The Royal Institute of International Affairs, commonly known as Chatham House after the building at which it is based, is a not-for-profit and non-governmental organisation based in London whose mission is to analyse and promote the understanding of major international issues and current affairs. It is the originator of the Chatham House Rule.
Drawing upon its members, Chatham House aims to promote debate on significant developments in international affairs and policy responses. Their independent research and analysis on global, regional and country-specific challenges is intended to offer new ideas to decision makers on how these could best be tackled from the near to the long term. Chatham House is routinely used as a source of information for media organisations seeking background or experts upon matters involving major international issues.
Chatham House is membership-based; anyone may join. It has a range of membership options for corporations, academic institutions, NGOs, and individuals including students and under-30s. In addition to corporate members consisting of government departments, large corporations, academic institutions, investment banks, NGOs, energy companies and other organisations, Chatham House currently has international leaders from business, diplomacy, science, politics and media as its individual members.
Chatham House Rule
Chatham House is the origin of the non-attribution rule known as the Chatham House Rule, which provides that guests attending a meeting may discuss the content of the meeting in the outside world, but may not discuss who attended or identify what a specific individual said. The Chatham House Rule evolved to facilitate frank and honest discussion on controversial or unpopular issues by speakers who may not have otherwise had the appropriate forum to speak freely. Despite this, most meetings at Chatham House are held on the record, and not under the Chatham House Rule.
Research and publications
Chatham House research is structured around three thematic departments - Energy, Environment and Resources, International Economics, International Security – and Area Studies and International Law, which comprises regional programmes on Africa, the US and Americas, Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, and Russia and Eurasia, as well as the International Law programme.
Chatham House also contains the Centre on Global Health Security, headed by David L. Heymann. and the Hoffmann Centre, headed by Bernice Lee.
In addition to undertaking wide-ranging research, Chatham House hosts high-profile speakers from around the world. Recent speakers include Shinzō Abe, David Cameron, Aung San Suu Kyi, Christine Lagarde, Madeleine Albright, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Abdullah Gül, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Herman Van Rompuy, Muhammad Yunus, Ban Ki-moon and Muhammadu Buhari.
Chatham House Prize
The Chatham House Prize is an annual award presented to "the statesperson or organisation deemed by Chatham House members to have made the most significant contribution to the improvement of international relations in the previous year".
List of winners
Chatham House takes its name from the building where it is based, a Grade I listed 18th-century house in St James's Square, designed in part by Henry Flitcroft and occupied by three British Prime Ministers, including William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham.
The Royal Institute of International Affairs finds its origins in a meeting, convened by Lionel Curtis, of the American and British delegates to the Paris Peace Conference on 30 May 1919. Curtis had long been an advocate for the scientific study of international affairs and, following the beneficial exchange of information after the peace conference, argued that the method of expert analysis and debate should be continued when the delegates returned home in the form of international institute.
The British Institute of International Affairs, as it was then known, held its inaugural meeting, chaired by Robert Cecil, on 5 July 1920. In this, former Foreign Secretary Edward Grey moved the resolution calling the institute into existence:
By 1922, as the Institute's membership grew, there was a need for a larger and more practical space and the Institute acquired, through the gift of Canadian Colonel R. W. Leonard, Chatham House, Number 10 St. James's Square, where the Institute is still housed.
Following its inception, the Institute quickly focused upon Edward Grey's resolution, with the 1920s proving an active decade at Chatham House. The journal International Affairs was launched in January 1922, allowing for the international circulation of the various reports and discussions which took place within the Institute.
After being appointed as Director of Studies, Professor Arnold Toynbee became the leading figure producing the Institute's annual Survey of International Affairs, a role he held until his retirement in 1955. While providing a detailed annual overview of international relations, the survey's primary role was ‘to record current international history’. The survey continued until 1963 and was well received throughout the Institution, coming to be known as ‘the characteristic external expression of Chatham House research: a pioneer in method and a model for scholarship.’
