ALAC TOR / Comments
Comments on Terms of Reference for ALAC Review
To begin with, the implementation of ALAC Review, although legally mandated by ICANN by laws, seems somewhat ill-timed at this juncture. ALAC is undergoing a major overhaul both in terms of members and in terms of internal structure at this very time and it is not clear what the point of reference for carrying out the purported two goals of review namely:
* Whether the organization has a continuing purpose in the ICANN structure; and * If so, whether any change in structure or operations is desirable to improve its effectiveness.
will be. Obviously the nascent RALOs and ALSs cannot be the objects of evaluations either in terms of their individual effectiveness, or in their estimated total future contribution to at large representation in ICANN. On the other hand, evaluating the interim regime serves little purpose but finger-pointing and blaming/rewarding outgoing members for what may be seen as failure/success of implementing effective at-large representation.
Having said the above, I still think a sober and objective review of the whole problem of at-large representation, not confined strictly to the above two goals, could be a most desirable undertaking. I believe that most of the 46 items mentioned in the proposed TOR need be addressed, albeit not with equal weight. A good number of these items deal with RALOs and ALSs which have had a very brief existence. Any objective evaluation of the RALO/ALS structure as mandated by existing ICANN by laws requires more time for the development of this structure. Below I wish to suggest three further items not explicitly covered by the proposed review:
1. Past, outgoing and present members of ALAC as well as other interested parties should be consulted on the wisdom and effectiveness of RALO/ALS structure. This is not to undermine the pursuit of the process which has barely started, but to keep a watchful eye on the sensitive process of at-large representation. The role of ‘at-large’ constituency in the development of Internet, and in particular those matters related to ICANN function, has been an evolving variable and it would fool-hardy to expect a rigid prescription that would work uniformly in time and space. I would personally suggest institutionalizing an ongoing process within ICANN for evaluating the necessity, proper role and the effectiveness of at-large presence.
2. The problem of who represents at-large in developing countries is almost a taboo subject, not only within ICANN, but also in WSIS process and other forums. I find that those from the developed world avoid the subject and are more than willing to go along with anyone from the developing world claiming to speak for the populace. No doubt a fear of being accused of not respecting ‘cultural diversities’ plays a part in this. It is time to address the question of whether some universal values are to be exercised within Internet and within ICANN process. I suggest that some items in the TOR specifically address the sensitive and controversial problem of having the at-large voice heard from developing countries.
3. Much is being said about the wisdom of geographic representation in general and the present geographic configuration of ICANN, but I found to items in the proposed TOR dealing with that. No doubt this would be precluded by staying within the confines of the present by laws. But wishing to go beyond these limits, I believe that this problem should be addressed by the review.
Siavash Shahshahani, ALAC Member, Asia/Pacific