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Thank You GNSO - From the SHE.africa

Sophia Bekele

The recent announcement at the ICANN 50 London, by all stakeholder groups and constituencies comprising of ICANN's Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) to endorse a joint statement in support of the creation of an independent accountability mechanism "that provides meaningful review and adequate redress for those harmed by ICANN action or inaction in contravention of an agreed upon compact with the community" is a very welcome development to the Multistakeholder framework.

It is well known to the ICANN community that myself and the various internet organizations that I represent have supported this model since its inception and we have campaigned for it all over Africa and globally.

It is in following the currently available ICANN accountability process that DotConnectAfrica (DCA) has chosen to file for an Independent Review Process (IRP), despite a very expensive process and in hopes to seek a resolution. We also expect, if not yet verify, this process will allow the basic principles of transparency, accountability, probity and equity to prevail.

The IRP is a proceeding provided for in Article IV, Section 3 of the ICANN Bylaws, by which any person materially affected by a decision or action of the ICANN Board may request that the action be reviewed by an independent third party for consistency with the ICANN Bylaws and/or Articles of Incorporation. DCA filed an IRP because we were not allowed to complete processing to the end of Independent Evaluation (IE) by ICANN, as a result of GAC Objection, which we stated was "unfair, discriminatory, and lacked appropriate due diligence and care" as well as "anti-competitive".

The GNSO is a policy advisory body which advises the ICANN Board on global public policies that guide the development of the Internet, including the gTLD policy and processes affecting such TLDs as .asia, .com, .net, .org and the policy development work on new gTLD (generic Top Level Domain names).

I was appointed as a policy advisor on GNSO in 2005 when the New gTLD programs was just taking off and I know the painstaking deliberation we had to formulate a fair, competitive, transparent and equitable policy development process over the outcome of the gTLD guidebook and I will not take it in vain. I have since been an ICANN citizen and an active participant in its process, and currently put in a position to test its accountability.

Our organization DCA is a non-profit corporation and .africa gTLD applicant, yet was referred to during ICANN 50 as a "SHE". It was particularly surprising to hear the reference made by the CEO of ICANN Fadi Chehadi during a Press Conference at the just concluded London ICANN International meeting referring to DCA's application as a "SHE".

The CEO's comments that DCA has "Rights" to the IRP was a welcome clarification and a wake up call to any special interest group that may think the "African continent" is only represented by them.

Despite, I thought it would be to the public interest, to list out the multiple errors made by the ICANN CEO in defense of ICANN's accountability process, using the .africa as an example. The CEO of ICANN:

  1. Incorrectly referred to our application as an individual applicant, which is untrue, as ICANN guidebook does not accept "Individual" applicants. One has to be a Corporation to apply.
  2. Incorrectly referred to DCA as a "SHE", whereas DCA is a Corporation that has no gender identity.
  3. Incorrectly stated that DCA is challenging the "entire AUC" in the IRP, whereas the IRP is about ICANN's actions.
  4. Incorrectly suggested that DCA is challenging the "entire AUC" as if the AUC is a legal applicant to the .africa gTLD, which they are not.

Allow me to use this forum to remind the global public that DCA is a .africa applicant, and we applied on behalf of its global constituency and we made sure in our application that we stated that we are not serving any "specialized community". It is also widely known now that we have passed all criteria by the independent evaluators, as it relates to our financials, technical and operational competencies.

And yet, ICANN agreed to stop processing DCA's application based on GAC advice put forward by the AUC, which was effectively the only competitor for .africa thanks to its relationship with UniForum/ZACR, the other applicant for .africa. In other words, ICANN allowed the AUC to use its position as an intergovernmental organization to quash DCA's application and ensure that ZACR's application would proceed without competition. At a minimum, this is the subject of the IRP that DCA is currently pursuing against ICANN.

I will not lay out here all the issues that are in dispute, but anyone who would like to see how this IRP is proceeding — including ICANN's own statements as to what the IRP is and is not — should take a look at the parties' submission.

Recall I wrote to Congress, on a matter that now has become a serious issue of Internet Governance and transition plan of ICANN. You can dissect one process from another to conquer and divide, but the principles of accountability and transparency in any organization remain the same around the world.

Therefore, I ask all of you fellow GNSO constituencies to continue to be vigilant, and leave no stones unturned to make sure that ICANN decision makers are held accountable in their decision makings. There is a saying that you make the bed, therefore you lay in it, and so let us not lay in a bed of thorn.

Finally, in support of the recent speech I presented to young girls on ICT Girls day this past April, and quoted as saying "Internet is a SHE", behold I pray then that ".africa be a SHE".

By Sophia Bekele, CEO of DotConnectAfrica. Ms. Bekele is a former ICANN generic Names Supporting Organization (gNSO) Council policy advisor & contributed to policy over the new gTLD programme & IDNs. She was also policy advisor to various UN Agencies on ICTs. Founder and spearhead of the Yes2DotAfrica campaign. Bekele is a business and corporate executive, an international entrepreneur, a thought leader in Corporate and ICT Governance, international policy, Business Strategy, Internet, ICT & development. Her Profiles on sophiabekele.com / wikipedia.

Related topics: ICANN, Internet Governance, Policy & Regulation, Top-Level Domains


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Do you live in Africa, Sophia? Kevin Murphy  –  Jul 03, 2014 1:24 PM PDT

Do you live in Africa, Sophia?

Do you live in Africa, Sophia? Sophia Bekele  –  Jul 03, 2014 7:35 PM PDT

Yes I do, Kevin.

Thanks. I only asked because I've read Kevin Murphy  –  Jul 04, 2014 12:01 AM PDT

Thanks. I only asked because I've read several times in interviews that you've been living in Northern California for the last two decades.

passport Calvin Browne  –  Jul 04, 2014 5:41 AM PDT

But Sophia does travel on an American passport if what I saw in Senegal is to be believed.

DCA are only in it because ICANN bent the rules Jay Daley  –  Jul 06, 2014 12:18 AM PDT

It's important to remember that DCA didn't actually submit an application for .africa, they submitted one for .dotafrica and ICANN allowed them to change their applied for string.  If ICANN had followed the rules from the outset then the real community supported .africa application from ZACR would be uncontended.

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