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ICANN Board - GAC Geneva Meeting: Open to Observers?

Michael D. Palage

The ICANN Board and GAC will be having a meeting in Geneva next month to resolve outstanding issues in connection with the new gTLD implementation process. Unfortunately to date details of whether this meeting will be open or closed to observers has not yet been publicly addressed. As a strong advocate toward openness and transparency I have drafted the following text which calls for the meeting to be open to observers. I drafted this text after talking with a number of ICANN stakeholders that shared these same concerns. It would be my hope that SOs/ACs/SGs and individuals could make their voice heard on this important issue.

* * * Draft Text * * *

Over the past eighteen months ICANN has had the opportunity to navigate through a number of challenges and achievements: expiration of the Joint Project Agreement and the negotiation and signing of the Affirmation of Commitments; introduction of new internationalized top-level domains in the ccTLD fast track process; preparing for the pending exhaustion of IPv4 address space while advancing the visibility of IPv6; and progress on addressing remaining work on the proposed Applicant Guidebook/process to introduce new gTLDs, including IDNs.

As important as these initiatives have been, ICANN is now experiencing a new challenge, an upcoming consultation between the ICANN Board and Government Advisory Committee (GAC). This consultation appears to be the first time that ICANN's Board and the GAC will use provisions set forth in Article XI Section 2 to resolve situations where the Board has decided to reject GAC advice.

In many ways, the legacy of ICANN's leadership will be significantly impacted by how the parameters are established for this upcoming consultation between the ICANN Board and the GAC, which appears to have been scheduled for the end of February in Geneva. Switzerland.

While the undersigned support this meeting as an important step in bringing about the responsible conclusion of the new gTLD implementation process, and other issues as defined in the GAC Communiqué, we call on the Board to provide certain safeguards to protect ICANN's legitimacy as a bottom up, private sector led consensus driven global organization.

We respectfully request that this consultation between the Board and GAC be open to observers, consistent with the practices of GAC — Board interactions at the public meetings which ICANN holds three times a year. Since this is the first meeting of this nature in ICANN's eleven year history, the precedent for all future such meetings will be established by this meeting.

We note that no clear communication on this aspect of the meeting has yet been provided. Therefore, we believe it is timely to express the views of the ICANN community on this topic. Specifically, that ICANN should provide for both onsite and remote observers to this interaction. An examination of the relevant ICANN bylaws, commitments and best practices are provided below:

Article I, Section 3 of the ICANN Bylaws states that "ICANN and its constituent bodies shall operate to the maximum extent feasible in an open and transparent manner and consistent with procedures designed to ensure fairness."

Article 3 of the Affirmation of Commitment (AoC) states that ICANN commits to "ensur[ing] that decisions made related to the global technical coordination of the DNS are made in the public interest and are accountable and transparent." While the GAC is clearly suited to provide advice to ICANN regarding "public interest", this advice should be provided in an open meeting accommodating observers.

The new gTLD policy development and implementation process has been a multi-year process that has taken place through a series of public consultations, and since the majority of the items that will be discussed in this intercessional meeting are about concerns of the GAC regarding aspects of the new gTLD Applicant Guidebook, we ask that this meeting provide for both onsite and remote observers.

Holding the intercessional meeting in a closed manner will raise questions of legitimacy, and could have a chilling effect on future ICANN policy development processes. We believe it is also not consistent with the form of multi stakeholder model that ICANN embodies. It may even have a negative impact on ICANN's legitimacy within the broader stakeholder community, which has supported it over the last twelve years.

Recently, ICANN was a recent signatory to a collaborative letter raising concerns about the actions taken by the Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) Bureau to exclude non-government actors from full participation in the Working Group on Improvements to the Internet Governance Forum. ICANN participated in both the UN Consultation on Enhanced Cooperation, and in the CSTD Panel held on December 17, and actively supported the importance of allowing private sector stakeholders in these meetings. It is hard to reconcile ICANN's position in this letter if it organizes a closed intercessional meeting with the GAC to resolve outstanding issues in the new gTLD Applicant Guidebook/process.

We accept that there may be space limitations for observers, as there often are in the face to face ICANN meetings. Given logistics and budgetary restraints, it is unlikely that large numbers of in-person attendees would travel to Geneva. Therefore, ICANN should also provide real time transcription and audio streaming of the proceedings, with an MP3 recording in a timely manner.

By Michael D. Palage, Intellectual Property Attorney and IT Consultant
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Share your comments

I'd sign it. Kevin Murphy  –  Jan 06, 2011 12:17 AM PDT

I'd sign it. Hard to argue with your logic, Mike.

It is safe to never assume .... Thomas Barrett  –  Jan 06, 2011 8:29 AM PDT

Mike,

Hopefully this was ICANN's plan anyway.

You have EnCirca's support for sending this letter.

