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Comment on BWG Report re: Nominating Committee

  • To: comments-bwg-nomcom-21aug14@xxxxxxxxx
  • Subject: Comment on BWG Report re: Nominating Committee
  • From: Mathieu Weill <mathieu.weill@xxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 27 Aug 2014 12:55:32 +0200

Dear members of the Board WG,

I thank the Board WG for allowing comments on this report regarding upcoming changes in the Icann NomCom. This contribution, while critical of the report, acknowledges the engagement and goodwill of volunteers in the Nomcom, as well as acknowledges the efforts of the Board committee.

*1. Because the NomCom is an accountability mechanism within Icann (or should be), this reform process should be put on hold until the accountability process is over. *

The NomCom's mission is to appoint Board members, and since the Board plays a key role in Icann's accountability, the NomCom clearly belongs to the long list of accountability related mechanisms within Icann. This is even more striking if you consider what a NomCom COULD do to stengthen Icann's accountability. In corporate governance, the role of NomComs usually includes selecting Board members, prepare succession plans, assess Board performance and skillsets. Their proposals, if approved by the Board, are approved by the General Assembly. It is recommended (see for instance the Cadbury report in the UK, a founding document of corporate governance) that they are chaired by an indepedant, non executive Director.

Icann is just about to launch a significant review off its accountability mechanisms, in the context of the IANA stewardship transition. It would therefore be counterproductive to start any reform of the NomCom until this accountability process is over. Icann resources (staff, Board and volunteers) are already stretched too thin to run the risk of implementing a change in the NomCom which find itself at odds in less than a year or so with the global review.

*2. Feedback on some recommendations of the Board WG *

_a) the core issue remains to define what value is expected from the NomCom_
The ICANN bylaws define What is the Nomcom and How it works. But nowhere is it possible to find Why it is created and the kind of value it creates for ICANN as a whole. Thus, it is not surprising that the report focus is exclusively on process and balance of powers.

But how will Icann, or the Board, assess that these changes have improved the NomCom if there is no preexisting agreement on definition of the goals and outcomes ?

As explained above, it would be inappropriate in THIS process to define this value, which should clearly be linked to accountability within ICANN. It could be to increase the number of directors with independence of judgement, increase gender or cultural diversity, expand the skillsets of the Board. But is should be defined BEFORE defining the process to achieve this goal.

_b) extending the size of the NomCom is costly and inefficient _

The Board WG recommends to further extend the size of the NomCom to 23-27 people. Instead of a "committee" (NomCom are usually 3-5 people in coporate governance), this would turn the NomCom into more of an "assembly" of stakeholders. Indeed the number of NomCom members would be higher than the number of Board members, and higher than the number of SO/AC councils.

The consequences of large groups are well known : inability to work efficiently as a group, cost, delays and, most of all, alliances and politics over efficiency and performance.

It is also worth highlighting that NomCom members' accountability is not defined.

Once again, at a time when ICANN resources are stretched, this proposal is inappropriate.

_c) The processes including delegations and voting schemes could not be more complex_

The Board WG proposals including grouping members into delegations and allocating certain number of votes to certain delegations.

The level of complexity of these proposals is so high it takes at least 3 or 4 readings to understand correctly. This is a recipe for failure. Complex rules are contrary to the principles of transparency and are well known to diminish accountability and efficiency. They are also costly to implement. They usually lead to gaming rather than performance.

_d) Focusing on balance between SO/ACs and stakeholder groups, the recommendations do not even mention the skills of NomCom members_

The Icann NomCom selects candidates. Therefore it is striking to note the absence of consideration given to hiring skills in the report.
**3. Conclusion : put the process on hold. *
While designed in godd faith to improve the current system, the proposals remain too focused on internal Icann politics and create unnecessary complexity. They also come at a time in the history of Icann where theu they would be best put aside until the accountability process is over.

This process should define what value the NomCom is tasked to provide. Then the Committee and the Board would be able to refocus on delivering these goals.

Mathieu WEILL
AFNIC - directeur général
Tél: 01 39 30 83 06

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