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Broad response to report

  • To: atrt-draft-proposed-recommendations@xxxxxxxxx
  • Subject: Broad response to report
  • From: Kieren McCarthy <kierenmccarthy@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 2 Dec 2010 14:47:11 -0800

I would like to make a broad response to the ATRT report which I think is
very important and hope that the members of the review team will too.

The report needs to be much clearer and less waffly.

The whole idea, as I understand it, is that the ATRT team are producing a
report on ICANN's accountability and transparency to the global Internet

Why then is it so dense and full of pointless prevarications? No one except
ICANN insiders are going to read the report, unfortunately. I stopped the
first time after three pages and decided to leave it until later.

One tiny example: "Pursuant to the advice of both the 2007 Nominating
Committee Review and 2008 Board review, ICANN should establish..." What's
the point of these first 13 words? This is a barrier to people reading the

Another: "Subject to the caveat that all deliberations and decisions about
candidates must remain confidential..." 14 unneeded words. Just cut them out
and say what you mean!

The report could be dramatically shorter (or you could use appendices) and
that would result in many more people reading it. Which must surely be one
of the factors that would deem the process a success or not.

What I would like to see is an answer to the question: is ICANN sufficiently
accountable and transparent? And then a bullet point list of the most
important or significant recommendations. This is not rocket science but it
would have a significant positive impact on the report and on the public
comment process.

And put the most important or relevant recommendations up top.

Something like the following would be much better:


The Accountability and Transparency Review Team, comprising xx members of
the Internet community from government, civil society, the technical
community and business, have reviewed ICANN's accountability and
transparency overall and concluded that:

1. While the organisation has numerous accountability mechanisms, they are
in need of review and improvement. We include suggested changes in our
report below.

2. ICANN suffers, if anything, from an abundance of transparency. Despite
concerted efforts, there are flaws in the approach used which result in only
those who very closely follow the organisation being able to follow its work
product. ICANN, in particular its staff, need to revisit the philosophy
behind transparency efforts and make institutional changes in order to
provide more effective and functional transparency.

We have produced 30 recommendations that we strongly advise that the ICANN
community read in full. The most significant of those recommendations are
given in a simplified form below:

* ICANN needs to introduce regular review of its accountability and
transparency goals and processes. Many of the issues we discovered are
long-standing and many have had previously recommendations attached to them
by other review teams. Unless there is built-in institutional review, past
experience would suggest many issues will continue to persist.
* All documents that lead to a Board decision should be published, with
limited redaction and with explanations provided for each redaction. The
default position should be to publish information.
* The relationship between the Board and GAC needs to be more formally
* The public comment process needs to be overhauled in order to encourage
broader comment and take into account community needs.
* ICANN should continue to improve and expand its translation efforts. There
should be an expectation that key documents will be available in multiple
languages in a timely fashion.
* The Reconsideration Committee's work needs to be standardised.
* The role of the Ombudsman needs to be strengthened in line with global
* The Board should approve all remaining recommendations form the recent IRP


I also think the report does a disservice to the community but failing to
highlight the fact that the ATRT team *itself* was subject to many of the
constraints that community members complain of when it comes to
accountability and transparency.

For example:

* The ICANN Board withheld funds from the team, delaying the start of its
work, until it satisfied itself that the review team was on the right lines.
That surely negates the independent aspect of the review team. The Board
should never have felt entitled to behave as it did.

* Before it even started its work, the CEO announced in a public speech that
the end result may not be useful. The ATRT reacted strongly and a note was
posted on the ICANN front page. But I don't see any mention of this in the

* ICANN staff continually requested - and received - private briefings. I
don't see any analysis of whether these briefings were justified or not.

* The ATRT team was faced with suspicion and occasional hostility by ICANN
staff. What is the cause of that? Surely the ATRT team can reflect on that
now its work is nearly done?

* The ATRT was privately lobbied by ICANN staff to drop its choice of
independent reviewer (Berkman). Was that acceptable?

* The process for awarding a contract to the independent reviewer was done
entirely in private. There were various justifications for this at the time.
Were they correct? Would it have made any difference in the end? Why not
review this implicit assumption? It is, after all, a question of
accountability and transparency.

* Were the mechanisms for public comment input and comment sufficient? Did
they meet expectations? Were there any complaints about it? Are there
lessons that the ATRT could share with other review team about working in
the ICANN environment?

* The ATRT team lost several months worth of work due to an elaborate
selection process run by staff. Nevertheless, one member was subsequently
removed and one left. Both were replaced by candidates that were not on the
original applicants. Was this a useful process? What does it tell us about
ICANN selection procedures? How can it be improved in future?

* The ATRT spend a very significant amount of its time talking about
logistics and its own processes instead of independently reviewing ICANN's
work. Was this inevitable? Could things have been improved in hindsight?

* Much of the real discussion and work was done behind closed doors. Was
this effective? In what circumstances can private discussions be justified
in ICANN processes, especially when they relate to transparency and
accountability issues? Is there something that can be learnt from the ATRT's
experience? What explanation can be given that this went against the very
clear recommendation by former GAC chair Janis Karklins that *all*
discussions be completely open?

* The ATRT team travelled to three different global locations to do its work
on top of two ICANN international public meetings. Was this a justifiable
expense? How much did it cost? Would investing in teleconferencing
facilities have proven more financially astute? Were physical meetings more
effective than virtual ones? Why? Are there different ways to approach
virtual and in-person meetings? What are they?

* In the final meetings, there was quite alot of disagreement, particularly
from ICANN's chairman. What were the root causes of this? Is there something
that can be learned from this?

* The ATRT set up an ongoing public comment box. Was this useful? Did many
people use it? How were its results introduced into the process? (A
recommendation, incidentally, that the ATRT also makes to ICANN)

* The ATRT published a calendar of meetings and made some efforts to promote
them. Were they effective? What could be improved?

And so on and so forth.

The broad point is: this is the first time the ATRT process have been run,
it makes sense to review the actual process.

Also, considering many of the tensions that existed throughout the process,
not mentioning them - especially for a review team looking at issues of
accountability and transparency - is a disservice to the ICANN community as
it keeps very real issues, that have a much broader and everyday impact,


Kieren McCarthy

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