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Social Capitalists


WITNESS uses the power of video to open the eyes of the world to human rights abuses. By partnering with local organizations around the globe, WITNESS empowers human rights defenders to use video to shine a light on those most affected by human rights violations, and to transform personal stories of abuse into powerful tools of justice. Over the past decade, WITNESS has partnered with more than 200 groups in 50 countries, bringing often unseen images, untold stories and seldom heard voices to the attention of key decision makers, the media, and the general public -- catalyzing grassroots activism, political engagement, and lasting change.

WITNESS works:

  • In December 2003, the President of Paraguay formed a committee to recommend reforms of the country's mental health system in the wake of a successful video petition by partner Mental Disability Rights International to the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights and a regional broadcast of the egregious conditions on CNN;
  • In August 2003, the Export-Import Bank of the United States declined a $214 million loan for the controversial Camisea Natural Gas Project following review of a video petition by partner Amazon Watch highlighting negative environmental and human impacts;
  • Today, a reluctant Philippine government is prosecuting the murderers of indigenous activists who were legally pursuing ancestral land claims after footage of the attacks by partner NAKAMATA was broadcast and delivered to the Philippine president at the World Economic Forum.

WITNESS partners fight for the full range of human rights issues, including the rights of indigenous people, an end to systemic gender violence and the use of children as soldiers, and environmental protection where human communities are at stake. We work with diverse groups from all over the world, carefully selecting our partners based on the strength of their human rights work, the clarity of their mission, and the ability of video to enhance their campaigns. Once a partnership is formed, WITNESS' primary role is one of facilitator and intermediary, providing the equipment and training and brokering the necessary relationships to enable our partners to become more effective advocates for their own causes.

We also provide hands-on training in camera techniques, intensive instruction in using video for human rights work, systemic evaluation of video footage, and constructive feedback to create powerful documentaries. And we collaborate with our partners to create video advocacy campaigns around their completed documentaries that include multiple components such as broadcast and distribution platforms, collaboration with other organizations and networks, targeted screening before audiences with the power to make a difference, and opportunities for individuals to take action.

One of the premier platforms we use to give our partners increased visibility for their campaigns is the WITNESS Web site. Every other month, the website broadcasts new "Rights Alerts," or short documentaries produced by our partners, and offers visitors opportunities to participate in email and targeted letter-writing campaigns.

WITNESS partner footage has appeared on major networks around the world, including CNN, ABC, CBS, PBS, BBC, Canal + and Telemundo. It is also carried by several satellite networks and film distribution companies and is frequently featured in film festivals.

Increasingly, we are deploying customized technology kits that will enable our partners to shoot, script and edit locally and respond more quickly to time sensitive political situations. We are also beginning a new Seeding Video Advocacy initiative, which was developed as a response to the overwhelming demand in the broader human rights landscape for our services, and will enable us to provide short term training in video advocacy to hundreds of advocates globally each year. Finally, we are preparing to launch the WITNESS Video Archive Preservation and Licensing Program, which will protect and make publicly accessible the more than 1,200 hours of rare human rights footage in our media archive.

When WITNESS was founded, its creators asked what paradigms were transforming society. Clearly, video and communication technologies were revolutionizing political advocacy, the professional media market, the world of personal and business communications, and the ways we documented our everyday lives. But until WITNESS was founded, the human rights community was not exploiting these new opportunities. WITNESS empowers human rights defenders to take control of the technologies that drive global communication and convert them into a powerful vehicle for advocacy.

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The above information was provided by the profiled organization.