The past year was arguably one of the most politically turbulent in the modern era. Brexit, the election of President Donald Trump, ongoing Russian military intervention in Syria, the intensification of terrorist attacks and growing political instability from Venezuela to the Philippines have all created an intense backdrop to Chatham House’s work.
Speaking at the institute in November 2016, John Kerry, then US secretary of state, argued that there was nothing inevitable about current conflicts, and that conflict can be avoided by effective diplomacy and dialogue.
Improving the quality and effectiveness of international public policy through dialogue, analysis and ideas is how Chatham House delivers its mission. But the deeper question in these unsettled times is how the institute also contributes to upholding the principles that have underpinned the relative stability of the past 70 years. These include: independent rule of law; democratic governance; freedom of information and debate; and well-regulated markets.
It was all the more important, therefore, that in the past year we made advances on three important strategic objectives that will enable the institute to rise to the challenges of an uncertain political environment.
First, we have strengthened our infrastructure by creating the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Floor in the adjoining Ames House. This marks a significant moment in the history of the institute. It is a core component of the Chatham House Second Century Initiative, which aims to strengthen our capacity to innovate and meet the growing demand for our research in the lead-up to the institute’s centenary in 2020.
HRH Prince Harry, who formally opened the new facilities in Ames House in June 2017, contributed to the first scenario exercise held in our new simulation centre. The exercise explored how to respond to a humanitarian emergency that required landmine clearance, drawing on the prince’s work in the field of landmine eradication. The simulation centre, as well as a new media studio and additional open-plan working spaces, will enable the institute to adopt a more dynamic, cross-discipline and engaged approach to research.
Second, the institute launched a number of long-term initiatives to strengthen its research base, including the new Hoffmann Centre for Sustainable Resource Economy; a major project on the future of Europe; and new phases for the ‘Syria from Within’ policy initiative and the ‘Cyber and Nuclear Security’ project.
Creating the conditions to enable our research teams to work more closely together across research areas and themes will be a key responsibility of our new deputy director, Adam Ward. Adam joined the institute in April 2017 and brings long-standing experience overseeing research output at a leading international policy institute. His knowledge of East Asian security, as well as US and British foreign policy, will contribute positively to the institute at this complex time in international affairs.
The third key objective has been continued investment in Chatham House’s digital capacity, which is improving the institute’s outreach and audience engagement. The number of unique visits to the Chatham House website continues to grow, and we are diversifying the delivery of content – as demonstrated by the launch of the ‘resourcetrade.earth’ website, the use of an ‘e-reader’ to make publications fully readable and shareable online, and the development of our short-form writing.
We have put more focus on creating strong digital content for social media. During 2016, the number of our followers on social media rose 19 per cent to 264,000. Meanwhile, in traditional media there was a 51 per cent increase in media mentions in the first quarter of 2017, compared with the first quarter of 2016. The growth of our presence in these spheres is building a global, engaged audience for Chatham House.
Chatham House is well positioned to continue in its mission to build a sustainably secure, prosperous and just world. Our mission is as relevant as ever in a global context where established norms of international discussion are being tested and the traditional centres of global leadership are less influential.
In naming Chatham House its think-tank of the year, Prospect magazine noted that the institute’s output is ‘reliably excellent’ and a ‘gold standard of knowledge and professionalism’.
I want to thank all my colleagues at the institute for their tireless dedication to their jobs in a high-pressure environment.