Chatham House: Independent thinking on international affairs

Frequently Asked Questions

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What is Chatham House?

Chatham House is an independent international affairs policy institute and membership organization for individuals, corporations, governments and NGOs.

What is Chatham House's mission?

Our mission is to be a world-leading source of independent analysis, informed debate and influential ideas on how to build a prosperous and secure world for all.

When and why was Chatham House formed?

The origins of Chatham House lie in a meeting convened by Lionel Curtis in Paris on 30 May 1919 at the Hotel Majestic, the headquarters of the Dominion delegation to the Paris Peace Conference. The British and American delegates, under Curtis' leadership, conceived the idea of an Anglo-American institute of foreign affairs to study international problems with a view to preventing future wars and sustain peace.

In the event, the British Institute of International Affairs was founded separately in London in July 1920 and received its Royal Charter in 1926, when it became the Royal Institute of International Affairs. The American delegates developed the Council on Foreign Relations in New York as a sister institute. Both are now among the world's leading international affairs think-tanks.

Why is it called Chatham House?

'Chatham House' is both the name of the building in which it is based and the name by which the Royal Institute of International Affairs is widely known. In recognition of this, Council in 2004 decided to adopt 'Chatham House' as the primary identity for the Royal Institute of International Affairs, which remains the formal name for legal and financial purposes.

Originally the institute was called the British Institute of International Affairs, but changed to the Royal Institute of International Affairs after it was granted its Royal Charter in 1926.

10 St James's Square is named Chatham House in honour of William Pitt the Elder, Earl of Chatham (Prime Minister of Britain 1766-68) who lived there from 1757 to 1761.

In 1923 Colonel Reuben Wells Leonard, a Canadian businessman and philanthropist, heard that 10 St James's Square was for sale and offered to buy the house for the then British Institute of International Affairs. At his request it was named Chatham House in honour of William Pitt, 'to whom they, as Canadians, owed their status as British subjects' (referring to the Seven Years' War).

The House has given its name to the famous Chatham House Rule.

What does Chatham House do?

  • Produces independent and rigorous analysis of critical global, regional and country-specific challenges.
  • Publishes reports, papers and books on a range of international affairs topics.
  • Publishes a magazine, The World Today
  • Publishes International Affairs, Europe's leading journal of international relations.
  • Regularly hosts high-profile speakers from around the world in a packed programme of events and conferences, as well as organizing and participating in a number of events and conferences elsewhere in the UK and overseas.
  • Provides expert media commentary on current news stories. Experts also regularly provide evidence to Parliamentary Committees.
  • Engages policy-makers from the UK and overseas in discussions about new policy ideas emerging from Chatham House research - through regular meetings with government officials and briefings for elected representatives.
  • Provides an independent forum in which academics, business people, diplomats, the media, NGOs, politicians, policy-makers and researchers can interact in an open and impartial environment.

How is Chatham House financed?

The Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) is a charity registered with the UK Charity Commission (no. 208223). The bulk of its funding comes from three sources: membership fees, supplemented by additional individual discretionary donations; sponsorship for some of its conferences and events; and grants and donations (from trusts, foundations, governments, corporations and individuals) for its various research activities. The institute receives no statutory funding from any government, either UK or overseas.

Chatham House is committed to providing transparent and accessible information on its funding.  The institute also operates on the basis of principles and supporting processes that are designed to ensure an independent approach to its research and convening activities. These processes are overseen by Chatham House’s ruling Council which is elected from its members and who are responsible, as outlined in the institute’s Charter and By-Laws, for its overall governance. 

More details on Chatham House’s finances can be found in our Annual Review and in our Annual Report and Accounts. This includes a full list of the institute’s Partners, Major Project Sponsors, Research Supporters, Corporate Members, and individual donors (to the Annual Fund, the William Pitt Group and the Director’s Research Innovation Fund). Separate lists of Corporate Members, Academic Institutional Members and NGO Members and information about corporate subscription levels and benefits are available.

  • Chatham House will be re-launching its website in the spring of 2014. This will include a new Our Funding section, linked to from the homepage, which will collate and present in additional detail our sources of income.

How is the research organized? / What is the research focus at Chatham House?

Research is structured around four areas:

The strength of our research lies with the research staff at Chatham House and their diverse backgrounds and expertise. Our researchers have joined us from a variety of other roles e.g. from within non-profit organizations, corporations, media, academia, Law, and journalism.

Disseminating our research findings and promoting independent analysis is core to Chatham House's mission. In addition to our publications and events our researchers regularly provide commentary in the media and write Expert Comment on current news stories.

Researchers also give evidence to Parliamentary Committees as well as public presentations and private meetings to disseminate the findings of Chatham House research.

How is Chatham House managed?

The governance of Chatham House is overseen by its Council. Its Chairman is Stuart Popham. The management of Chatham House on an operational level is overseen by Director Dr Robin Niblett.

What is the role of the Patron, Presidents and Panel of Senior Advisers?

Our Patron is Her Majesty The Queen.

Chatham House has honorary Presidents from each of the three major political parties at Westminster - a reflection of our independence from government.

The Panel of Senior Advisers was established in 2008 to provide a forum through which Chatham House can seek advice from a group of individuals with deep, first-hand experience of policy-making and business. None of these groups have any role in the governance of Chatham House.

Who can become a member of Chatham House?

Membership of Chatham House is open to individuals and organizations with an interest in international affairs. There are three types of membership - Individual Membership (including full membership, under 35s membership, student membership and web membership), Corporate Membership and Academic Institutional Membership. More information

What are the benefits of individual membership of Chatham House?

Is Chatham House independent?

Chatham House is precluded by its Charter from expressing any institutional view or policy on any aspect of international affairs. It does not receive any statutory government funding and is not a government organization, although some government departments are corporate members of Chatham House and may fund specific projects.

What is the Chatham House Rule?

The Chatham House Rule originated at Chatham House with the aim of providing anonymity to speakers and to encourage openness and the sharing of information. It is now used throughout the world as an aid to free discussion. Meetings do not have to take place at Chatham House, or be organized by Chatham House, to be held under the Rule.

The Chatham House Rule reads as follows:

'When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.'

Can I attend events at Chatham House?

Chatham House runs many different types of events including conferences, members events, research events and special events such as the Chatham House Prize ceremony. From the outset it has attracted outstanding figures including Mahatma Gandhi, Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev, Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, Yasser Arafat, Vladimir Putin, Thabo Mbeki and Kofi Annan.

Members events are specifically for Chatham House members but many of our other events are open to a wider audience. Check the events pages for more information.

How can I make a contribution to Chatham House?

There are several ways you can give: by contributing to the Annual Fund, by leaving a legacy, through shares and securities, or by donating online. More information about supporting Chatham House

How can I find out more?

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