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Comment on the reform proposals

  • To: meeting-consultation-2008@xxxxxxxxx
  • Subject: Comment on the reform proposals
  • From: Vittorio Bertola <vb@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 07 Jul 2008 16:56:37 +0200


I would like to comment on the proposals in your Reform Discussion Paper.

As per the number of meetings, I find it unadvisable to reduce them from three to two. It would affect negatively the speed of policy development, its transparency - as with less meetings it is imaginable that more discussions would be going on in smaller private meetings or through intransparent online exchanges - and ICANN's ability to reach out to the world. Also, the pace of events at ICANN meetings is already very high and less meetings would possibly lead to an unsustainable crowdedness of events.

Also, regional meetings are not a replacement for global ones, except perhaps for the outreach function or to foster discussions that are not global in nature (but then, they are likely to fall outside ICANN's limited global coordination mission). In fact, there only are two possibilities: either regional meetings discuss the same things that are discussed at global ones - and thus are useless or even counterproductive, as the same discussion could take different turns in different parts of the world, with then the need to reconcile them at the following global meeting - or they would advance the discussions between one global meeting and the other - and thus they would exclude everyone from outside that region from that step of the discussion.

Also, under the risk of this second option happening, it is likely that many ICANN participants will want to participate in all regional meetings anyway, thus actually increasing the travel burden and cost; at the same time, this would be impossible to do for the less funded stakeholders and thus would put them at a disadvantage when it comes to advocate their views effectively at all steps in the process.

I am strongly against cancelling the current regime of global rotation for meeting places, even if partially. Sure there are practical and financial advantages for ICANN staff in having all / many meetings in Los Angeles or in Paris. However, the principle of rotation is a substantial element of ICANN's fairness towards including all communities and countries around the world. It is clear, by looking at participation rosters, that having a meeting in a Region is a major factor in allowing participation from that Region. Even within the current regime, each Region has to wait for almost two years before getting to organize another ICANN meeting (and some Regions are really huge, so it might take two or three complete turns before ICANN comes again to a place reasonably near to you). If only one meeting per year rotates, this time doubles; if rotation is abolished, you will have to wait forever.

I would be in favour of putting strict requirements to meeting venues - for example, no more than 90-120 minutes by car, taxi or train from the doorsteps of an intercontinental airport (less than 90 minutes might exclude major capitals). I would find it acceptable to "accredit" a few cities per Region and rotate each time among pre-selected, optimized venues in those cities. But I would not find it acceptable to favour one part of the world against others, by having a major share of meetings always in the same place. The financial and practical advantage for ICANN would be minor if compared with the political disadvantages for transparency, inclusiveness and public image.

Finally, as the call for comments requests suggestions about meetings organization in general, I am pasting below parts of a submission which was sent privately to the Chair of the Board's Meetings Committee in December 2006. Several advances have been made and some of the points have already been addressed, but I think that there can still be useful suggestions in the text.

=== Information systems

You should extend the preregistration system into a proper "membership" system, where people register once and keep their account for the following meetings. This would allow people to supply more information once and keep it there, for example some public profile a la ICANNWiki style, but also personal addresses and emergency contact information (which might be accessible to staff only).

I don't know how it works for the Board, but for us in the ALAC, we always have to spend at least ten emails to communicate travel plans, ask for hotel reservation, check what's happening etc. So it would be useful if people could upload their travel plans into the membership system, and make them accessible to ICANN staff and fellow Committee members. For people on ICANN's travel list, staff, in turn, could enter reservation information into the system etc. - and we stop scattering info in emails that usually get lost. (In the end, you could even get authorization and reimbursement procedures hooked up into the system.)

Similarly, AC/SO chairs and appropriate staff should be authorized to enter event information straight into a database, and keep it updated. The agenda on ICANN's website could then be automatically generated and kept updated from that database. Also, you should have screens in the lobby with the recap of the day's events, room assignments etc.

=== Documents

There should be written guidelines to moderators, about allowing dialogue, getting people to slow down, and ensuring cultural respect (e.g., people from many parts of the world are not too used at speaking up, nor at being rudely interrupted and challenged as it normally happens in other parts of the world).

Also, there should be FAQs for newcomers, on the website and printed, possibly targeted to different groups (FAQs for registrars are going to be much different than FAQs for human rights activists...).

vb.                   Vittorio Bertola - vb [a] bertola.eu   <--------
-------->  finally with a new website at http://bertola.eu/  <--------

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