WITNESS was founded over two decades ago after a bystander, George Holliday, recorded the brutal beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police officers. In response, musician and activist Peter Gabriel co-founded WITNESS with the vision that video technology could be used as a tool for the advancement of human rights.
Today, WITNESS is an international organization that trains a new generation of human rights defenders by providing resources on the safe, effective, and ethical use of video – and by providing innovative technology solutions that allow citizen media to play a stronger role within justice and accountability mechanisms.
WITNESS has partnered with hundreds of organizations, trained and equipped thousands of activists, and created customized resources that have reached over 100,000 people – so that anyone, anywhere can harness the power of video for human rights.
WITNESS empowers citizens around the world with the training, tools, and support to create real, lasting change. More people are capturing injustices on camera than ever before – and WITNESS is working to ensure that these videos change the course of history.
Despite advances in human rights protections, abuses are still common.
WITNESS works with and trains partners to put compelling films in the hands of influential media, and operates the world’s first human rights media sharing website.
Musician and activist Peter Gabriel recruited filmmaker Gillian Caldwell to help WITNESS connect compelling testimony to audiences where it could have an impact.
WITNESS has partnered with more than 300 human rights groups in 86 countries, and trained more than 5,000 human rights defenders.
Video advocacy becomes an integral tool contributing to the success of all social change movements.
Build a Movement
WITNESS’s impact increases with engagement of ordinary citizens creating testimony and working with a global network of human rights organizations.
Peter Gabriel had already made a mark on the human rights movement with his music and his activism when he co-founded WITNESS in 1992 to put video cameras into the hands of human-rights activists. One of those activists was Gillian Caldwell, who was using undercover cameras to investigate Russian mafia involved in trafficking women into forced prostitution. She was recruited as WITNESS’s executive director in 1998. She realized WITNESS partners needed training on how to film a compelling story, get their films before decision makers who could make a difference, and get their films shown by major media outlets. She built the organization into a major international resource for the media and the human-rights field during her decade at the helm. At the time of the Award, WITNESS was working with about 15 core partners each year, offering training to hundreds more, and operating The Hub, the world’s first website dedicated to human rights-related media where anyone, anywhere, can upload, share, discuss, and take action on images of abuse from around the world. Yvette Alberdingk Thijm, an attorney with extensive experience in media and technology, became executive director in 2008.