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Undercurrents is a new podcast series from Chatham House. Agnes Frimston and Ben Horton interview Chatham House experts about the critical underlying issues which are shaping modern society.

Undercurrents is a new podcast series from Chatham House. Agnes Frimston and Ben Horton interview Chatham House experts about the critical underlying issues which are shaping modern society.
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Undercurrents is a new podcast series from Chatham House. Agnes Frimston and Ben Horton interview Chatham House experts about the critical underlying issues which are shaping modern society.




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Episode 23: Robin Niblett on the Future of Think Tanks

It's the SEASON FINALE!! Join Ben and Agnes for the final episode of Undercurrents in 2018. This week they speak to Robin Niblett, Director of Chatham House, about his recent work on the future of think tanks in the new uncertain political landscape. Up for discussion: All this and more - we hope you enjoy the episode. Read the International Affairs article: 'Re-discovering a sense of purpose: the challenge for western think-tanks' Watch the speech: Do think tanks have a future?


Episode 22: China's Belt and Road Initiative, and the Rise of National Populism

In 2013 China launched its flagship economic project, the 'Belt and Road Initiative' (BRI). In the five years since the initiative has rapidly expanded trade and infrastructure relationships between China and 88 countries in Eurasia and Africa, covering over 60% of global GDP. Ben speaks to the Asia-Pacific Programme's Yu Jie to find out more. The rise of populism is a phenomenon affecting political systems across the West. From the 2016 electoral shocks of Brexit and Trump through to the...


Episode 21: EU-US Relations after the Midterms, and Tackling the Illegal Wildlife Trade in Africa

The day after the US Midterm elections, Agnes and Ben meet Anthony Gardner (former US Ambassador to the EU) to discuss the state of US relations with Europe, the importance of the special relationship and the likelihood of a post-Brexit US-UK trade deal. Will the Midterm results influence the Trump administration's stance on Europe? And likewise will European observers take any comfort from events across the pond? The illegal wildlife trade is a serious organized crime found in most of the...


Episode 20: #MeToo and the Power of Women's Anger

Soraya Chemaly is a writer and activist whose work focuses on the role of gender in culture, politics, religion and media. Her latest book, Rage Becomes Her, explores how women can embrace the anger generated by modern gender relations for positive change. Agnes and Ben met with Soraya to discuss among other things the #MeToo campaign, sexual politics and the impact of the scandal over Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination. Find the Book: Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women's...


Episode 19: Green Building Projects in Jordan, and Qatar's Football World Cup

Across the world more attention is being placed on how to construct environmentally sustainable, carbon neutral buildings as part of the wider fight against climate change. Agnes discusses green building projects in Jordan with Glada Lahn, a Senior Research Fellow in the Energy, Environment and Resources Department at Chatham House. Alongside the Olympics, the football World Cup is possibly the most-watched international event. Hosting the World Cup can be a powerful statement of a nation's...


Episode 18: The American Dream vs America First, and Uganda's Illegal Ivory Trade

US President Donald Trump found much of his electoral success by utilising two central ideas in American political culture - the 'American Dream' and 'America First'. Academic and commentator Sarah Churchwell's new book Behold America explores the historial roots of these ideas, and the significant consequences of their manipulation. Agnes meets with Sarah to find out more. The illegal trade in ivory is a significant element of the informal economies of many African states, not least...


Episode 17: Alastair Campbell on New Labour and Brexit, Alistair Darling on the Financial Crisis

In the latest volume of his diaries, out this week, Alastair Campbell (former Director of Communications for Tony Blair) looks back on Gordon Brown's time in office between 2007 and 2010. Ben met Alastair to discuss among other things the art of political leadership, Brexit, the state of the Labour Party and policies to combat mental illness. Listen from 5:17. This month marked 10 years since the 2008 financial crisis, an event that still weighs heavily on political systems across the...


Episode 16: Cybercrime in the GCC states, and Fiction from Refugee Camps

Cybercrime is on the rise throughout the world, but the vast wealth of the GCC states (Saudi Arabia, Oman, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait) makes them especially vulnerable. In response increasingly stringent laws governing online activity have been enacted, but do these measures encroach too much on the rights of individuals? Agnes speaks to Joyce Hakmeh to find out. Much is written about the experiences of refugees, but rarely do we hear from them directly. Shatila Stories, a new novel...


Episode 15: Brexit Update, and Corruption in the World of the Global Super-Rich

Just under 18 months have passed since the UK government triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, formally beginning the UK's exit from the European Union. With only seven months left to sign a withdrawal agreement, Ben discusses the state of the negotiations with Georgina Wright, from Chatham House's Europe Programme. Among other issues they tackle the Irish border question, Michel Barnier's approach to the negotiations and how the EU member states are responding to the challenge of...


Episode 14: Sustainable Energy for Refugees, and Australian Foreign Policy

The average refugee camp has a lifespan of 18 years, but in most cases the infrastructure in place is designed for temporary emergency responses. One area this particularly affects is energy provision, with the majority of refugees reliant on burning wood. On top of this, many humanitarian agencies are dependent upon costly and damaging diesel fuel to power their relief efforts. The Moving Energy Initiative at Chatham House believes that renewable energy solutions can improve the health...


