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Nom-Com Appoints Independent and Diverse Candidates to ICANN Leadership Positions

Ram Mohan

When 72 candidates vie for 8 positions, making tough choices are inevitable.

ICANN's 2005 Nominating Committee (Nom-Com) on Friday announced the selection of a diverse and independent set of nominees for important roles in ICANN, including the Board of Directors, the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO), the At-Large Advisory Council (ALAC) and the Country Code Names Supporting Organization (ccNSO).

The year-long process began with an open call in April 2005 for high-caliber, accomplished individuals to serve in voluntary roles in the public's interest. Their charge — to address the Internet's technical coordination problems and related policy development challenges, tasks that are ICANN's general responsibilities.

Nom-Com, itself a unique group, consists of people drawn from diverse backgrounds, and representing various constituencies that reflect the points of view of businesses, civil society, technical coordination bodies, and end-users, but participating in Nom-Com in their individual capacities. These constituencies are defined in ICANN's bylaws. Long-term, the Nom-Com selects 53% of all Board Directors, 20% of GNSO members, 17% of ccNSO members and 33% of ALAC members, staggered across various terms.

Geographic Diversity

The 2005 Nominating Committee received 72 applications, with continued evidence of interest in working with ICANN from all over the world, not just North America and Europe. For instance, only about 5 African candidates applied in 2003, that increased to about 9 in 2004 and continued to about 11 in 2005. Perhaps reflecting the fact that a good number of Latin Americans were selected in 2003 & 2004, fewer candidates seem to have applied from that part of the world. Applications from Europeans and North Americans accounted for 55% or more every year, perhaps reflecting current trends of global Internet usage. In all three years, over 20% of all candidates have been from Asia/Australian/Pacific.

Gender Diversity

When I first started attending ICANN meetings, the ratio of men to women approximated that of my University's engineering classes...dismally low. This statistic seemed to permeate all the way to the ICANN Board.

It's good to see gender diversity make its way through the ICANN process. In each year, the Nom-Com has helped ICANN's groups increase their gender diversity. From three women (12% of all nominees) nominated in 2003, the number grew to four women (44% of all nominees) in 2004. In 2005, six women (75% of all nominees) are nominated for ICANN positions, including both Board nominees.

In 2005, the Nom-Com seated two persons to the ICANN Board. The selections were geographically balanced between North America and Africa, and between new and incumbent Board Directors.

Susan Crawford, who has been active in the policy, legal and (even!) technical circles regarding the Internet, cyberlaw and ICANN, is the new Director appointed to the ICANN Board. She keeps an active calendar, much of it blogged.

Njeri Rionge returns for a second term to the ICANN Board. She's been active on the Internet, most recently founding and running a leading Kenyan IP Communications Solutions Provider.

Critical Years For Nominees

In the next couple of years, each of the 4 leadership councils (Board, GNSO, ccNSO, ALAC) has weighty and important issues to consider and decide.

ICANN's best known spokesperson and Chairman, Vint Cerf will step down in 2007 (his final term on the Board expires at the conclusion of ICANN's annual meeting in 2007). Both Susan and Njeri will be part of the ICANN Board that has to work through succession planning, evaluation of the CEO, and make reasoned and wise choices to ensure the continued success of the organization.

The GNSO has to wrestle with ongoing policy issues in the areas of privacy, security and internationalization, and also weigh in on new TLD selection process –- in addition to various other issues, including contracts, bid processes, etc. Avri Doria has been renominated, and I look forward to her civil society and technology expertise on the GNSO. The ccNSO, as a relatively young organization, has some "forming" and "norming" issues to resolve –- including they key issue of increasing the number of countries that participate. The ALAC has unique challenges of its own, including thorny issues of representation.

Everyone - these nominees, ICANN and the Internet community need to work carefully in steering ICANN through the WSIS and UN Internet Governance debates that seem to propose new and unproven methods in lieu of the working ICANN model.

---
The author served on the founding Nom-Com as a non-voting liaison of the Security & Stability Committee, followed by two voting terms, elected by the gTLD Registries.

