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CTS/FGV comments on the NCSG Charter

  • To: gnso-stakeholder-charters@xxxxxxxxx
  • Subject: CTS/FGV comments on the NCSG Charter
  • From: Carlos Affonso Pereira de Souza <caffsouza@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 23 Jul 2009 19:20:52 -0300


The Center for Technology and Society at Getulio Vargas Foundation
(CTS/FGV) appreciates this opportunity to provide some brief comments
on the proposed charter for the Non-Commercial Stakeholder Group
(NCSG). As to avoid confusion, the original Charter submitted by the
Non-Commercial Users Constituency (NCUC) in March 2009 is hereby
referred to as “V-NCUC” and the new charter, delivered for the public
comment period after revision made by staff, as “S-NCUC”.

This S-NCSG Charter raises a number of concerns in terms of process
and of substance.

Regarding the whole process of approval of new Stakeholder Group´s
Charters, it is important to highlight that the document that have
been delivered for public comments fails to comply with some very
basic requirements of a true transparent and informative process.

First of all, as it is reflected by many of the reports already
submitted to the present S-NCSG´s comment period, the V-NCSG was the
result of months of hard work from a wide range of members from NCUC.
The process of drafting such a Charter involved global civil society,
ICANN board, staff, members of the At-Large community, and other
noncommercial actors. The production of such document took most of the
time those members devoted to ICANN-related issues since the last
months of 2008, being almost the single subject to be discussed during
the Mexico meeting.

The V-NCSG Charter was later supported by over 80 noncommercial
organizations and individuals in the April 2009 Public Comment period.

The S-NCSG differs greatly from the V-NSCG model in a number of ways
and no proper reasoning was provided by ICANN on the grounds of such
changes. The feeling that a great amount of time was spend to end up
with no proper explanation on the reasons why such model (and all its
discussed solutions) were simply discarded was never provided in a
proper way to all those 80 members of NCUC that subscribed the

If ICANN really intents to reach out for new people to engage in its
process, to seriously study and to research the topics that are dealt
daily in internet governance, the signal that is given is that the
only research possible on such regard is the one on the mistakes a
entity can incur when trying to manage and to govern a fundamental
resource for human communication and development as the DNS.

In terms of substance, the fact that the wording of Clause 5.0 of
V-NCSG is “intentionally left blank” is justified by the need to
impose a transitional model as per indicated in Clause 8.0.
Transitional models, as the name itself reveals, are never made to
last or to offer a long-time solution for a certain dilemma. In the
case of the establishment of Charters for the new Stakeholder Groups,
some members of NCUC were naïve enough to imagine that when they were
promised that the new GNSO would be seated at the Seoul Meeting that
would mark the end of a long period in which NCUC spent almost all of
its members energy on administrative issues and that more substantive
work could be engaged from that moment on.

The transitional solution is no solution at all. It means just the
opposite: that for two more years the uncertainty on fundamental rules
that command the organization of the most diverse of all former
constituencies still lingers on. Once again, that is certainly a not
attractive way to invite more people into the daily ICANN debates.

In addition to that the system proposed in the S-NCSG, as opposed to
what was proposed in the V-NCSG, encourages competition among the new
constituencies. The system proposed by the V-NCSG, in which the entire
stakeholder group would elect its representatives, stimulates
consensus over conflict and foster the most basic values of democracy.
This election system creates incentives for constituencies to try to
bridge the gap between the several and diverse interests in order to
have a seat in the GNSO Council. It not only guarantees that the
councilors will represent a broad range of members as well as hinder
the election of a councilor that is only concerned with one specific
issue that is a demand for one specific group.

The need for a person to be part of a constituency is another issue of
concern. That requisite imposes a two-step process for someone who
wants to be part of the NCSG. First of all a person has to decide in
which SG he or she belongs. After that, a new question arises: to
which constituencies will the person be a part of? The need to be a
part of at least one constituency can restrict the level of
participation that a person can enjoy as well as narrowing the scope
of his and her approach to the diversity of issues that ICANN deliver
for research and activities.

On a final note of comparison between both Charters, new and old, it
is important to highlight how better the V-NCSG dealt with the
“principles” clause, stating principles crucial for the future works
of the NCSG such as Nondiscriminatory and impartial application of
rules; Transparency; service standards for elected officers; Equality
of participation; and the encouragement of consensus. Only some of
those principles are provided in a very concise way in the S-NCSG´s
principles clause, which reserve much of its space to ensure that the
members of the NCSG will behave nicely and with courtesy. As much as
to declare that to “listening attentively” and to treat others with
“courtesy and civility” is important, the lack of a more substantive
approach on the fundamental principles of whole SG is certainly
another disadvantage of the S-NCSG.

All comments above, some very specific and some related to major flaws
of this whole process aimed at offering a brief report on some of many
points in which ICANN has failed to deliver a truly open, informative
and transparent process for a issue as important as the establishment
of Charter for the forthcoming Stakeholder Groups. The message that is
sent is not an inviting one to newcomers to the ICANN debate and
hinders the effectiveness of any serious outreach effort made by this

Carlos Affonso Pereira de Souza

GNSO Councilor representing NCUC
Vice-Coordinator of CTS/FGV
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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