Discussions Related to Geographic Names of Countries and Territories at ICANN60

Author
Amrita Choudhury

There were several sessions on the subject of geographic names of countries and territories at the ICANN60 meeting held in Abu Dhabi. These include the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) meetings on two-character codes as second level domains (SLDs); country and territory names as SLDs; Working Group to examine the Protection of Geographic Names in any Future Expansion of generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) Meeting; GAC meeting with the ICANN Board; and Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) New gTLD Subsequent Procedures Policy Development Process (PDP) Working Group Face-to-Face Session II: Work Track 5 on Geographic Names at the Top Level.

During the GAC meeting on  two-character codes as SLDs, several GAC members, including Argentina, Brazil, and Iran, raised the concern that the points mentioned in the GAC Communique of Johannesburg (ICANN59), which outlined the ICANN Board’s consent to taking into consideration the views of GAC members on the subject, and the ICANN CEO suggesting the formation of a task force to address concerns mentioned in Copenhagen (ICANN58), were not implemented. Further, there were concerns about lack of transparency, and also concerns that ICANN was discussing issues related to two character codes bilaterally with individual GAC members and not with the entire GAC group. ICANN staff further clarified that 25 governments were having bilateral communication with ICANN. Several countries, such as Portugal and Indonesia wanted to know the exact status of the issues raised by the governments, and how they would be resolved.

On the question about resolving the issue related to two characters at SLDs raised during the GAC meeting with the ICANN Board, Mr Goran Marby, CEO, ICANN, said that he would be commenting on this post-discussion with the ICANN Board. He further clarified that until then the current process related to protection of country and territory names would continue.  Regarding concerns with country and territory names at the second level, he reminded GAC members that the ICANN Board had passed a resolution which authorised the release of country and territory names at the second level to a registry operator after the governments expressed their agreement to the release. 

During the GAC meeting on country and territory names, Mr Thomas Scheinder, GAC chair, referred to the GAC position expressed in the ICANN59 communique on the matter. It was further clarified that for top level domains, the issue was taken up by the co-chairs of the new gTLD subsequent procedures PDP who proposed the initiation of a new work track in the PDP (work track (WT) 5) which would include one representative of the GAC. However, there were concerns raised from Iran about whether the GAC would be on equal footing with others in the working group. Argentina further clarified that Switzerland, in their proposal, had proposed a group of interested GAC members to be involved in the working group, as that would ensure different perspectives. India emphasised the need to amend the existing ISO 3166 list, used within ICANN as a basis for discussion on country and territory names, and expand it further to include territories whose names are not there. The GAC chair further clarified that the conditions for GAC participation in WT5 have been communicated to the concerned parties, and, if those conditions are not met, the committee will need to reconsider its approach.

At the meetings of the GAC Working Group to Examine the Protection of Geographic Names in any Future Expansion of gTLDs, there were discussions on ways for the GAC to participate in the WT5 on geographic names of the New gTLD Subsequent Procedures PDP Working Group.  The GAC working group decided to ask  the GAC leadership to constitute a small group of GAC members to participate in the WT5 .

During the GNSO New gTLD Subsequent Procedures PDP Working Group Face-to-Face Session II: Work Track 5 on Geographic Names at the Top Level meeting, the discussion was centred around the elements and terms of reference. The WT5 is dedicated to geographic names at the top level, and is expected to develop a consensus-driven set of recommendations/implementation guidance for subsequent procedures. On the question related to the decision making process, it was clarified that it would be either a consensus or rough consensus. On the question of who will be determining consensus, it was clarified that the co-leads would be the ones tasked with measuring consensus according to the definitions that are in the operating guidelines. Further, on the comments from the GAC, Country Code Names Supporting Organisation (ccNSO) and AtLarge  representatives seeking time to consult with their communities and get back before sharing their view, Mr Jeff Neuman, co-chair of the New gTLD Subsequent Procedures PDP Working Group, stated that the GNSO would not wait for formal approval before moving forward. There were also queries raised as to whether this process is to be seen as a preventive mechanism or an engagement process. On the question related to the timeline for the process, it was to be decided by the working group. The call for volunteers is open till 20 November 2017.

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