References:
Geographic & Gender Diversity statistics were computed from official statistics listed by the Nominating Committee:

2003: 2003 Nominating Committee Nominees
2004: 2004 Nominating Committee Nominees
2005: 2005 Nominating Committee Nominees

By Ram Mohan, Executive Vice President & CTO, Afilias. Mr. Mohan brings over 20 years of technology leadership experience to Afilias and the industry.

Related topics: DNS, ICANN, Internet Governance, Multilinguism, Privacy, Security, Top-Level Domains

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Comments

Re: Nom-Com Appoints Independent and Diverse Candidates to ICANN Leadership Positions The Famous Brett Watson  –  Nov 06, 2005 5:24 PM PST

"...the WSIS and UN Internet Governance debates that seem to propose new and unproven methods in lieu of the working ICANN model." (Emphasis added.)

FUD will never go out of fashion, will it?

Re: Nom-Com Appoints Independent and Diverse Candidates to ICANN Leadership Positions Ram Mohan  –  Nov 06, 2005 5:53 PM PST

Fact is that the running of the root system and the DNS systems by entities other than the root server operators, IANA and ICANN would actually be new and unproven.

Re: Nom-Com Appoints Independent and Diverse Candidates to ICANN Leadership Positions The Famous Brett Watson  –  Nov 06, 2005 9:42 PM PST

Yes, to do absolutely anything at all different from what we are doing now would be new and unproven. My point is that you are using "new and unproven" with a tone of fear, uncertainty, and doubt. The opposite tone would be to call it "innovative and promising", or just "new and improved", both of which are "new and unproven" with positive spin. (Please note that I'm illustrating rhetorical effect; I'm not suggesting that anything UN-related is remotely innovative or particularly promising.)

I almost feel the need to apologise for my comments of late, since they've been very cynical. Cynicism is like salt: a little bit is a good thing, but too much will just give you high blood pressure. But like all good cynics, I fall back on the defence that I'll drop my cynicism when I can do so without compromising my accuracy. My cynical tone arises largely from my desire to study the core of a matter: finding the core often means exposing a bunch of rhetorical sugar-coating as sugar-coating in the process, and this can appear cynical.

Take this article, for example. I have little or no reason to doubt that its factual claims are true. Actually, I have little interest in the factual claims (mostly relating to the gender and ethnicity of people in obscure ICANN roles), and thus little reason to care whether they are true. As I read the article, I pondered as to why the author was so enthused about the subject: why does he see the subject as important, and why is he stressing the wonderful increasing diversity represented in all these obscure bureaucratic roles? Why don't I share his enthusiasm? Should I?

It was the closing remark which clinched it for me: the rallying cry for the faithful to get behind ICANN and defend "the working ICANN model" against the "new and unproven" pretenders. I understand the article now: it's a political propaganda piece. All that stress on diversity earlier was intended to undermine the idea that ICANN is non-representative in an international sense, which is (roughly speaking) the main complaint that everyone but the USA has about ICANN. So here's my "cynic's digest" version of the article--not suitable for those who already have elevated blood pressure.

ICANN faces many challenges, and has many important roles. Over the years, the trend has been for these roles to be filled by an increasingly diverse range of highly competent individuals. ICANN leadership roles are ethnically and geographically balanced, and the gender balance has gone from being woefully male-dominated to exemplary. The various facets of ICANN all have their hands full with very important business. As responsible netizens, we should all support ICANN against alternative proposals, which are risky and unnecessary.

Here's why I'm not buying your "ICANN is representative" sales pitch: ICANN is a puppet, and the issue of "representation" is not primarily about the puppet, but the puppeteer--who gets to pull the strings. Anything that focuses on the puppet doesn't address the core issue. Or, to be slightly less inflammatory about it, ICANN can't legitimately represent anyone but the USA so long as its authority is derived from the government of the USA. Ethnic and gender balance in the ranks of ICANN is nice, but it's a distraction, not a core issue; you may as well tell me about ethnic and gender balance at Verisign.

