Our Mission

WITNESS is an international nonprofit organization that has been using the power of video and storytelling for 20 years to open the eyes of the world to human rights abuses. It was co-founded in 1992 by musician and human rights advocate Peter Gabriel, Human Rights First and the Reebok Human Rights Foundation.


WITNESS empowers human rights defenders to use video to fight injustice, and to transform personal stories of abuse into powerful tools that can pressure those in power or with power to act. By bringing often unseen images and seldom heard stories to the attention of key decision makers, the media, and the public–WITNESS catalyzes grassroots activism, political engagement, and lasting change.  We bridge the worlds of human rights, media and technology by incorporating cutting-edge innovations into traditional approaches to advocacy. WITNESS’ unique contribution to the human rights community is to serve as global authority on best practices in the use of video for human rights purposes and a frontline resource for training and expertise. Review our 20 year timeline »


How We Create Change


When WITNESS was founded, the impetus for its creation was the Rodney King, Jr. incident – in which a bystander captured ­­­­­evidence of police brutality on his handheld video camera. Our initial focus was to “give cameras to human rights activists around the world.” Since then, WITNESS has developed a comprehensive training approach focused on video advocacy – the use of video as an integrated tool in human rights campaigns. Throughout much of the world a new generation is emerging – confident, connected, and open to possibility.  A world with “cameras everywhere” now gives us millions of potential witnesses to the Rodney King incidents of our time.


WITNESS is expanding its reach by putting our unique video advocacy resources online and making them adoptable and accessible for ordinary citizens around the world.  Read more about our activities in training, campaigning, preservation and our Cameras Everywhere initiative: More »


By The Numbers


WITNESS has partnered with more than 300 human rights groups in 86 countries, trained over 4,500 human rights defenders, developed widely-used training materials and tools, and supported the inclusion of video in more than 100 campaigns, increasing their visibility and impact. Videos made by WITNESS and our partners have been seen by over 260 million people worldwide. And they have told hundreds of critical human rights stories, galvanizing grassroots communities, judges, activists, media and decision-makers at local, national and international levels to action.

Promo Video

Madeleine Bair, Curator of WITNESS' Human Rights...

How we started

The story of WITNESS is one of both vision and evolution. It began in 1988, the year musician and activist Peter Gabriel traveled with Amnesty International ’s Human Rights Now! Tour. Peter brought along a Sony Handycam, one of the first small camcorders marketed to consumers, to record the stories he heard.

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in the News

WITNESS Ranked #52 of Top 100 NGOs

WITNESS shot up 31 spots to #52 on the Global Journal ranking. Organizations were considered based on three key criteria: impact, innovation, and sustainability.

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Yvette Alberdingk Thijm Profiled in Philanthropy New York

WITNESS' Executive Director, Yvette Alberdingk Thijm, participated in a discussion of how "how TED is using media to tell stories, ignite imaginations and spark social change." Here's what she and her co-panelists had to say. 

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Hans Thoolen Helps Celebrate the Human Rights Channel's 1st Birthday

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Artists Support Witness

WITNESS presents a fine art print edition with internationally renowned visual artists.More »


2004 - 2008 Social Capitalist Award

Fast Company named WITNESS one of 45 recipients of a Social Capitalist Award for five straight years....

2007 National Academy of TV Arts and Sciences Humanitarian Award

The National Television Academy awarded its first-ever Humanitarian Award to WITNESS for its use of...

2007 New York Times Company Nonprofit Excellence Award

The New York Times recognized WITNESS with its Excellence in Communication Award for its use of open...

2007 American Express Building Leadership Award

The American Express Building Leadership Award seeks non-profit organizations that place emphasis on...

2007 One World Media Award

The One World Broadcasting Trust recognized WITNESS with a New Media award for its work in launching...

2006 Webby Award Official Honoree

Established in 1997, the Webby Awards is the leading international award honoring excellence on the...

2005 Schwab Social Entrepreneur

The Schwab Foundation searches for leading social entrepreneurs around the world. In 2005, Schwab named...

2004 - 2008 Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship

The Skoll Awards for Social Entrepreneurship supported WITNESS’s work in documenting human rights...

2003 Tech Museum Equality Award

The Tech Awards is an international awards program that honors people and organizations from around the...

2011 SIPA Global Leadership Award

SIPA’s Global Leadership Award recognizes WITNESS for its work of empowering citizens to...

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Case Studies

Ending murders of women and the systematic use of torture in investigations in Ciudad Juárez and Chihuahua, Mexico

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