The Chatham House Rule
The Chatham House Rule reads as follows:
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.
The Chatham House Rule may be invoked at meetings to encourage openness and the sharing of information.
View text version and translations.
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’.
Our Application of the Chatham House Rule
In closed dialogues among high-level participants, hosted as part of the series Accelerating Progress, Advancing Innovation, or in other venues where the Rule is applied in partnership with the Citizens’ Climate Engagement Network, application of the Chatham House Rule requires that each participant be the sole responsible party for deciding whether his or her comments are for wider distribution. For this reason, we ask that participants abide by the Rule, with the following specifications:
- Participants have the right not to disclose their participation. Only they can decide this. No content will be attributed to any participant, unless the participant wishes it be attributed and formally makes this clear.
- Participants have the right to expect that institutional information not be publicly disclosed except by themselves.
- Participants may openly speak of their own contribution, if they wish, and cite general concepts, challenge areas, or agreed collaborative outcome projects, but may not cite any other individual or organization’s contribution, unless it is first made public by that individual or organization.
- To ensure a fluid discussion environment, confirmed participants may be allowed to know with whom they will be in discussion. We request that the names of other participants remain confidential.
On the Use of Technology
We request that no recording devices be used during a dialogue held under our application of the Chatham House Rule. We also request that notes not be taken on laptop computers or any device connected to the Internet. This is partly to protect participants against inadvertent public disclosure of sensitive remarks, but also to ensure an atmosphere of attentive, engaged discussion and dialogue. We prefer that notes be taken on paper and that remarks not be attributed to speakers in the notes. Though Chatham House permits tweeting of concepts and ideas, without attribution, we request that use of social media be restricted to breaks and preferably until the end of the event. All participants are expected not to infringe on the rights of other participants under our application of the Chatham House Rule (see section immediately above).
Some Frequently Asked Questions
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 will take disciplinary action against a member or guest who breaks the Rule … For events held under the Chatham House Rule that are not organized by Chatham House, any actions taken because of a violation of the Rule are entirely at the discretion of the organizer.
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 (this should be done only at the discretion of the speaker who might be named). 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.
For more information, from Chatham House, about the standard application of the Rule: https://www.chathamhouse.org/about/chatham-house-rule
For more information about the high-level climate dialogue series, including outcomes and related projects, click on the following link: