A concrete plinth was lain at the foundation of durable Enhanced Cooperation this week when ISOC unveiled its IXP toolkit and portal. In simple English (which no doubt will be expanded to other languages) the soft launch modestly seeks feedback, corrections, and further input to the already pithy and instructive content. More to the point, this resource responds to one of the principle demands of those who do not recognize themselves in the multistakeholder model: how do we get our own IXP? For many, this goal is an expression of independence from an older, less diversified Internet, and a necessary step in bringing them under the multistakeholder roof.
Listened and Learned
ISOC's staff have clearly been awake during nocturnal declarations at various UN get-togethers where government stakeholders have voiced their anxieties about Enhanced Cooperation. This should not pass without commendation (for those among us in the Community who are unfamiliar with the concept, it is the obverse of derision). And it's well-matched to ICANN's own demonstration to the international community that ICANN is, in its structure, corporate establishment, staff composition, policies and support mechanisms, a genuinely international entity. If there is more to be done (such as developing an irrefutable and up-to-date mapping of issues and processes that compose Enhanced Cooperation, or assuring the long-term rescue of the Internet Governance Forum) then at least the I* organizations can be saluted for laying the right foundation lately. And we know this because their actions respond directly to stakeholder worries, as expressed at the IGF, UNGA, WCIT, and other gatherings. Theirs is an exercise in winning over skeptics, one where answering well-founded stakeholder concerns is understood to be an effective way of building a community.
...That Good Men Say Too Much
There follows from these successes a reflexive inclination on the part of the ICANN Community to begin to worry about the pendulum swinging too far. The perennial skeptics ask: Is ICANN now controlling the international environment more than it should? Is ISOC enabling and emboldening those who seek to destabilize the multistakeholder model? To which at least one response suggests itself: that ICANN's new offices in Geneva (and yes, also those in Istanbul and Singapore) and ISOC's ISP toolkit, and extensive chapter development, are all a part of what responsiveness looks like. This is how you win stakeholders to the cause of Enhanced Cooperation: by making it tangible, on-line and in-person, in places where unengaged stakeholders live and work. If there is one excess in the construction of the multistakholder model this Community seeks so ardently to defend, it is an excess of chewing over design options, and not enough mixing cement. 2014 is off to a good start for this Community. Smile.
By Gregory Francis, Managing Director at Access Partnership
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