Chatham House

Chatham House
Chatham House

Independent thinking on international affairs
Formation 1920
Headquarters London, UK
Membership 3,000+

Chatham House, formally known as The Royal Institute of International Affairs, is a non-profit, non-governmental organization based in London whose mission is to analyse and promote the understanding of major international issues and current affairs. It is regarded as one of the world's leading organizations in this area. It takes its name from its premises, a grade I listed 18th century house in St. James's Square designed in part by Henry Flitcroft and thrice occupied by British Prime Ministers including William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham.

The current chairman of the Council of Chatham House is Dr. DeAnne Julius and its Director is Dr. Robin Niblett, who succeeded Professor Victor Bulmer-Thomas in January 2007. The three Research Directors are Bernice Lee, Dr Paola Subacchi and Alex Vines OBE. Keith Burnet is Director of Communications.

Chatham House was named the top non-US think tank by Foreign Policy magazine. Chatham House was also listed as one of the top "scholars" for being among a handful of stars of the think tank world who are regularly relied upon to set agendas and craft new initiatives.[1]

Distinguished people have served as President of Chatham House, including Baroness Shirley Williams, professor of electoral politics at Harvard University and leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords (2001–2004).[citation needed]



Drawing upon its members, Chatham House aims to promote debate on 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. Disseminating their research findings is core to Chatham House's mission, and Chatham House is routinely used as a source of information for media organisations seeking background or experts upon matters involving major international issues.

Although it has been alleged that Chatham House reflects a pro-establishment view of the world [2] (due to donations from large corporations, governments and other organisations), Chatham House is nevertheless membership-based and anyone may join. It has a range of different types of membership including Major Corporate, Corporate, Academic, Individual and Under 35.

Chatham House Rule

Chatham House is the origin of the confidentiality rule known as the Chatham House Rule, which provides that members attending a seminar may discuss the results of the seminar 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. However, most Chatham House meetings are held 'on the record', and not under the Chatham House Rule.

Research and publications

Chatham House research is structured around three areas: Energy, Environment and Resource Governance; International Economics; and Regional and Security Studies. The full range of Programmes includes: Africa; the Americas; Asia; Energy, Environment and Development; Europe; Global Health Security; International Economics; International Law; International Security; Middle East and North Africa; and Russia and Eurasia.

Recent reports and papers

In July 2005 Chatham House published a major report on terrorism in the UK. A key problem for the UK in preventing terrorism in Britain is the government's position as 'pillion passenger' to the United States' war on terror. Formulating counter-terrorism policy in this way has left the 'ally in the driving seat' to do the steering. This was one of the key findings of Security, Terrorism and the UK, which received unprecedented media coverage.[citation needed]

In August 2006 Chatham House released a report titled Iran, its Neighbours and the Regional Crises which said that the influence of Iran in Iraq had overtaken that of the US. The report asserted that any threatening action towards Iran could result in mass destabilization across the Middle East.

In December 2006 the departing director of Chatham House, Victor Bulmer-Thomas, produced a briefing paper on UK foreign policy during the Blair era entitled Blair’s Foreign Policy and its Possible Successor(s). The paper generated a media storm as it heavily criticized the Prime Minister for allying the UK too closely to the U.S. at the expense of closer ties with Europe.[citation needed]

In October 2008 Chatham House published a paper, Piracy in Somalia: Threatening Global Trade, Feeding Local Wars, by Roger Middleton. The briefing paper warned of the escalating dangers of piracy in the region and how at the root of the issue was the collapse of the Somali state and over a decade of failed international engagement. The paper featured widely in the UK and international press.[citation needed]

In October 2010 Chatham House published a report entitled Strategy in Austerity, The Security and Defence of the United Kingdom, by Paul Cornish. The report offered a framework for assessing the quality and durability of the UK government's Strategic Defence and Security Review. Briefing Papers were also published on Iraq, Yemen, Cyber-Warfare, and the legal implications of Drones (UAV’s) amongst others.

Addresses and periodical publications

In addition to undertaking wide-ranging research, Chatham House hosts high-profile speakers from around the world. Recent speakers include David Cameron, Ban Ki-moon, Hamid Karzai, Condoleezza Rice, Gordon Brown and Pervez Musharraf. Chatham House also houses the key scholarly and policy journal International Affairs, as well as a monthly magazine The World Today.


U.S. President Ronald Reagan delivers an address to the Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1988; first lady Nancy Reagan and U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher are at right

The Royal Institute of International Affairs was founded in 1920 as the Institute of International Affairs following a meeting at the previous year's Paris Peace Conference. The first chairman was Robert Cecil, while Lionel Curtis served as honorary secretary. Arnold J. Toynbee later became director. The Council on Foreign Relations, its American sister institute, was established the following year. Chatham House's well-known headquarters at 10 St. James's Square, London, was donated to the institute in 1923, having previously been the home of three British Prime Ministers - Pitt the Elder, Edward Stanley and William Ewart Gladstone - and also of the Earl and Countess of Blessington.

The name of the building grew to be so synonymous with the institute that it was officially rebranded as "Chatham House" in September 2004. However, the "Royal Institute of International Affairs" remains its legal name and is still sometimes used interchangeably with "Chatham House". The Chatham House building is located just a few metres from the former Libyan embassy building where the 1984 Libyan Embassy Siege took place.

Soon after its foundation the Institute was renamed the British Institute of International Affairs but in 1926 the name was changed again to the Royal Institute of International Affairs.[3] A recent addition to the calendar of events is The BBC Today/Chatham House lecture series developed with the Today programme. The series was designed to promote debate and discussion on key international issues of the day. At the inaugural lecture in 2006, Condoleezza Rice defended the U.S. decision to go to war with Iraq.

Chatham House Prize

The Chatham House Prize is an annual award presented to the statesperson deemed by members of the Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House to have made the most significant contribution to the improvement of international relations in the previous year.

See also


External links

Coordinates: 51°30′28″N 0°08′10″W / 51.5077°N 0.1360°W / 51.5077; -0.1360

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