ICANN maltreatment of noncommercial stakeholders is self-destructive
NCUC went through an extended period of open and transparent dialogue to develop its charter proposal, and revised the document repeatedly in order to address questions and concerns raised by board members, staff, and others. With the exception of CP80 (which proposed an alternative charter largely designed to guarantee a council seat for its proposed censorship constituency) there was strong consensus in support of the NCUC model and a clear rejection of the sort of fragmentation-promoting, constituency-centric model CP80 was advancing. In addition, during the public comment period that ended 15 April, there were multiple expressions of support for the NCUC approach and opposition to the constituency-centric approach by noncommercial stakeholders involved in related processes (this includes the Internet Governance Caucus, the 200-member voice of civil society in the Internet Governance Forum). Nevertheless, the SIC/staff version of the NCSG charter disregards all this work and support in favor of precisely the sort of model we all rejected. Later today NCUC will submit comments on the proposed NCSG charter. To amplify/supplement some of the concerns raised therein and in the other comments submitted thus far, I would like to make four brief points. 1. Many organizations and individuals just recently expressed their support for the NCUC charter in the prior round of public comments, and this new round comes during the summer when people are traveling. As such, it would be unrealistic to expect that they would all make fresh submissions reiterating their views, and incorrect to conclude that any failure to do so signifies these parties’ indifference, or even their support for the SIC/staff version. Hence, it would seem appropriate for the forthcoming staff synthesis on the current period to at least refer back to their prior statements at http://forum.icann.org/lists/sg-petitions-charters . 2. If the SIC/staff were set on giving us a constituency-centric model no matter what, it would have been nice to have been informed of this much earlier in the process. NCUC spent a good deal of time and effort soliciting inputs and drafting and redrafting its charter proposal in order to address those concerns of which we were made aware, and had we known our preferences would dismissed without any real opportunity for discussion or collaborative adjustment, we might have focused our energies on more productive and rewarding endeavors. Noncommercial stakeholders are spread-thin volunteers, not paid lobbyists, and rendering their time wasted is no way to encourage their deepened engagement in the full range of GNSO activities.
3. In parallel, the way this process has been handled makes it more difficult to expand the scope and diversity of noncommercial participation, which ICANN claims to want. NCUC has been growing very rapidly in recent months and now comprises 129 members (70 organizations and 59 individuals), up from 45 members in 2008. However, it would be growing faster if there were positive signals coming out of ICANN about the value of participation. For example, there are many noncommercial actors involved in other Internet governance-related venues that have expressed strong interest in ICANN matters but which have hesitated about committing the energies needed for GNSO work. When they hear that noncommercial interests are being disregarded and that the NCSG could be crippled at birth by a poor institutional design, enticing them into the fold becomes all the more difficult. How could marginalizing noncommercial views be consistent with enhancing noncommercial participation? 4. In the United Nations and other contexts, many noncommercial stakeholders have argued against the various proposals to establish some sort of intergovernmental “oversight” of ICANN. Similarly, many have argued for termination of the JPA and greater independence for the organization more generally. They have done this inter alia in the belief that for all its warts, ICANN embodies the principle of bottom-up multistakeholder participation more than any other existing or proposed alternative for the governance of the issues under its remit, and that its repeatedly stated commitments to transparency, accountability and inclusion are not just empty rhetoric. Alas, the maltreatment of noncommercial interests and perspectives could make it rather more difficult for these stakeholders to enthusiastically defend ICANN against attacks from governmental and other quarters. It is difficult to understand how alienating noncommercial stakeholders and saddling them with a dysfunctional NCSG charter is in the interest of ICANN, either at this important juncture in the global policy debate or over the long-term.
Sincerely, Bill Drake *********************************************************** William J. Drake Senior Associate Centre for International Governance Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies Geneva, Switzerland william.drake@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx www.graduateinstitute.ch/cig/drake.html ***********************************************************