In 1926, 14 members of Chatham House represented the United Kingdom at the first conference of the Institute of Pacific Relations, a forum dedicated to the discussion of problems and relations between Pacific nations. The IPR served as a platform for the Institute to develop an advanced political and commercial awareness of the region, with special focus being place upon China's economic development and international relations.
In the same year the Institute received its royal charter, thereupon being known as the Royal Institute of International Affairs. The Charter set out the aims and objectives of the Institute, reaffirming its wish to ‘advance the sciences of international politics...promote the study and investigation of international questions by means of lectures and discussion…promote the exchange of information, knowledge and thought on international affairs.’
1929 marked the next stage in the Institute's development, with the appointment of a full-time chief executive or director. Ivison Macadam was appointed to the position (Secretary and then Director-General), in which he oversaw the Institute's rapid expansion with its growing research, organisational and financial needs. A role he occupied until 1955.
Macadam was able to secure funding to expand the physical plant of the Institute by acquiring the freeholds of 6 Duke of York Street, then called York Street, (largely though the generosity of Waldorf Astor, John Power and others) and later 9 St James's Square, then the Portland Club, in 1943 (through a donation to cover its purchase by Henry Price), and connect these adjoining properties to the original freehold property of Chatham House at 10, St James Square (with the cost of these connections covered by Astor's sons, William, David and John). Power also donated his leasehold property in Chesham Place to the Institute in 1938. These additional properties provided much needed additional space for the Institute's activities.
1929 also saw the inception of the Institute's special study group on the international gold problem. The group, which included leading economists such as John Maynard Keynes, conducted a three-year study into the developing economic issues which the post-war international monetary settlement created. The group's research anticipated Britain's decision to abandon the gold standard two years later.
Around this time Chatham House became known as the place for leading statesmen and actors in world affairs to visit when in London; notably, Mahatma Gandhi visited the institute on 20 October 1931, in which he delivered a talk on ‘The Future of India’. The talk was attended by 750 members, making it the Institute's largest meeting up to that point.
In 1933 Norman Angell, whilst working within the Institute's Council, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his book The Great Illusion, making him the first and only Laureate to be awarded the prize for publishing a book.
Chatham House held the first Commonwealth Relations Conference in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in 1933. Held roughly every five years, the conference provided a forum for leading politicians, lawyers, academics and others to discuss the implications of recent Imperial Conferences. With various dominion nations seeking to follow individual foreign policy aims, Major-General Sir Neill Malcolm, the chairman of the Council of the Institute, , emphasised the need for "essential agreement in matters of foreign policy between the various Governments," with the Commonwealth Relations Conference being the vehicle upon which this cooperation would be achieved and maintained.
In 1937, Robert Cecil was also awarded the Nobel Prize for his commitment to, and defence of, the League of Nations and the pursuit for peace and disarmament amongst its members.
War years, 1939–1945
At the outbreak of the Second World War the Institute, under the Chairmanship of Waldorf Astor, was decentralised for security reasons, with many of the staff moving to Balliol College, Oxford. There, the Foreign Press and Research Service of the Institute worked closely with the Foreign Office who requested various reports on foreign press, historical and political background of the enemy and various other topics under Arnold Toynbee. dedicating their research to the war effort.
The Institute also provided many additional services to scholars and the armed forces at its St. James's Square home. Research facilities were opened to refugee and allied academics, whilst arrangements were made for both the National Institute of Economic and Social Research and the Polish Research Centre to relocate to the Institute following the bombing of their premises. In addition, allied officers undertook courses in international affairs at the Institute in an attempt to develop their international and political awareness as well as post war reconstruction planning.
The post-war years
Chatham House had been researching potential post-war issues as early as 1939 through the Committee on Reconstruction. Whilst a number of staff returned to the Institute at the end of the war, a proportion of members found themselves joining a range of international organisations, including the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund. Combining this with the Institute's early support of the League of Nations and impact of the gold study on the Bretton Woods system, Chatham House found itself to be a leading actor in international political and economic redevelopment.
