By Joan Veon
April 24, 2006 - NYC

VEON: I would like to do a general overview. Chatham House started in 1919, could you tell me some of the players who started it, what was their goal and objective as they looked at the world then and can you tell me where it is going now.

Julius: Chatham House grew out of the aftermath of WWI. The view at that time was engaging influential decisions makers in looking at international issues could the world avoid another world war. Clearly, it didn’t manage to avoid another world war. But, none the less, part of what this group of predominately British and American diplomats decided is that they should set up the Royal Institute for International Affairs in Britain and the Council for Foreign Relations in the United States to provide the focus for the debate and study of international affairs.

Veon: Who were some of the people who were instrumental in setting this up and what were some of their concerns at that time?

Julius: The names are not actually people we would recognize today. It was not the secretaries of state, but officials, there are a whole number of names: Neil Malcolm, John Powers, but these are not name that people would recognize or that I know very much about. The view of Chatham was that many of these issues are so complicated that you need to bring together different kinds of expertise so that you need: economic experts, political scientists, and international law experts and so forth and that basic idea has persisted and today forms the comparative advantage of what Chatham House tries to do to an issue compared to a straight economics institute or straight political institute.

Veon: So you are really a think tank and an innovator of future change?

Julius: Yes, we consider ourselves a think tank on global issues and try to provide independent analysis on international affairs. We are not affiliated with any political party and we don’t take institutional views but our research staff are encouraged to have policy recommendations and views.

Veon: Over the last 87 years - what are some of the things that Chatham House has been at the forefront of?

Julius: Well, we were quite influential in the early debates on Europe and the Reconstruction of Europe after the Second World War. Chatham House staff and membership were very much in favor of closer ties within Europe and they were involved in the details and negotiations of the Marshall Plan, then we went quite deeply into cold war issues and the security side. People whose fields are about international security and military planning - they grew bigger at the expense of some of the economics staff at Chatham House. I would have to say that it responds to the issues. In very recent times, we have ten research programs. The two biggest are the Middle East and sustainability and the environment. That is because our funding through memberships-corporate and individual and our members indicate what they are interested in at the moment.

Veon: This conference is on economics. Given the economic situation that the world finds itself in, what are some of the policies that CH would like to see either now or in the future?

Julius: Chatham House itself does not take institutions positions so we don’t officially recommend any policies but the way we try to influence the debate is to chose topics that we think are important for the global economy or global security system. The economic topic was chosen because our research staff feel that there is an issue with international global imbalances and the way to address this issue is to bring together people rather than write papers, for example. Sometimes, we do things through papers so for the situation in Iraq, our Middle East team produced a paper about a year ago on scenarios for the Middle East. Because their view is that what happens in Iraq will have profound consequences for the region and that it was very difficult for our experts to come up with a positive scenario for the Middle East so it is quite a depressing read.

Veon: With regard to global imbalances, I have interviewed Paul Volcker and Dr. Frankel, many of them are looking at perhaps some type of global currency. Is that something Chatham House has found in their research or is this not part of their research?

Julius: We have done a fair amount of research on the euro when that was as a common currency when that was a big issue and the head of our economics program has written quite a lot on the euro and what it means for the new countries who are coming into the EU. It was interesting to hear the Turkish economic minister is that one of their anchors for policy change was to become a member of the EU and potential of the eurozone and so in that sense, that is a good issue which mixes the economic and political dynamics, namely crating the momentum for reform along with the economic dymanic of it being the idea

I don’t think we have argued for a global currency but it was interesting form Morgan Stanly is that the view that the dollar has become a global currency, whether that was the intent or not.

Veon: Like McDonald’s - I had not thought of that before. Because of globalization, the tearing down of the barriers between nation-sates and the powers granted to the IMF over the weekend-with giving the IMF more surveillance powers over the fiscal imbalances of countries, is there is a need to reduce the power of the nation-state in order to fully function in a world without borders?

Julius: I think the power of the nation-state has been reduced, not because the power of any international substitute has grown, but simply because the markets and the global trading system create a certain inertia which is a difficult thing to buck if you are a policymakers-US or otherwise. At the same time, I think what is important about the agreement over the weekend is that it is important for leaders of countries to recognize that there are some problems which can be better addressed in a multinational framework than through bi-lateral negotiations or arm twisting and certainly global financial imbalances are one of those problems so that in my opinion, it is quite a positive step forward to pass this ball into the international game and perhaps, therefore, take some of the heat out of the bilateral discussions, particularly with regard to China.

Veon: At the IMF and G7 finance ministers press briefing, Treasury Secretary Snow that there is a move towards regionalism. Has Chatham House done anything with regard to regionalism, and the need to move in that direction as a result of just political and economic change?

Julius: There certainly researchers who feel that the regional scope is the right scope to address a number of issues which is more evident in Europe than other parts of the world simply because Europe is a collection of individually small countries-they are geographically small and the minute you try and get into immigration issues or security issues, it makes imminent sense to tackle those on the regional basis but there are other issues that I don’t think it makes sense to tackle on a regional level and those are local issues which can be about local immigration issues-very politically motivated, tax rates, something which every country should have its own ability to decide, so there are local issues. There are also very important global issues and in the environmental and sustainable program at Chatham House, that is an international program, not a regional program because it is fairly clear that the nature of global warming means that it can be addressed only in an international context.

Veon: In my 12 years, I started covering the environment and sustainable development with many interviews with Jane Nelson from the PWBLF, looking at corporate social responsibility and other issues that have evolved out of public-private partnership and the whole ball of wax. My last question….

Julius: I would like to make one of the initiatives that Chatham House has kicked off in the last year is to start the Chatham House Foundation which is to bring non-American thinking into the American foreign policy debate. Just as international issues are becoming more and more important to all of us, the US as one of the key decision-takers in the international stage, needs to be as aware as possible of the analysis that is being done outside the United States not that it is better but it is different. One of the real reasons for working with the foreign Policy Association here in New York is to try to expand the exposure of American audiences to some of the EU and other analysts and decision-makers elsewhere.

Veon: Let me then ask you, that if the RIIA and CFR began together about the same time, then help me understand the foundation.

Julius: We have no legal links with the CFR, it was the same group of Americans and British people who felt that they needed to start something in each country so the birth was joint. But in fact, we siblings have gone our own ways and the CFR is very much focused on shaping U.S. foreign policy We are not focused on shaping British foreign policy…

Veon: So now you are coming over here….
Julius: We think we had better get some foreign views into the debate which come from elsewhere.

Veon: Then let me ask you this as an American. I saw on your website that the queen is patron. What does that mean?

Julius: It means that we have a royal charter which is a legal concept. We are though, exactly like any other non-profit. In the early days when the patron was the head of state-before the queen-this was one of the causes that her father and now she feels is an important cause of the British society to support. We have no financial support but a matter of interest and it reflects the interest she takes in the Commonwealth and her own actions on the foreign policy stage which are very much behind the scenes.

Veon: Does she have a representative to Chatham House or does she have a liaison where she has a hand in what you are thinking?”

Julius: No, it is much more indirect that that. But on very special occasions, she will come to present the Chatham house prize -- last year it went to President Yuschenko of the Ukraine, being the international statesmen of the year who had done the most, our members felt, to advance the cause of peace and security.