I was delighted to be elected chair of Chatham House last year. It is an honour to lead such a remarkable institution and to have the opportunity to build on the legacy left by Stuart Popham, who stepped down last year as chair and whom I thank and pay tribute to.
My ambition is to ensure that the institute has an even better future than its illustrious past. We are living in unpredictable times, and I want us to be at the centre of the drive to guide the world to a healthier place both politically and economically.
Chatham House possesses world-leading convening power, which – when combined with our capacity to deliver leading, cross-cutting research – gives us a unique advantage in the field of international relations. I want us to harness these assets and better combine the strengths of our research teams so that we can address the big global challenges around economic growth; avoiding geopolitical tensions; and developing new governance systems (as outlined on page 7). This will enable us to improve our impact and effect more policy change.
I also want Chatham House to be an exciting place that attracts younger, more diverse, international audiences. We need to drive more engagement with the next generation of members and others to draw on their enthusiasm, energy and ideas. Our Common Futures Conversations project, for example, is engaging young people from 13 countries across Africa and Europe to identify their shared concerns, and is enabling them to work together to identify solutions via online communities.
This initiative, and indeed all of our activities, would not be possible without funding and support. As noted in more detail in the Honorary Treasurer’s report (page 32), 2018/19 was a challenging year financially, with income totalling £16,381,000, slightly below the level recorded in 2017/18.
Although total net assets at 31 March 2019 were 3 per cent down year on year, the balance sheet remain strong and there was an inflow of cash, with the level of forward income received and pledged increasing significantly.
In this context, I am delighted to note the award of the transformational £10 million grant to facilitate the creation of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Wing, which will help facilitate research, host our Queen Elizabeth II Academy for Leadership in International Affairs and establish a new collaboration space – the ‘CoLab’ – for engaging our new audiences. All of Chatham House’s supporters, and not least our members, remain indispensable to our success. Without their engagement, enthusiasm and input, the institute could not fulfil its mission.
I am indebted to my colleagues on Council for their support, engagement and expertise. I can say with confidence that they are actively involved in their governance responsibilities at this time when the operational, as well as financial, pressures on all charitable institutions are more intense than ever.
I would like to pay tribute to Alistair Burnett, Martin Fraenkel and Barbara Ridpath, who step down from Council this year after a total of 15 years’ service. I would also like to thank and acknowledge Robin Niblett and his team for their dedication and hard work. Some of the outcomes of their labours are highlighted on the following pages.
Lord Jim O’Neill