Episode 13: India's Billionaires, and Sexual Exploitation in the UN

India is the world’s largest democracy, with more than one billion people and an economy expanding faster than China’s. But the rewards of this growth have been far from evenly shared, and the country’s top 1% now own nearly 60% of its wealth. James Crabtree's new book The Billionaire Raj explores the dynamics behind the rise of a new class of Indian billionaires. Ben met up with James, and Champa Patel from the Asia-Pacific Programme, to discuss inequality, corruption and capitalism in...


Episode 12: Trump's Visit to the UK, and Japanese Foreign Policy in Asia

President Trump is visiting the UK this week in between summits with NATO and Russian President Putin. Agnes discusses the UK-US special relationship and European responses to the current President with Leslie Vinjamuri (Head of the US & Americas Programme) and Hans Kundnani (Senior Research Fellow in the Europe Programme). Another country adapting its foreign policy approach in light of an increasingly unpredictable US is Japan. A new special issue of International Affairs explores Japan's...


Episode 11: New Approaches to Peace Building, and Gender-Inclusive Growth at the G20

Alistair Burt MP is Minister of State for the Middle East at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. In a recent speech at Chatham House he launched a new report from the government's Stabilisation Unit on new approaches to resolving armed conflicts. Drawing on examples from conflicts as diverse as Libya and Colombia, the report explores how deal making and peace building can reduce conflicts around the world. Agnes spoke with Alistair after the speech to find out more. Despite the success and...


BONUS Episode: How Can Political Elites Reconnect With Voters?

In this bonus episode we bring you a recording of a roundtable from the 2018 Chatham House London Conference. This annual event brings together policy-makers, academics and business figures from around the world to London to discuss key global issues. Undercurrents hosted a breakfast roundtable as part of the conference, focusing on how elites can re-engage with their publics. A panel of experts from six different countries joined Ben and Agnes to share their views on questions...


Episode 10: Artificial Intelligence in International Affairs, and Women Drivers in Saudi Arabia

Technology driven by artificial intelligence is developing rapidly, but the political spectrum is not responding fast enough. Agnes discusses machine learning, the profusion of cat photos online and public-private partnerships on AI regulation with Jacob Parakilas from the US and Americas Programme. In 2017 the government of Saudi Arabia lifted the ban on women driving, to international acclaim. In the run-up to this policy becoming reality however Saudi women's rights activists have been...


Episode 9: Digital Subversion in Cyberspace, and Oleg Sentsov's Hunger Strike

Since ancient times states have attempted campaigns of subversion against their rivals. Sir David Omand, former Head of GCHQ, argues that cyberspace provides a multitude of new possibilities for interfering abroad. Ben met Sir David to discuss Russian interventions, fake news, foreign policy frenemies and jihadist social media. After the annexation of Crimea in 2014, Ukrainian activists have faced harsh penalties for criticizing Russian actions in the region. Agnes met Nikolay and Tatyana...


Episode 8: Ronan Farrow on Diplomacy

Ronan Farrow is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who was previously a foreign policy advisor to Hillary Clinton. In his new book, War on Peace, Farrow traces the decline of US diplomacy over the past 30 years, drawing on conversations with every surviving Secretary of State. This week Agnes met up with Farrow to discuss the waning reputation of career diplomats, how foreign leaders should deal with the Trump administration, and how new technology is transforming the art of diplomacy. A...


Episode 7: Libya's War Economy, and is the United Nations Still Relevant?

The United Nations has been going since 1945, and is the basis for most international cooperation. But in this disruptive political environment, is it still relevant? This week, Ben speaks to UN expert Thomas Weiss to find out. Since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, the situation in Libya has disappeared from international headlines. Seven years on, a new report by Tim Eaton explores the chaotic war economy that has developed in the vacuum. He speaks to Agnes about smuggling, tribal...


Episode 6: Tribes of Europe Update, and the International Women's Rights Agenda at the UN

This week Agnes meets Thomas Raines and Matthew Goodwin of the Europe Programme to revisit their research on the political Tribes of Europe in light of recent elections across the continent. Then, recording in San Francisco, Ben speaks to Rebecca Sanders from Cincinnati University about her recent article in International Affairs, which sheds light on conservative efforts to disrupt the women's rights agenda at the United Nations. Read the Chatham House reports: Europe's Political Tribes:...


Episode 5: Chokepoints in Global Food Trade, and How the Internet is Changing Language

In this week's episode Ben speaks to Laura Wellesley, a Research Fellow in the Energy, Environment and Resources Department at Chatham House, about her recent report assessing vulnerabilities in the global food trade. Then Agnes mediates a debate about how the internet is transforming the English language between journalist Marie Le Conte and The World Today editor Alan Philps. Read the Chatham House report: Chokepoints and Vulnerabilities in the Global Food Trade Read The World Today...