Politics and activism

Have you been to Chatham House?

A phrase which is being thrown around in some circles (particularly government) recently is the Chatham House Rule. Perhaps it’s always been around, but I’ve only noticed it more recently.

I think some of those using it don’t really know what it means.

What it strictly means is: You can talk about whatever you hear, but you can’t say where it came from:

“When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.”
Source: Chatham House

Whereas some people seem to think it means: This is confidential. You can’t repeat this.

I do my best to respect confidences, so if in doubt about what they mean, I’ll be assuming it’s the latter. But in some cases I might ask what they really mean.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

5 replies on “Have you been to Chatham House?”

I’m an economist by profession, and the Chatham House rules expression is used all the time at seminars/workshops to allow participants to speak freely without fear of being quoted later on.
PS When I lived in Surrey Hills, my closest railway station was Chatham on the Ringwood line. This is of no relevance to anything, sorry!

Chatham House Rules means ‘not for attribution / background’. If people mean ‘off the record / confidential’ they should say so.

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