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ICANN Meeting: The Road to Wellington

Susan Crawford

What would it take for this upcoming meeting to be a success?

I am a big believer in ICANN's core principles, and in the forum it provides for private self-governance of domain names and numbers.  I think the ICANN model continues to have great potential as a form of governance.  For this meeting to be a success for me, personally, I'd like to see those core principles made more visibly operational — or at least see a start made on this effort.  I'm putting a stake in the ground with these posts, and we'll see whether progress happens or not.

1. Transparency/visibility.  It's fair to say that newcomers to ICANN (and even oldcomers) won't get much from the web site.  It's very difficult to tell what if anything is going on, how the structure of ICANN works, what ICANN does, and how people who can't attend ICANN meetings can participate in consensus policymaking for gTLDs.  (This is mostly a comment about gTLD policy visibility; other parts of ICANN often do better in making their work visible.) We don't have to do a joint design effort, but it would be good to see some movement on this front.  I'd like to see more policymaking efforts happening online after the initial F2F meetings.  (And I'm not convinced that meeting all over the world so often, for such long periods of time, makes sense, but that subject is not one of my top priorities for this meeting.)

Transparency also applies to what the Board does, and I'd like to make progress on having meaningful minutes posted and available.  I think CIRA's recent statement should be taken very seriously by ICANN. 

2. Making the gTLD processes work.  I'm concerned about the gTLD policy processes on several fronts — the policy development work is confronted with impossible deadlines, policies may not have been implemented in the past as quickly as they should have been, and needed expertise may not be there (and may need to be paid for).  If we're going to be a model of private self-governance, we should look hard at these issues.  I realize that a review of these issues is going on, but it would be good to use the Wellington meeting to make sure concerns about these things are aired and conveyed to the team doing the review.  We have to get this right, and from what I'm hearing change is needed.  ICANN is, mostly, a web of contracts, and its work on consensus policies is crucial.

3. Making operational matters work generally.  This is a vague heading, I realize - but to the extent there are issues with IANA or other operational problems, I hope they are fully aired and dealt with.  ICANN may have been distracted by WSIS and other matters during recent months and years, and I'm concerned that we focus on what the ICANN forum provides to those who support it.  I hope we'll spend time in Wellington getting on top of these issues and making progress.

ICANN's core mission is to adopt global rules when necessary for names and addresses — and to enforce them once adopted.  How do we decide when global rules are necessary?  That's ICANN's meta-mission, in a sense:  figuring out, as a forum, what can be left for local decision making and what should be global.  We use the idea of consensus to decide when a particular rule should be global.  And we use contracts to enforce those consensus policies once they're in place. In order for all of this work to happen effectively, we need to be transparent, get the policy processes working, and get operational matters running smoothly. 

We need to get this right.

By Susan Crawford, Professor, Cardozo Law School in New York City
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