In reaction to the changing post-war world, Chatham House embarked on a number of studies relating to Britain and the Commonwealth's new political stature, in light of growing calls for decolonisation and the development of the Cold War. A board of studies in race relations was created in 1953, allowing for the close examination of changing attitudes and calls for racial equality throughout the world. The group broke off into an independent charity in 1958, forming the Institute of Race Relations.
Following the Cuban missile crisis and Brazilian coup d'état, the institute developed a growing focus on the Latin American region. Che Guevara, then Cuba's Minister of Industry, wrote an analysis of ‘The Cuban Economy: Its Past and Present Importance’ in 1964 for International Affairs, displaying the Institute's desire to tackle the most difficult international issues.
Chatham House played a more direct role in the international affairs of the Cold War through the October 1975 Anglo-Soviet round-table, the first in a series of meetings between Chatham House and the Institute of World Economy and International Relations in Moscow. As an early example of two-track diplomacy, the meeting sought to develop closer communication and improved relations between Britain and the Soviet Union, one of the first such attempts in the Cold War.
Soon after the first Anglo-Soviet round-table, the Institute began an intensive research project into ‘British Foreign Policy to 1985’. Its primary aim was to analyse the foreign policy issues which Britain would encounter in the near and far future. Research began in 1976 and the findings were published in International Affairs between 1977 and 1979.
At the start of the 1980s, the Council moved to expand the Institute's research capabilities in two key emerging areas. The first modern programmes to be created under this initiative were the Energy and Research Programme and the International Economics Programme, formed in 1980 - 1981.
In addition to reshaping its research practices, the Institute also sought to strengthen its international network, notably amongst economically prosperous nations. For example, Chatham House's Far East programme, created with the intention of improving Anglo-Japanese relations in the long and short term, was bolstered by the support of the Japan 2000 group in 1984.
The Institute celebrated its 75th anniversary in 1995, an event marked by the visit of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. During her visit, the Queen was briefed by the Institute's experts on South Africa in preparation for her impending visit to the country, following the end of apartheid.
The year 1998 marked the creation of the Angola Forum. Combining the nation's oil reserves with its growing international ambition, Angola quickly became an influential African nation. As a result, Chatham House launched the Forum to create an international platform for 'forward looking, policy focused and influential debate and research'. The Institute’s wider Africa Programme was created in 2002, beginning the modern structure of area studies programmes.
The Chatham House Prize was also launched in 2005, recognising state actors who made a significant contribution to international relations the previous year. Queen Elizabeth II presented the debut award to Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko.
In January 2013 the Institute announced its Academy for Leadership in International Affairs, offering potential and established world leaders a 12-month fellowship at the institution with the aim of providing 'a unique programme of activities and training to develop a new generation of leaders in international affairs.' In November 2014, The Queen, accompanied by Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, once again visited and formally launched the Academy under the title of the Queen Elizabeth II Academy for Leadership in International Affairs.
In the University of Pennsylvania's rankings (announced in January 2017) for its Global Go To Think Tanks Report, Chatham House was ranked the think tank of the year, and the second-most influential in the world after the Brookings Institution, and the world's most influential non-U.S. think tank. In November 2016, Chatham House was also named Prospect magazine's Think-Tank of the Year, as well as the winner in the UK categories for International Affairs and Energy and Environment.
The current chairman of the Council of Chatham House is Jim O'Neill and its director is Robin Niblett. The deputy director is Adam Ward and research directors are Rob Bailey, Patricia Lewis, and Alex Vines.
Chatham House has three presidents. Two are from the two main political parties at Westminster: Sir John Major, former Prime Minister (Conservative); and The Baron Darling of Roulanish, former Chancellor of the Exchequer (Labour). The third is The Baroness Manningham-Buller, a crossbench peer and former Director General of MI5.
- Australian Institute of International Affairs
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- Pakistan Institute of International Affairs
- Singapore Institute of International Affairs
- South African Institute of International Affairs
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- Official website
- Charity Commission. The Royal Institute of International Affairs, registered charity no. 208223.
- Architectural history and description - from the Survey of London
- Conference papers, research memoranda and miscellaneous papers relating to the work of the Far East Department of the Royal Institute of International Affairs are held by SOAS Archives.