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Chatham House was once a serious foreign policy think tank, but its awards for Greta and BLM prove it’s become woke talking shop

Frank Furedi
Frank Furedi

is an author and social commentator. He is an emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Kent in Canterbury. Author of How Fear Works: The Culture of Fear in the 21st Century. Follow him on Twitter @Furedibyte

is an author and social commentator. He is an emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Kent in Canterbury. Author of How Fear Works: The Culture of Fear in the 21st Century. Follow him on Twitter @Furedibyte

Chatham House was once a serious foreign policy think tank, but its awards for Greta and BLM prove it’s become woke talking shop
There was a time when Chatham House exercised an important influence in the management of geopolitics, but that was before the British foreign policy establishment lost its bearings and embraced the role of global social worker.

Chatham House, also known as the Royal Institute of International Affairs, has redefined its role and has downgraded its interest in serious geopolitical and diplomatic matters in favour of associating itself with fashionable causes. The Institute’s website highlights its devotion to the building of a sustainable world. Along with diversity and inclusion, ‘sustainability’ is the most important buzzword in the vocabulary of the Western Cultural Establishment. Therefore, it is not surprising that when Chatham House celebrated its centenary this summer, they acclaimed Greta Thunberg for “her vanguard role in mobilizing young people to take up climate activism.”

It is a sign of the times that numerous international organisations who have lost their way believe that the way to acquire a semblance of legitimacy is by declaring, ‘#MeToo, we are jumping on Greta’s bandwagon’. In a show of nauseating piety, the leaders of the world literally prostrated themselves at the feet of Greta when she told them off in a speech at the United Nations.

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In today’s world, it is more or less obligatory for Western international organisations to award a prize or some other honour to Greta. She has already won the first Gulbenkian Prize for Humanity, and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for two consecutive years. Now this Goddess of the Climate is the proud recipient of the Chatham House Centenary Changemakers Award.

But Chatham House decided that it could not simply give an award in recognition of the global climate strike. It also had to demonstrate its commitment to inclusion and diversity. Therefore, they awarded Melina Abdullah “in recognition of the momentous work” of the Black Lives Matter movement. Abdullah is one of the co-founders of the Los Angeles chapter of BLM. Her inclusion in the Chatham House Hall of Fame ticks all the right boxes for the institution’s performatively woke sponsors.

The speed with which Chatham House has transformed itself into an institution promoting fashionable causes is illustrative of the unravelling of the ethos of serious deliberation on international affairs amongst British policy makers. There was a time when Chatham House was noted for its serious contribution to the discipline of international relations. The organisation emerged in the aftermath of the First World War. Its principal founders sought to provide a forum where ideas about the promotion of world peace could gain intellectual respectability. Many of its leading associates sought to reconcile the maintenance of the British Empire through the creation of status quo institutions, such as the League of Nations.

Its first meeting on July 5, 1920 was chaired by Robert Cecil, one of the architects of the League of Nations. Former liberal Foreign Secretary Edward Grey moved the resolution calling the institution into existence. During the decades to follow, Chatham House became an important venue for visiting political leaders and statesmen. It also served as a sounding board for the British Foreign Office.

Chatham House tended to express the standpoint of liberal imperialism. Its associates understood that the British Empire could not endure unless it was reformed. Many of the institute’s associates sought to manage Britain’s global decline by advocating the Commonwealth ideal.

In recent decades, Chatham House seems to have lost touch with any strategic vision and has become a talking shop in search of a mission. Along with the British Foreign Policy Establishment, it adopted the soft, fashionable causes associated with the prevailing globalist, cosmopolitan world view.

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This approach was outlined by Robin Niblett, director of Chatham House, when he explained that the reason for awarding Greta Thunberg and Melina Abdullah was because his organisation is “inspired by the ways the award winners are leading global efforts to combat climate change, protect biodiversity and bring about more equal and inclusive societies.”

That’s another way of saying that Chatham House has no distinctive contribution to make to our understanding of international relations.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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