Witness – Video as a tool to drive human rights change

Witness – Video as a tool to drive human rights change

Photo: © WITNESS

Empowering people to use video effectively to document and stop human rights abuse

The motto of Witness: See it. Film it. Change it. 

Witness is an international human rights organisation that uses authentic video footage to expose human rights violations and humanitarian abuses. The organisation is committed to bringing about social change and positive change in the field of human rights.

Filming as a means of raising awareness

Today, videos are one of the most important means of raising awareness and educating people about human rights abuses. Most people today have their smartphones with them at all times and can thus directly document precarious situations in their environment. Especially in conflict and crisis regions, activists and citizens risk their lives every day to bring the truth to light with their footage. However, they often film with little experience, inefficiently and at risk, which means that their videos have less impact or are not officially recognized as evidence. This is precisely where the organisation Witness comes in so that these efforts are not fruitless.

Training for those directly affected

Witness identifies critical situations around the world and helps local citizens and organisations through on-site training and free online resources. They empower people in vulnerable communities to use technology and video strategically and, most importantly, safely and ethically for their advocacy. They aim to help affected people tell their stories and gather evidence of human rights violations to bring about positive change in their communities.

The organisation’s work takes place on various levels:

  • They curate and help to draw attention to films by citizens that receive little coverage.
  • They develop tools and apps to ensure greater safety for those affected.
  • They work with technology companies to achieve change at the systems level.

Working together on the ground

Witness focuses on various human rights issues, including state violence and war crimes, climate justice, gender-based violence and women’s rights, as well as AI deep fakes. To be active and up to date in each of these areas, Witness works closely with grassroots activists, journalists, lawyers, NGOs and media makers on the ground in conflict and crisis regions. Finally, they apply the knowledge gained locally to the entire video landscape in the field of human rights and share their experiences with the global team. Especially in the case of new conflicts or crises, it is particularly important for Witness to first determine the specific needs of the people affected locally. Only then will a decision be made as to how they can use their expertise to provide effective support on-site.

The Witness organisation has worked in over 135 countries. 13,000 human right defenders have already been trained and more than three million people have accessed their online resources in the last year. In more than 30 years of work, Witness has developed versatile, innovative solutions for people in crisis situations, including the first global guide for activists to create videos that can be used as legal evidence in court and the first online platform that makes human rights crimes more visible. By using these techniques and resources, numerous partners have already been able to achieve great things: from convicting a warlord at the International Criminal Court, exposing sectarian violence or human trafficking, fighting for climate justice, to creating legal protection for vulnerable groups of people – from trash pickers in Delhi to elderly people in the USA who are threatened by financial, emotional and physical abuse.

Project Evaluation

😀 1. PEOPLE 90%
Does the project solve pressing societal challenges?
🌍 2. PLANET 77%
Does the project protect our environment and conserve natural resources?
Is the solution innovative, inspiring and has the power to drive real change?
🙌🏼 4. WIN-WIN 77%
Can we support the project effectively with our means?

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Contribution to the 17 Global Goals

Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Drawing attention to global abuses and initiating peace-building processes through video

Reduced Inequalities

Stories of those affected raise awareness and drive social change

Partnerships for the Goals

Cooperation with grassroots initiatives, experts and campaigners to achieve maximum impact

Gender Equality

Revealing gender-based human rights abuses

Quality Education

Training and online resources for those affected on effective video documentation

Climate Action

Videos as a means of raising awareness and fighting for climate justice



Photos: © WITNESS