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GNSO Call for independent accountability mechanism to oversee ICANN


In a rare instance of consensus amongst the Generic Names Supporting Organisation’s (GNSO) various stakeholder groups, the leaders of the body’s committee today called for the creation of an independent accountability mechanism that “provides meaningful review and adequate redress for those harmed by ICANN action or inaction in contravention of an agreed upon compact with the community”.

Working around ICANN’s strict ‘two minutes per speaker’ allocation at today’s public forum, the leaders of the GNSO’s various stakeholder groups and constituencies shared the microphone to deliver its statement. The full text, obtained by World Trademark Review moments after it was read out, is as follows:

I’m Keith Drazek, I’m with Verisign and chair of the Registries Stakeholder Group, but today I’m here representing the views of the GNSO community. With me are the leaders of all of the GNSO’s Stakeholder Groups and Constituencies. 

I’m happy to report that the GNSO community took up Fadi’s challenge from the opening ceremony to seek harmony this week in London. Instead of a song or two, the statement we’re about to read represents an unprecedented — yes unprecedented — event. It only took us 50 meetings, but I think the rarity of what you’re witnessing this afternoon sends a very strong message about our views. The GNSO community, with all our diversity and occasionally competing interests, has come together to unanimously support the following:

The entire GNSO joins together today calling for the Board to support community creation of an independent accountability mechanism that provides meaningful review and adequate redress for those harmed by ICANN action or inaction in contravention of an agreed upon compact with the community. 

This deserves the Board’s serious consideration – not only does it reflect an unprecedented level of consensus across the entire GNSO community, it is a necessary and integral element of the IANA stewardship transition. 

True accountability does not mean ICANN is only accountable to itself, or to some vague definition of “the world”. It does not mean that governments should have the ultimate say over community policy without regard to the rule of law. Rather, the Board’s decisions must be open to challenge and the Board cannot be in a position of reviewing and certifying its own decisions. 

We need an independent accountability structure that holds the ICANN Board, staff and various stakeholder groups accountable under ICANN’s governing documents, serves as an ultimate review of Board/staff decisions, and through the creation of precedent, creates prospective guidance for the board, the staff, and the entire community.   

As part of the IANA stewardship transition, the multi-stakeholder community has the opportunity and responsibility to propose meaningful accountability structures that go beyond just the IANA-specific accountability issues. We are committed to coming together and developing recommendations for creation of these mechanisms. We ask the ICANN Board and staff to fulfil their obligations and support this community driven, multi-stakeholder initiative.

The statement came together relatively quickly, Covington & Burling’s Kristina Rosette, president of the Intellectual Property Constituency at ICANN, telling World Trademark Review: “It was impressively easy to agree on the text, which underscores the agreement within the GNSO about the importance of the ICANN accountability issue and the concepts expressed in the statement. The idea for a possible high-level statement supported by the entire GNSO was circulated on Monday afternoon to the Stakeholder Group and Constituency Chairs. By mid-day Tuesday, all Stakeholder Groups and Constituencies had expressed their support for the idea. The first draft of the text was circulated shortly thereafter, with all Stakeholder Group and Constituency Chairs signing off on final text by late morning on Wednesday.”

The text received an extended bout of applause from the audience, illustrating that the GNSO is not alone with respect identifying the positives of such a goal. Responding to the statement, ICANN chair Stephen Crocker remarked: “I am in agreement – the challenge will be going from concept to specific embodiment.”

As to the next steps, Rosette concludes: “I expect that the Enhancing ICANN Accountability Working Group and the ICANN community more broadly will progress these concepts over the next several months. I am cautiously optimistic that the Board will afford this unprecedented, unanimous GNSO statement the consideration and significance it warrants.” Source


James Barnley

I’m the editor of the DomainingAfrica. I write about internet and social media, focusing mainly on Domains. As a subscriber to my newsletter, you’ll get a lot of information on Domain Issues, ICANN, new gtld’s, Mobile technology and social media.

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