71 countries as voluntary participants. As an observer of the Kimberley Process, Global Witness meets once a year with participating governments and other observers, such as the diamond industry and other NGOs, to inform the development of the scheme. Global Witness is also active in numerous working groups which monitor participants' implementation of the scheme, assess applications to join, gather and analyze statistics and discuss technical issues.
Global Witness has led calls for the disclosure of public revenues earned from the extraction and sale of natural resources. Global Witness conceived and co-launched the Publish What You Pay (PWYP) coalition, which now counts over 300 civil society groups across the globe as members. Other PWYP founders include CAFOD, Oxfam, Save the Children UK, Transparency International UK and George Soros, Chairman of the Open Society Institute. PYWP promotes greater transparency in the oil, gas and mining industries by calling for the mandatory disclosure of the payments made by oil, gas and mining companies’ to governments for the extraction of natural resources. The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, which was announced by then UK Prime Minister Tony Blair at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in September 2002 and formally endorsed by the World Bank in December 2003, is a direct result of the efforts of the PWYP campaigners and is now supported by a majority of the world’s oil, mining and gas companies and institutional investors worth US$8.3 trillion. Global Witness is a member of the EITI International Advisory Group, established in 2005 to guide the work of the International EITI Secretariat in defining and refining proposals on the future of the EITI and sits on the EITI Board.
Global Witness advocates for pro-poor alternatives to industrial scale logging and universal measures to curb destructive illegal logging practices. Global Witness promotes an ‘optimal use' scenario that first and foremost benefits forest dependent people, sustainable development and the environment. Global Witness' work on conflict timber was responsible for shutting down the timber industries that provided the funds that fuelled the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and Charles Taylor's regime in Liberia and influenced the closure of the Chinese/Burmese border to timber traffic in 2006.
Global Witness has pioneered and delivered Independent Forest Monitoring (IFM).
The impact of Cambodia’s Family Trees can also be seen through its mention in the U.S. Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriation Draft Bill, 2008 where the Committee urged the administration to ‘prohibit corrupt Cambodian officials identified in the June 2007 Global Witness report entitled Cambodia's Family Trees: Illegal Logging and the Stripping of Public Assets by Cambodia's Elite from entering the United States. The Committee also encouraged other countries, particularly in Europe and Asia, to do the same.