Re: Nom-Com Appoints Independent and Diverse Candidates to ICANN Leadership Positions Ram Mohan  –  Nov 07, 2005 5:00 AM PST

Very thoughtful comments and excellent explanation of where you're coming from.

The intent of the article is about the idea that folks nominated to these "obscure spots" are (a) diverse, and (b) make key calls on issues that affect much of the Internet community.

I've had the opportunity of watching ICANN's composition transform from a US-European constitution in most bodies to something much more diverse.  This forward progress is important to note and applaud.

I understand that seen through the prism of "what's the agenda here" my post has sugar or salt on it.  I am enthusiastic about the growth of the geographic and gender diversity on this non-profit board and its other councils.

Re: Nom-Com Appoints Independent and Diverse Candidates to ICANN Leadership Positions Suresh Ramasubramanian  –  Nov 07, 2005 8:39 AM PST

I must largely agree with what Brett says, Ram. You were doing just great till that last "new and unproven" thing I think.

Right now - like it or not governments are around and they feel they have a stake in things.  In fact, in many cases (some quite outside the icann remit perhaps, like antispam / cybercrime legislation) they definitely do have a say or two in it.

Add to it the fact that quite a lot of the people participating in icann (never mind the GAC, outside that I mean) come from government owned telcos.

ICANN status quo is just not going to fly - you got enough people to loudly criticize whatever icann does for you to know that by now :)

And governments tend to be like 800 lb gorillas - "where does a 800 lb gorilla sit down? anywhere it wants to"

Coming to a reasonable compromise with various governments, and working to internally improve governance processes would be something that I strongly expect the new board and other committees to do.

I strongly doubt if the UN is going to take over the internet, or ask for root passwords to all the root servers out there. At least that's what I can read from kofi annan's article in the washington post -

But ICANN has, as I mentioned, its fair share of critics - and now you got a few more critics with rather more power and influence than "if you dont improve i'll rant on my blog about you!!!".

Simply dismissing the UN as corrupt thugs and chiselers isn't going to help either (like Hiawatha Bray recently did on politech - see http://permalink.gmane.org/gmane.culture.people.interesting-people/10007 for an example).

Nor is that other standby of various critics, dismissing the ITU as a bunch of incompetent bureaucrats who dont understand the internet.

Sure, they have career bureaucrats who dont understand the internet. And the icann process has its fair share of commentators who dont understand much beyond vaguely simplistic theories of internet governance coupled with a "screw the UN, and oh by the way, screw ICANN too" attitude.

That is something that MUST be kept in mind when the new ICANN board starts work. 

Diplomacy and consensus aren't simply UN/ITU buzzwords, they are very real concepts that come in useful when you're trying to work together with a bunch of groups / people all with different interests and priorities.

At least Susan Crawford is not the ranting type and seems to have rather more clue + practicality than average, which is quite good, as far as I am concerned.

I for one welcome our new ICANN overlords^W board.

-srs

Re: Nom-Com Appoints Independent and Diverse Candidates to ICANN Leadership Positions Ram Mohan  –  Nov 07, 2005 9:53 AM PST

Suresh,
I understand ... I wrote to get my perspective across, not to spin, although it sure sounds like it came across that way.

End of the day, ICANN or no ICANN, the principles that you mention - representativeness, etc still remain very important and these nominees - plus everyone else - has to think them through quite carefully.

Issues like spam, pornography, ecommerce violations, ID theft etc - are clearly in the bailiwick of the sovereign nations, not ICANN even the UN.

A multi-stakeholder body seems inevitable for the future.  In addition, it's clear that ICANN itself has to evolve ... it better listen, or it runs the risk of becoming irrelevant.

Re: Nom-Com Appoints Independent and Diverse Candidates to ICANN Leadership Positions Suresh Ramasubramanian  –  Nov 07, 2005 10:00 AM PST

yup .. that's kind of my point.
thanks for understanding

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