Internet Governance at the Crossroads: update on the IANA Stewardship transition


The Permanent Mission of Latvia to the UN Office in Geneva organised a briefing:

“Internet Governance at the Crossroads: update on the IANA Stewardship transition”

that will took place on 1 December 2015 from 13.15 to 14.30 at the Palais de Nations, room XXII (E building).



Introductory remarks                                                            Mr Janis Karklins, Ambassador of Latvia

Internet Governance ecosystem in evolution                       Mr Fadi Chehadé, President & CEO, ICANN    


Briefing summary

In 2005, global cooperation on Internet governance (IG) was still relatively limited and the United States had an important influence over the management of critical Internet resources. Ten years later, IG has become a much more inclusive process and is continuing to evolve with the forthcoming Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) stewardship transition in 2016. 


On December 1, 2015, the Permanent Mission of Latvia to the UN in Geneva invited Mr. Fadi Chehadé, President and CEO of ICANN to speak on the evolution of IG and the IANA stewardship transition process. Ambassador Janis Karklins introduced the event at the Palais des Nations in the presence of numerous diplomats and experts from Geneva’s IG community.


Mr Tarek Kamel, Senior Advisor to ICANN’s President, began the presentation by providing an overview of ICANN’s expanding global reach. The recently established Global Stakeholder Engagement program has increased the organisation’s presence, with operational hubs established in Istanbul and Singapore alongside engagement offices around the world. As Mr Kamel emphasised, ICANN needs to be perceived as “more global in its thinking, its decision-making, its presence and its language.” Additionally, ICANN has increased its outreach over the last two years within the UN system and the diplomatic community. This success of this outreach is visible in the growth of ICANN’s Government Advisory Committee which now counts 153 members and 32 observers.


Fadi Chehadé set the context for the discussion by underlining the massive expansion of the digital economy, the emergence of permission-less innovation and the challenges it poses for our global rules-based system of nation-states. Today we are witnessing an “uberisation” of virtually every sector of the economy and this trend will only continue in the coming years. According to Chehadé, IG is “the biggest issue we that will face us in this [digital] century.”


To further highlight the importance of the IANA transition, Chehadé outlines the three layers of digital governance. The infrastructure layer is comprised of over 70,000 networks; while it is highly fragmented, it is relatively well governed between different stakeholders including the ITU. The logical layer is governed by ICANN and other key actors, enabling our perception of these various networks as a single Internet. Chehadé notes that this layer needs independent governance in order to safeguard its integrity and avoid the negative consequences fragmentation would generate for economies worldwide. However, over the last 15 years, the US government’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has maintained final authority over ICANN’s decision-making on the logical layer.

This is where the importance of the IANA stewardship transition comes in. In March 2014, NTIA called on ICANN to coordinate a multistakeholder consultation process that would lead to a proposal for IANA’s transition. The transition is expected to be completed over three key phases in 2016. First, the ICG operational proposal (completed) and the CCWG accountability proposal (released today for public comment) will be submitted to the US government by the end of January 2016. Secondly, the NTIA will conduct a revision and evaluation of the proposals, which is expected to conclude in June 2016. Thirdly, the IANA stewardship transition proposals will need to be implemented ahead of the expiry date of the contract on 20 September 2016. If these milestones are met, this will mark a significant success for the evolution of multistakeholder governance of the Internet.


Finally, Chehadé presents the economic and societal layer, which brings together all the other important IG issues (e.g. education, trade, human rights, etc.). He urges states to engage in dialogue on these issues and to be open to new forms of governance as they emerge. He also notes, ““I sincerely believe that the UN [and its nation states] will have an important role in how this layer will evolve and be governed.” As Ambassador Janis Karklins concludes, this layer is the most influenced by the human factor, and is therefore the most complex layer.

During the subsequent discussion, a few questions were raised by representatives of Geneva-based missions (e.g. Egypt, Austria, US, Canada) and a representative from the CSTD. The key points are summarized below:

  • Following the CCWG proposal’s public commenting process, the final proposal will need to be approved by ICANN’s 7 charting organisations before it is submitted to the US government.
  • Key players (e.g. Brazil, Russia, China, India) have fundamentally shifted their policy and now fully agree on the importance of maintaining a united logical layer.
  • The engagement of smaller and developing countries is critical to the process. In addition to growth of ICANN offices around the world, ICANN’s Fellowship program has supported the participation of actors from developing countries. The Government Advisory Committee also serves as a key platform for country engagement.
  • ICANN’s accountability following the transition will be based on a multistakeholder, community-led (bottom-up) process, the details of which can be found in the CCWG accountability proposal.
  • The UN should not create a separate agency on IG. Rather, there needs to be increased coordination among the different agencies to determine a harmonised approach to the various IG issues.