ICANN bylaws mandate periodic reviews of the organisation's main structures. For the body that handles gTLD policy making, the GNSO, that review was due to start in February this year.
The review appears much needed. The GNSO Council is the manager of the gTLD policy process and as such, it has representatives of all GNSO groups. But according to repeated statements by many of those representatives, the Council's current bicameral structure has not lived up to expectations.
This two-house structure is the result of the last review and the recommendations that came out of it. Each GNSO Council house is divided in two sub-groups called stakeholder groups (SGs). But that's where the symmetry ends.
In the contracted parties house, the two SGs are the only entities. So the registry SG and the registrar SG are often able to find areas of common interests.
But in the non contracted parties house, the 2 SGs are made up of 5 sub-groups, called constituencies. Seeing eye to eye is not always so easy for the commercial SG (the business, internet service providers and intellectual property constituencies) and the non commercial SG (the non commercial users and the not for profit organizations constituencies).
The review would help evaluate whether the GNSO's current structure is well suited to ICANN's changing environment and policy making needs in a world that has already been dramatically changed by the new gTLD program. Its results would pave the way for any changes that are deemed necessary.
Yet it seems the review is unlikely to start anytime soon. On June 12, in an email to the GNSO Council, ICANN staff explained that the "Board Structural Improvements Committee (SIC) is considering postponing the GNSO Review (potentially for a year) while it evaluates options for streamlining the organizational review process and considers relevant discussions involving development of a new ICANN Strategic Plan. The SIC expects to make a recommendation to the Board in Durban and staff will keep you apprised of these developments."
Those who feel the current bicameral structure is unbalanced will not be happy to hear the GNSO may not be reviewed for another year. It's also unclear how such a decision, should it be confirmed, would fit with the ICANN bylaws requirement which states that "reviews shall be conducted no less frequently than every five years, based on feasibility as determined by the Board." (Article IV, section 4).
Obviously allowing the Board to determine feasibility gives the SIC the leeway to push the review back. But can a 2 year delay still be considered reasonable?
By Stéphane Van Gelder, Chairman, MILATHAN
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