A changing world needs a changed vision: committing to support the millions who can transform the human rights landscape with video.

The year 2012 was a big year for WITNESS. Who knew that the year of our 20th anniversary would be such an extraordinarily visual year? Who knew that it would be the year that confirmed, over and over again, how foresightful our founding vision was? “What if…” WITNESS’ founders asked in 1992, “…what if every human rights defender had a camera in their hands? What would they document and what could they change?”

Twenty years ago, WITNESS was created because a world with many cameras–a world “where the eyes of the world are opened to human rights”–did not yet exist, a big bold vision at the time. Today, building on two decades of experience in creating tangible human rights change by exposing the truth through video, we are envisioning the next frontier: a world where video is not only ubiquitous, but has given millions the power to hold human rights abusers accountable, to deliver justice and to transform the human rights landscape.

Because the innovation and adaptation necessary to operate successfully on the ever-moving frontiers of technology, media and human rights is in our DNA, we understand the opportunity that today’s changed landscape presents. So in 2013 and beyond we are boldly taking on the next massive challenge in front of us: “What if…,” we ask ourselves, “what if those millions of people turning to video to document their worlds, could effectively and safely fight for human rights?”

In 2012 we accomplished a lot and key is that we firmly committed to this even bigger future vision. That means supporting the next generation of human rights defenders: citizen witnesses all over the world using video.

So in 2013 and beyond, we are committed to building “video-for-change” communities, supporting networks of human rights defenders, from communities fighting forced evictions in Brazil to youth in the U.S. campaigning to protect the environment.

In 2012, we launched the Human Rights Channel in partnership with YouTube and Storyful to ensure that important human rights stories are seen and contextualized. We are committing in 2013 and beyond to take on the systems. The technology companies that run the platforms must create more human rights friendly spaces for all of us. And we decided to focus on the international legal systems to improve the understanding of how to authenticate citizen media to hold perpetrators of abuse accountable.

We are working to achieve this vision by partnering and sharing in order to meet the challenge in front of us. We’ll join forces with technology mavens and mobile developers, with courageous human rights defenders worldwide, with brave bloggers, with witnessing citizens, with peer networks and effective organizations. And we thank all of them for their partnership. Because that is what it will take to meet the challenge.

We accomplished so much in 2012; please have a look at the video below and our annual report:

But what most excites me most is that we, together with so many allies, are taking the challenge for the future head on. We envision a world where many, many more citizens and human rights defenders have access to knowledge, skills and tools enabling them to create compelling, trustable videos and to make sure that their video is acted upon and human rights change happens.

In 2013 and beyond, WITNESS will ensure support for those millions of citizens and human rights defenders who are transforming the fight for human rights by using video.

Happy New Year,



Yvette Alberdingk Thijm is the Executive Director of WITNESS. She leads the organization to realize the transformative opportunity we have today to support a growing number of citizen witnesses and human rights defenders to use video effectively and safely for human rights. Follow her at @yvettethijm.

One thought on “A Big Year For WITNESS

  1. Malaga Spain..have you any ‘citizen advocates’ using video witnessing technologies in this area to your knowledge? I am anxious to examine good campaigning techniques to counter some of the serious abuses (human, animal and legal) which we are suffering in Spain for which the legal systems are untimely and inadequate. Contact by e mail would be appreciated. Christine

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