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Rejecting the staff/SIC-imposed charter

  • To: "gnso-stakeholder-charters@xxxxxxxxx" <gnso-stakeholder-charters@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Subject: Rejecting the staff/SIC-imposed charter
  • From: Milton L Mueller <mueller@xxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 12 Jul 2009 16:49:31 -0400

The staff/SIC-prepared NCSG charter is clearly the product of a one-way, top 
down process. It was drafted by the staff and does not reflect any of the 
discussions or comments provided by noncommercial organizations on the best way 
to structure their new stakeholder group. Rather, it is a disgraceful attempt 
to manipulate the GNSO politically. The apparent purpose of the staff/SIC 
decisions about the NCSG charter is to weaken noncommercial stakeholders 
generally and to punish NCUC specifically, as a way of pandering to the 
Commercial Stakeholder groups that are upset about the balanced representation 
the new GNSO is supposed to provide. We have been told directly by Board 
members that this is the case. 

Thus the so-called "NCSG charter" up for comment now has no legitimacy and 
should be rejected completely. ICANN should allow the noncommercial entities 
themselves to work out an acceptable draft on their own.

To understand what a breach of procedure this is, we need to retrace the 
process that led to it. 

In the initial public comment period, there were two competing NCSG charters: 
the one proposed by NCUC and the other proposed by CP80, the pro-censorship 
organization. The CP80 model was designed to give constituency leaders, and 
especially its own proposed Cybersafety Constituency, the power to allocate 
council seats. CP80 (and apparently, staff) wanted to take the power to select 
GNSO Council representatives away from the membership and instead encourage 
small factions to form and narrow points of view to be represented. The NCUC 
proposal, gave all the organizations and individuals in the NCSG an equal vote 
and made sure that Council representatives had broad support across the entire 
Stakeholder Group. It did, however, allow smaller interest groups to form and 
be represented on the Policy Committee.

Noncommercial representatives in NCUC spent hours on the phone with staff 
discussing the issues surrounding the NCSG charter. It became evident that the 
staff had instructions to push the outcome in a certain way, toward a model 
that assigned council seats based on constituencies. Nevertheless, we patiently 
and repeatedly explained why the constituency-based model will not work. The 
staff was unable to answer our arguments, even conceding, privately, that we 
had very strong points which needed to be taken into consideration. Staff was 
specifically asked whether the model we proposed was inconsistent with the 
Board Governance Committee recommendations and was told that it was not. 

In the first round of public comments, dozens of noncommercial organizations 
commented in favor of the NCUC draft. The outpouring of support for the NCSG 
charter proposed by NCUC was truly impressive in its scope, involving nearly 80 
organizations and individuals from all world regions. By way of contrast, the 
competing NCSG draft from CP80 received a grand total of two comments in its 
favor; both were sent by individuals from...CP80. Moreover, during the same 
period the membership of NCUC increased by 60%, in conformity with the Board 
Governance Committee's mandate to increase the size and scope of noncommercial 
representation in ICANN.

The results of the first public comment round proves how vibrant the 
noncommercial stakeholder group can be, and how strongly the relevant community 
of noncommercial stakeholders supports an integrated NCSG and rejects the 
fragmented, constituency-based and easily-captured executive committee 
structure the staff has proposed now. However, that obviously had no effect on 
the staff-drafted NCSG charter. 

Public comment periods are supposed to be about listening and adapting. After 
not only ignoring but actively defying the public will in the first round, the 
idea that ICANN is now asking for public comment on this bastardized product of 
executive fiat only adds insult to injury. ICANN has made it clear that it does 
not care what the public says, that it has hidden agendas and is only going 
through the motions in order to conform to some procedural requirements. Why 
should noncommercial organizations and individuals produce comments on your 
draft when it is obvious that such comments make absolutely no difference to 
what will be done? 

I comment here simply to expose this process for the farce that it is. 

Dr. Milton Mueller
Professor, Syracuse University
XS4All Professor, Technology University of Delft

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