Home » Governance » Chatham House Report – the Fine Print

BRITISH think-tank Chatham House’s April 2014 report, “Zimbabwe’s International Re-engagement: The Long Haul to Recovery” by Knox Chitiyo and Steve Kibble is attracting a lot of attention from various quarters, mostly because the think-tank becomes one of the most high-ranking Western organisations to call a spade a spade regarding the contentious 2013 harmonised elections even though on the economy it makes some serious omissions.

Chatham House, also known as the Royal Institute of International Affairs, has acknowledged that Zanu-PF resoundingly won the harmonised elections. The report reads in part: “A landslide victory by the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) in Zimbabwe’s elections in 2013 resulted in its comprehensive recapture of the state.

“The endorsement of the results by the Southern African Development Community (Sadc), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), the African Union (AU) and the UN confirmed Zanu-PF’s grip on power.

“It also symbolised Zimbabwe’s re-admittance into the international community, although the United Kingdom, European Union, United States, Australia and others expressed deep concerns about the credibility of the polls.

Many international actors want to bring closure to more than 17 years of political crisis in Zimbabwe.”

It’s not a question of semantics, but who could have summed it better than this? And, who ever thought that this could come from a British institution?

In order to understand the issues at play it is important to know who Chatham House is and what role it has played in Zimbabwe’s geo-political landscape in the past decade.

Also known as the Royal Institute of international Affairs, Chatham House says on its website, that it:

1. Engages governments, the private sector, civil society and its members in open debates and confidential discussions about significant developments in international affairs

2. Produces independent and rigorous analysis of critical global, regional and country-specific challenges and opportunities

3. Offers new ideas to decision-makers and -shapers on how these could best be tackled from the near- to the long-term.

Chatham House also says it “undertakes independent and rigorous analysis with the aim of setting the agenda and shaping policy by encouraging new ideas and forward-thinking in international affairs”.

Who funds Chatham House or better still, did Zanu-PF andor the Government of Zimbabwe fund the study which produced the April report?

The record will show that the think-tank reflects a “pro-establishment view of the world due to donations from large corporations, governments and other organisations.

“In addition to corporate members consisting of government departments, large corporations, academic institutions, investment banks, NGOs, energy companies and other organisations, Chatham House currently has international leaders from business, diplomacy, science, politics and media as its individual members.”

If it reflects a “pro-establishment view”, which establishment is that? Surely not the Government of Zimbabwe? As a British establishment, it means Chatham House reflects the views of the British government and other Western governments. It also means that its funding is largely drawn from BritishWestern corporations and governments.

It is, therefore, foolhardy to think that the think-tank would fund and publish a report that does not have the support of its major stakeholders — Western governments andor corporations.

Politics being politics, the Western governments that have refused to recognise the July 31 harmonised elections are by inference some of the major funders of Chatham House, and they are realising that time is not on their side.

They can’t reject the report’s contents simply because it is generating a lot of debate. They are using every available diplomatic channel to make their position known.

This report is one of those channels where we have seen them making a major climb-down in terms of the elections. The contents are not cast in stone, but they give an important direction in terms of the West’s re-engagement with Zimbabwe.

Source : The Herald