During the past year, there were four important developments that I would like to report, which will be central to the success of Chatham House as we navigate the challenges of an increasingly complex world.
First, we have strengthened our research base with the launch of a number of new multi-year projects, including on understanding the drivers of popular–elite divides in Europe, on developing ideas for greater gender balance in global economic growth (the ‘Women 20’ initiative), and on comparing the political perspectives of the new generations in the Gulf states. Many projects now combine the diverse knowledge of Chatham House experts. One example of this is the research paper entitled Humanitarian Engagement with Non-state Armed Groups, produced through collaboration between the International Security Department and the International Law Programme.
Our success rate for research grant applications rose over the last year to 70 per cent. Notable examples of significant new multi-year funding include support for our work on: tackling illegal logging, future political dynamics in the Gulf, and the establishment of a West African Disease Surveillance Network.
Second, we are making sure that the appropriate infrastructure is in place to support this research activity. To this end we are developing new working spaces on the ground floor of neighbouring Ames House, which will be accessed directly via the ground floor of Chatham House. The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Floor will contain state-of-the-art meeting facilities that will significantly enhance the institute’s convening and communication capacities. The renovated space will include a situation room, the Asfari Centre for training Academy fellows and a media room, as well as new breakout and meeting areas to encourage more collaborative thinking across the institute.
Investment in our digital strategy is the third development. We are making vital changes to our data management systems and databases, as well as reaping the benefits of earlier investments in our website and digital strategy. We can now reach new online audiences, and there were 2.3 million sessions on our website in 2015 – a 40 per cent increase on the previous year, with 55 per cent of traffic now coming via search engines. These new audiences are also engaging with new interactive content, including our work on Syria and its Neighbours and the Moving Energy Initiative to support the energy needs of refugees worldwide.
Boosting the institute’s online presence and capabilities is important for the fourth development, which involves expanding our international engagement. Our growing media and social media profiles help us to build our international audiences, as do our events outside of the UK. And I was delighted that our second London Conference in June 2015 brought together participants from 139 countries in person and online.
Our Queen Elizabeth II Academy for Leadership in International Affairs has also maintained its momentum, helping the institute to cultivate international engagement by attracting tomorrow’s leaders to join us in London. I am happy to report that the institute’s research departments and programmes are increasingly benefiting from the insights and experiences of our Academy fellows, who come from around the world and greatly enhance the research and daily life of the institute.
We have to recognize, however, that there is growing popular disenchantment and a growing sense of loss of control in all regions of the world. This theme, which surfaced strongly in the June 2016 London Conference, then manifested itself dramatically in the result of the UK’s referendum on EU membership. It also led to the installation of a new British prime minister, Theresa May, who visited Chatham House as home secretary in December 2015.
Britain’s vote to leave the EU was a momentous event that will have implications for international affairs for decades to come. During the run-up to the referendum, Chatham House acted as a neutral space to debate the pros and cons of EU membership, while the institute’s analysis sought to inform the debate about this and opportunities that would lie ahead, depending on the outcome.
As we look ahead, the institute will have to redouble its efforts to accomplish its mission in an increasingly turbulent and unpredictable world. In doing so, Chatham House will continue to rely on the dedication and hard work of all of our staff, as well as the tremendous support that they and our associate fellows receive from the membership, council, senior advisers, individual and institutional donors, and our three residents.