I read with interest the recent blog written by Theresa Swinehart a Sr. Advisor to the President on Strategy. She wrote: "The most critical element of this [ICANN Transition] process is trust and alignment. To ensure success on this accountability track, we must as a community work closely together to make sure that the final process is meaningful. There is plenty of work to be done in an ambitious period of time."
Post the completion of the ICANN 50 London meeting, I wrote a Commentary on this forum titled "Thank You GNSO - From the SHE.africa”, endorsing a call by the ICANN's Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) which unanimously endorsed a joint statement in support of the creation of an independent accountability mechanism. As a former GNSO member I thanked GNSO for their good efforts and reminded them of DCA Trust's call for the same mechanisms. This was even before the NTIA transition became an issue. I also pointed the concerns we expressed to US Congress. We pointed out in our letter Congress has the overarching responsibility for the oversight of ICANN. I also commented on some of my observations from the outcome of the ICANN 50 London meeting regarding the misleading message that was being conveyed by ICANN CEO on DCA's .africa gTLD application.
DCA GAC Responses valuable to ICANN's Accountability improvements
In a follow up note, I wrote directly to the GNSO to bring to their attention the above mentioned matters. The letter can be found here [PDF]. In this letter, I also referenced DCA's response to the recent GAC Advice conveyed in the GAC London Communiqué on africa. DCA pointed out specific deficiencies that could be cited in various forms. These included inappropriate communications, misleading information, incompetency and a lack of understanding that exists within the ICANN structures in handling its matters. Our response and observations should be taken in this context, and in adherence to any accountability and transparency improvement measures.
It is within this context that I am compelled to post again DCA's case to shed more light on what I think would be of public interest. In particular the activities of GAC and ICANN's reaction to it.
Inappropriate GAC Advice on .Africa in London GAC Communiqué, while under an IRP
Amid these developments and in a surprising move, the London meeting saw the GAC give yet another Advice to the ICANN board concerning DCA Trust's application on .africa, an application which is currently going through ICANN's Independent Review process (IRP) created by ICANN and set forth in its Bylaws.
In reality, the IRP is a process for independent third-party review of Board actions. DCA Trust initiated an IRP seeking that an independent third-party panel adjudicate the rights that DCA has asserted in its Notice of IRP, and in particular, the right to have its application treated fairly, transparently, and with due diligence by ICANN in accordance with ICANN's Bylaws, Article of Incorporation, and the gTLD Applicant Guidebook. The IRP is currently ongoing and the discussions and Panel discussions are hosted both on ICANN and DCA site here.
Where the New gTLD Program is concerned, the role of GAC requires the representatives to understand the gTLD Applicant Guidebook, the ICANN Bylaws and the IRP process contained therein, a process which as noted is independent of both ICANN and the applicants. From the questions raised in the GAC Advice and in the available transcripts of the various GAC meetings during ICANN 50 and during past ICANN meetings, it is our deep concern that ICANN allows the GAC to intervene in ICANN's evaluation and delegation of new gTLDs without ensuring that the GAC representatives actually understand ICANN processes.
Lack of Proper Education of GAC members
A lack of proper education is the clear explanation for certain GAC members urging ICANN to truncate the IRP and/or compromise the independence of the proceeding, which is according to ICANN, an applicant's only method of legal recourse. Based upon the GAC's recent actions and advice, DotConnectAfrica has also raised various questions to ICANN which are of the public interest.
ICANN has a duty to educate the members of the Internet community at large as well as the members of the GAC themselves, as part of its obligation to act in a transparent and accountable manner.
It is on this basis and others which we incorporated in our full GAC response that we felt strongly that the GAC Advice given to ICANN during ICANN 50 in London demonstrated both the African Union's inappropriate efforts to determine the outcome of the applications for .africa and ICANN's improper acquiescence to the GAC's demands. We strongly urged ICANN not to accept this advice.
In addition, ICANN must prevent that a GAC member use its position on the GAC as a tool to promote its own interest, as the African Union has attempted to do with respect to .Africa, by prompting a GAC advice for ICANN to delegate .africa to the AU-backed applicant competing with DCA Trust.
In summary, we objected to the GAC's advice as improper and showing a failure on the part of ICANN to adequately educate and inform GAC representatives. We expect ICANN to decline to follow the London GAC Advice with regard to .africa, consistent with its obligations under the Bylaws and other documents governing ICANN and the IRP.
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.
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