Chatham House

The Chatham House is famous throughout the world for facilitating free speech and confidentiality at meetings. The AIIA began in Australia as an offshoot of Chatham House and we adhere to the Chatham House Rule from time to time.

Mission

Chatham House pursues its mission:

  • by drawing on our membership to promote open as well as confidential debates about significant developments in international affairs and about the context and content of policy responses;
  • by producing independent and rigorous analysis of critical global, regional and country-specific challenges;
  • by offering new ideas to decision-makers and -shapers on how these could best be tackled from the near to long term.

Background

In 1919 British and American delegates to the Paris Peace Conference, under the leadership of Lionel Curtis, conceived the idea of an Anglo-American Institute of foreign affairs to study international problems with a view to preventing future wars. In the event, the British Institute of International Affairs was founded separately in London in July 1920 and received its Royal Charter in 1926 to become 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.

The Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) is an independent international affairs think-tank and membership organization. It 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.

EXPLANATION of the 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.

Meetings, events and discussions held at Chatham House are normally conducted ‘on the record’ with the Rule occasionally invoked at the speaker’s request. In cases where the Rule is not considered sufficiently strict, an event may be held ‘off the record’.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:

Q. When was the Rule devised?
A. In 1927 and refined in 1992 and 2002.

Q.
 Should one refer to the Chatham House Rule or the Chatham House Rules?
A. There is only one Rule.

Q. What are the benefits of using the Rule?
A. It allows people to speak as individuals, and to express views that may not be those of their organizations, and therefore it encourages free discussion. People usually feel more relaxed if they don’t have to worry about their reputation or the implications if they are publicly quoted.

Q. How is the Rule enforced?
A. Chatham House can take disciplinary action against one of its members who breaks the Rule. Not all organizations that use the Rule have sanctions. The Rule then depends for its success on being seen as morally binding.

Q. Is the Rule used for all meetings at Chatham House?
A. Not often for Members Events; more frequently for smaller research meetings, for example where work in progress is discussed or when subject matter is politically sensitive. Most Chatham House conferences are under the Rule.

Q. Who uses the Rule these days?
A. It is widely used by local government and commercial organizations as well as research organizations.

Q. Can participants in a meeting be named as long as what is said is not attributed?
A. It is important to think about the spirit of the Rule. For example, sometimes speakers need to be named when publicizing the meeting. The Rule is more about the dissemination of the information after the event – nothing should be done to identify, either explicitly or implicitly, who said what.

Q. Can you say within a report what you yourself said at a meeting under the Chatham House Rule?
A. Yes if you wish to do so.

Q. Can a list of attendees at the meeting be published?
A. No – the list of attendees should not be circulated beyond those participating in the meeting.

Q. Can I ‘tweet’ whilst at an event under the Chatham House Rule?
A. The Rule can be used effectively on social media sites such as Twitter as long as the person tweeting or messaging reports only what was said at an event and does not identify – directly or indirectly – the speaker or another participant. This consideration should always guide the way in which event information is disseminated – online as well as offline.

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The above definition, text and video were obtained from Chatham House: http://www.chathamhouse.org/about-us/http://www.chathamhouse.org/about-us/chathamhouserule and http://www.chathamhouse.org/about-us/history

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