CCWG accountability

5 May 2016 16:45h

Event report

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The session, moderated by Mr Matthew Shear (civil society, ICANN) featured discussions on the ongoing IANA stewardship transition processes and the related work on enhancing ICANN’s accountability.

Ms Teresa Swinehart (Senior Vice-President, ICANN) started by explaining that ICANN is a multistakeholder organisation that coordinates the Internet’s global systems of unique identifiers (mainly domain names, Internet Protocol numbers, and protocol parameters). ICANN’s role in the coordination of these resources (also known as the IANA functions) is carried out on the basis of a contract with the US government. In March 2014, the US government announced its intention to transition its stewardship of the IANA functions to the global multistakeholder community. Two parallel processes were launched within the ICANN community: one aimed at developing a transition proposal, and another aimed at elaborating a set of recommendations for enhancing ICANN’s accountability. The two processes, described by Swinehart as ‘an unprecedented multistakeholder effort’, resulted in two distinct proposals, which are currently being reviewed by the US government. At the same time, the ICANN community is working on a revised set of bylaws to reflect the measures included in the two proposals.

Ms Lise Fuhr (Co-chair, IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination Group – ICG) explained that IANA involves three communities responsible for domain names, numbering resources, and protocol parameters. Each community elaborated its own proposal with regard to the IANA stewardship transition. The role of the ICG was to compile these three proposals, and to ensure that there were no contradictions between them. The final proposal envisions the creation of a separate legal entity (Post-Transition IANA; PTI), as a subsidiary of ICANN, which would become the IANA functions operator for the domain names. The activity of the PTI would be subject to periodic reviews. The numbers and protocol parameters communities would continue their contractual relations with ICANN, with the possibility to also have service-level agreements with the PTI.

Mr Thomas Rickert (Co-Chair, CCWG Accountability) explained that the ICANN accountability proposal is based on four building blocks: principles, independent appeal mechanisms, the ICANN Board, and the empowered ICANN community. The empowered community would be entrusted with a set of powers that it could exercise if things go wrong within ICANN; for example, it would be able to veto Board decisions on ICANN budgets and operating plans, as well as to remove Board members or recall the entire Board. Rickert pointed out that the proposal submitted to the US government represents only the result of one work stream; a second work stream will focus on issues such as diversity within ICANN, jurisdiction issues, and the role of the ombudsman.

Mr Kavouss Arasteh (representative of Iran of the Governmental Advisory Committee of ICANN) underlined that ‘ICANN is currently working well’, and that the community has looked at what needs to be done to strengthen ICANN and ensure that possible shortcomings could be efficiently addressed in the future. He also reiterated that the two processes were a working example of the multistakeholder model.

Ms Marilyn Cade (business constituency, ICANN) explained that the independence and internationalisation of ICANN were considered as important steps to achieve right from the creation of the organisation. She noted that there was a broad business community participation in the transition and accountability processes, but that there is a need to deepen the involvement of the private sector in ICANN activities.

Ms Tatiana Tropina (civil society, ICANN) said that civil society actively contributed to the development of the transition and accountability proposals. Civil society wanted the transition to take place, but not at any cost; as such, it fought for issues that were seen as key: human rights, transparency, limitation of ICANN’s mission to technical functions, etc. Mr Olivier Crepin-Leblond (Chair, CCWG Internet Governance, ICANN) further explained that the civil society community within ICANN wanted to make sure that the Internet technical functions continue to work well and that ICANN continues to work well, while being accountable to the broad community. In his view, the two proposals have set the framework for this to happen.

During the Q&A part of the session, discussions were held on issues such as aspects to improve in work stream 2 of CCWG Accountability; whether or not the ICANN multistakeholder model follows the provisions of the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society with regard to the roles and responsibilities of the various stakeholders; whether the empowered community envisioned by the accountability proposal actually allows any interested stakeholder to hold ICANN accountable; and the need to enhance the participation of stakeholders from developing countries in ICANN activities.

More details about the IANA stewardship transition process can be found on a dedicated page at the GIP Digital Watch observatory.

by Sorina Teleanu