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Form NCSG first, form new constituencies within it second

  • To: "'consumers-constituency-petition@xxxxxxxxx'" <consumers-constituency-petition@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Subject: Form NCSG first, form new constituencies within it second
  • From: Milton L Mueller <mueller@xxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 12 Feb 2010 19:53:43 -0500

As a member of the Executive Committee of the Noncommercial Stakeholders Group 
(NCSG), I support the idea of a Consumers Constituency (CC), but I oppose 
approval of this proposal. 

The GNSO is now reorganized on the basis of four Stakeholder Groups. A Consumer 
constituency is presumably supposed to be part of the NCSG. As I explain below, 
however, there are contradictions and incompatibilities between the way the 
NCSG is being set up and the proposed CC charter. These issues must be resolved 
before any new constituency is approved. It is simply a matter of following the 
proper sequence. One must complete the formation of the NCSG first, before any 
new constituency applications are approved.

There are real issues regarding the legitimacy of this group's claim to 
represent consumers. There are also important questions about the degree to 
which its backers are part of the noncommercial sector or represent business 
interests. The major national and international noncommercial consumer advocacy 
organizations, such as the Consumers Union in the USA or Consumers 
International, do not seem to be involved in this effort. To date, the 
advocates of this CC have not contacted the NCSG, nor made any effort to join 
it, nor have they invited the half-dozen or so consumer groups already in the 
NCUC to participate in their effort. 

We can, however, set that issue aside for the moment. No entity can claim to 
represent all the world's consumers and I doubt whether it is fair for us to 
expect one to. For the reasons explained below, I believe that the size and 
scope of group backing the CC proposal is a secondary issue.  

The real issue is the contradiction between its organizational model and that 
of the NCSG. Reading the proposed charter, it appears as if the proponents of 
the CC have in mind the setting up of a completely separate organization from 
the NCSG. For example, the eligibility criteria for members and officers does 
not mention anything about whether its members have to be part of the NCSG. 
Even worse, the charter's member eligibility provisions basically duplicate 
those of the former NCUC and the current NCSG. It is apparent that ANY 
noncommercial organization can join it. They do not even require members to be 
focused on consumer protection issues! These facts alone should prevent 
approval of the proposed charter. 

On the other hand the CC charter contains provisions (notably, 1.3.4 and 3.1) 
which make the its GNSO Council representative selection mechanism depend on 
the NCSG charter. It is important to know that the NCSG charter currently being 
developed by the NCSG and reviewed by the SIC envisions a model in which all 
constituency members must first become members of the NCSG, subject to its 
eligibility requirements, and then go through an integrated NCSG voting process 
to elect Council representatives and form new constituencies. 

I think you can now appreciate better what kind of a dilemma the CC application 
poses for the ICANN board and its Structural Improvements Committee. If they 
approve the CC before the structure of the NCSG is set, or if there are 
incompatibilities between the CC charter and the NCSG charter, they could 
create confusion and some severe contradictions and political tensions in the 
process of chartering the NCSG. The CC adherents might think that they are 
getting the kind of autonomy and guaranteed Council seats an old-style GNSO 
constituency had, while everyone else in the NCSG is operating on the 
assumption that membership in NCSG is primary and formation of constituencies 
comes afterwards. Creating this kind of confusion would not be productive. We 
must, I believe, settle the NCSG charter before any new NCSG constituencies are 

Thus, the main problem with the CC application is that it is being made before 
any final charter or structure for the NCSG has been ratified by the SIC and 
the Board, and before the advocates of the CC have even joined the NCSG. 

It is imperative that the CC and the NCSG charter be based on compatible 
assumptions about voting, representation and procedure. And it is imperative 
that those who want to claim the mantle of "Consumer representatives" work 
together with any and all consumer organizations already involved in ICANN and 
not attempt to create a separate island. Please make it clear to the CC 
advocates that they need to join the NCSG, and make an effort to allow all 
eligible existing organizations within it to join in on its formation, before 
their application will be approved.

Dr. Milton L. Mueller
Professor, Syracuse University School of Information Studies
XS4ALL Professor, Delft University of Technology, Netherlands
Executive Committee member, Noncommercial Stakeholders Group  

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