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Comments from Nominet

  • To: principles-comments@xxxxxxxxx
  • Subject: Comments from Nominet
  • From: lesley@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 24 Jan 2007 17:27:55 +0000

On behalf of Nominet UK, the country code Top Level Domain registry for .
uk, I would like to thank ICANN for the opportunity to comment on the 
development of transparency and accountability management operating 
principles. We appreciated the extension of the comment period and 
apologise for our delay in responding on these important issues..
 
Question Responses

How would you define "transparency" in the ICANN context? 

I would define transparency in the ICANN context as the degree to which 
ICANN participants and stakeholders are able to see and understand:

Historical reporting - how, when and why particular decisions were made 
and how and when they were implemented; what or who influenced particular 
decisions, and how input was balanced and weighted.

Upcoming decisions - how they can be involved in current issues, together 
with when and how decisions on those issues will be made.

Processes - what processes they should follow for particular purposes and 
how they can monitor progress during those processes.

Participation - how they can be involved and participate in, or follow, 
the ICANN process, whether in person or remotely, and whether in English 
or using a different language.

Operational and Board reporting - how well or how badly the operations of 
ICANN are performing, what matters have been and are being considered by 
the Board, and when that consideration is due to take place, together with 
where ICANN is going in the future and what its current plans and 
priorities are. The strategic plan together with the new annual report 
will assist in this reporting.

What standards of transparency are appropriate in ICANN operations and 
activity? 

Whilst full and complete transparency may be desirable for some, it is 
appreciated that this is not always fully possible or practicable. For 
example, transparency should not make progress impossible on day-to-day 
management tasks. Indeed, improvements in ICANN transparency should not be 
at the expense of ever getting anything done, or ever coming to a decision 
on a contentious issue. 

I would suggest that a reasonable person test would be appropriate here. 
That is, where a reasonable person would conclude that ICANN had an 
appropriate level of transparency for their needs (bearing in mind the 
above definition of transparency).  A baseline transparency rating could 
be established by surveying a sample of participants. The survey could 
then be repeated periodically and certainly following the bedding in of 
any initiatives to improve transparency.

How would you define "accountability" in the ICANN context? 

I would define accountability in the ICANN context as the degree to which 
the Executive team and Board are answerable to ICANN participants and 
stakeholders for their own actions and decisions. Accountability also 
works in a reverse direction, in that supporting organisations and 
participants are answerable to the Executive team and Board for their 
recommendations and any advice they provide. 

By being answerable, I mean that all concerned should be ready and 
prepared to respond to questions and any criticisms and be prepared to 
justify and discuss why certain decisions or actions have been taken. This 
means that that the roles and responsibilities of all concerned should be 
sufficiently clear that this can take place. 

What standards of accountability are appropriate in ICANN operations and 
activity? 

Whilst full and complete accountability may be desirable for some, it is 
appreciated that this is not always fully possible or practicable. For 
example, accountability should not interfere with day-to-day management 
tasks. Indeed, improvements in ICANN accountability should not be at the 
expense of ever getting anything done, overly long sessions of 
justification of previous decisions or ever coming to a decision on a 
legally contentious issue for fear of accountability in combination with a 
legal process. Neither should general accountability replace existing 
roles and responsibilities, for example, the role of the Board in 
providing oversight to the Chief Executive, who is accountable to the 
Board.

I would suggest that a reasonable person test would be appropriate here. 
That is, where a reasonable person would conclude that ICANN had an 
appropriate level of accountability for their needs (bearing in mind the 
above definition of accountability).  A baseline accountability rating 
could be established by surveying a sample of participants. The survey 
could then be repeated periodically and certainly following the bedding in 
of any initiatives to improve accountability.

I would also recommend that ICANN reviews corporate governance best 
practice, not only within the US, but also in other countries (for example 
the UK Combined Code), which gives helpful guidance on the roles and 
responsibilities of directors ? another key aspect of accountability.

What specific processes and activities need to be included to ensure these 
standards are met? 

Thinking about transparency and accountability in the ICANN context, two 
other key words came to mind. In my experience, views about whether an 
organisation is sufficiently transparent and accountable are closely 
linked with the degree of trust and confidence that you have in that 
organisation and the people that are involved in it.  Trust and confidence 
can often be associated with key people, but they are also linked to 
perceptions. That is, views built up over a period of time by a series of 
actions and by communication over time, or even a perceived lack of it. 

I am therefore of the view that, in addition to best practice activities 
that would improve accountability and transparency, there should also be 
initiatives that seek to build greater trust and understanding within the 
ICANN context. This could be challenging, as it will to some degree 
involve cultural change both within ICANN as an organisation and also 
within some stakeholder groups.

Are there any innovative ideas on transparency and accountability that you 
believe have not yet been implemented that might apply to ICANN?

Whilst it is always tempting to seek innovative ideas, the issues that 
need to be addressed here could be hugely assisted by the application of 
good old established management and people based interventions that seek 
to build trust and understanding, plus application of international best 
practice in corporate governance.  Experience could be drawn from other 
non-profit organisations, particularly in the area of balancing 
stakeholder interests.

Regards,
Lesley



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