Tom Barrett

Mike, Go Daddy supports the letter.Tim RuizGoDaddy.com, Tim Ruiz  –  Jan 07, 2011 10:58 AM PDT

Mike, Go Daddy supports the letter.

Tim Ruiz
GoDaddy.com, Inc.

MikeBlacknight supports the letterRegardsMicheleBlacknight Internet Solutions Ltd Michele Neylon  –  Jan 07, 2011 12:45 PM PDT

Mike

Blacknight supports the letter

Regards

Michele

Blacknight Internet Solutions Ltd

If you have a formal petition, I think there's a thundering herd of folks interested in signing on.. Jothan Frakes  –  Jan 07, 2011 1:36 PM PDT

Hi Mike-

You and I would probably agree that we often disagree, but we respect each other's position and thoughts where it happens.

In this case, I pay you some due respect.  I think you're spot on with this call to ensure these meetings are open, and I'd further suggest that if this is a 'petition' that might go to ICANN as a letter, that I would sign on.

I am also certain that there would be many who also sign on as you're already witnessing here on this article.

Nice Job.

-Jothan

Network Solutions Also Supports The Letter Statton Hammock  –  Jan 07, 2011 2:25 PM PDT

Mike,
Well presented. Network Solutions also supports sending this letter.

-Statton

I have reservations about this Antony Van Couvering  –  Jan 07, 2011 7:07 PM PDT

I hate to be the contrarian, but as I understand it this is a reconciliation meeting between the GAC and ICANN, as foreseen (and mandated) by the bylaws.  GAC and ICANN already had one of these, concerning .xxx, and now they are about to have another one.  It seems to me that this is meant to be a GAC-Board thing, and not (yet another) opportunity for everyone (we know who we are) to speechify about the now-fossilized positions held by the various parties. 

If what we hope for is an actual reconciliation, as opposed to a hardening of positions, then an audience doesn't help, because it makes it very hard for people to change what they've said in the past — which is what you need to do in order to reach compromise.  For that, a closed meeting is better.  Both the Board and the GAC have closed meetings for exactly that reason, and I'm not sure that a GAC-Board meeting would benefit from that.

I definitely think an "observer" role is much better than a situation where members of the audience line up to promote their agendas, as we see at ICANN meetings. But I'm not sure what the observers would do/learn anyway.  You could easily accomplish the same transparency by simply recording the session and distributing it afterwards.

Open Meetings as Principle But.... Carlton Samuels  –  Jan 09, 2011 11:20 AM PDT

...in this context, I share Antony's perspective on the approach, given the objective of an output that reconciles contrary positions. 

That aside, I endorse allowing interested parties in as observers. This would, at minimum, satisfy the transparency requirement under AoC and mediate the 'cult of secrecy' argument.

-Carlton

MarkMonitor endorses this suggestion... Frederick Felman  –  Jan 08, 2011 3:24 PM PDT

Mike - Thanks for putting this together - openness and accountability will make the process more easily understood and trusted by more stakeholders.  Your logic is sound.  I hope the Board and the GAC agree.  Best - Fred

Mike, I support your letter and Robin Gross  –  Jan 09, 2011 12:28 PM PDT

Mike, I support your letter and its request for transparency at this important meeting. The entire community will benefit from observing this public dialogue and it would be a step backward for ICANN to hold a secret meeting on this policy issue.  Perhaps it is overly optimistic, but I expect it will be open to observers. Thanks, Robin

Support this become petition and legal letter to The ICANN Dwi Elfrida Martina Simanungkalit  –  Jan 09, 2011 9:53 PM PDT

Hi.. Michael,

I support you, if you want to make this become petition and send as legal letter to Board of ICANN. ICANN shoud provide remote participant for this meeting too, to facilitate observer who can't attend in Geneva, but want to follow the meeting and give contribution for the development of policies quality. Thanks.

Mike,I support this letter as well.Thanks for Constantine Roussos  –  Jan 11, 2011 4:13 AM PDT

Mike,

I support this letter as well.

Thanks for putting it together,

Constantine Roussos
.music domain initiative

RU-CENTER Supports The Letter Tatiana Khramtsova  –  Jan 13, 2011 8:51 AM PDT

Mike, RU-CENTER Supports The Letter.
Tatiana Khramtsova

The Non Commercial Stakeholder Group (NCSG) in the GNSO support this letter. Avri Doria  –  Jan 14, 2011 8:57 AM PDT

Just a brief note to say that the NCSG supports the goal of allowing observers to attend this important meeting both on site and remotely. 

Even if observers are restricted from speaking at such a meting, the opportunity to communicate in real-time with those who are participating, either during breaks or via electronic communications, is a crucial component of the bottom-up processes of an ICANN that is trying to meet the requirements of the AOC. 

Avri Doria
Chair, NCSG Executive Committee

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