Is the US government ready for Chehade’s new ICANN globalization charm offensive
By Brent Donald On 16 Oct, 2013 At 11:00 AM | Categorized As gTLD's | With 0 Comments

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When Fade joined ICANN as CEO and was unveiled in the ICANN 44th meeting in Prague on 25th  June 2012, on his maiden speech (Preview) Fade said

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 “The first, ICANN  is an international organization and we must strive to make it international, and that’s not dressing,  that is not an office in another country, that is not that I speak four language,  being international is from inside out.”

He clearly affirmed his commitment to acting in the public’s interest and his strong track record in consensus building are both essential to the multistakeholder approach that is foundational to the development of the Internet.

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The CEO’s strategy has been to expand ICANN from a small slightly above 300 employees to a larger organization. This has included increasing the number of hubs in regions. According to ICANN  

“There are three ICANN Hub offices – Singapore (Asia Pacific), Istanbul (Europe, Middle East and Africa) and Los Angeles (Americas). Together, the Hubs provide 24-hours of service to the ICANN community”

ICANN has developed a management delivery with objectives and goals with a system and structure to make it happen, the four main objectives of ICANN: affirmation of purpose; operations excellence; internationalization; and finally, evolution of the multistakeholder model.

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The strategy of globalization is a great way on internationalizing ICANN, while speaking in China, Chehade told Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua ahead of his trip that the body was trying to get “closer to the people we are serving”.

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“I’ve also been announcing that ICANN is going to be shifting a lot of its US centric operations to operations that are distributed around the world, including Asia,” he added. “So we will be moving part of our core operational functions from Los Angeles to Asia soon, some will be in China, some will be in Singapore and other places.”

While an inclusive approach based on continued dialogue is certainly a sensible and necessary strategy for ICANN in China, the ruling Communist Party’s hard line views on net regulation stand some way from Chehade’s belief in an internet which is “open”, “fair” and a “truthful resource for everybody in the world”.

Another recent news that ran suggested that Fade was in a move to get ICANN to be head quartered in Switzerland, however, according to DomainIncite piece, “No, ICANN isn’t moving to Switzerland”.  While this [rumor] would be a huge change for ICANN, which has been tethered to the US government since its formation in 1998, it’s almost certainly not what’s happening.   CEO Fadi Chehade’s speech at the Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum in Korea shared saying

“You heard me announce recently in Durban that ICANN, for the first time, is setting up a legal structure in Switzerland. That means that ICANN is going to seek to become an international organization that is serving the world, not just as a private corporation in California. These are important fundamental steps that we are exploring in order for ICANN to take a new global posture”

According to the blogger in the article above,   a capitalized “International Organization” can mean one of two legal structures: either an International Non-Governmental Organization or an Intergovernmental Organization.

 

That would, indeed, imply a change of jurisdiction. ICANN is currently, legally, a California non-profit corporation.

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However, if Chehade just said “international organization” with no implied upper-case letters, it just means it’s an organization with offices and legal entities internationally.  It’s important to note that ICANN’s Affirmation of Commitments with the US government forces it to stay headquartered in the US:

ICANN affirms its commitments to: … remain a not for profit corporation, headquartered in the United States of America with offices around the world to meet the needs of a global community;

Delving from the history if Switzerland, is there even any accountability?  What is ICANN’s thinking?

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Well quite recently Fade took the boldest step and went to Brazil in a move that was seen as supporting the recent anti-surveillance speech made by the Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff who criticized the United States for spying during the 68th United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, September 24, 2013.

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Following this event the ICANN President commenting on the issue, ICANN president said

ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade with
President Dilma Rousseff

She spoke for all of us that day. She expressed the world’s interest to actually find out how we are going to all live together in this new digital age,” Fadi Chehade told Agence France-Presse. “The trust in the global internet has been punctured and now it’s time to restore this trust through leadership and institutions that can make that happen.”

While it may be good that the ICANN president is going every means to expand ICANN it will be worthwhile to think alongside ICANN’s Affirmation of commitments and not tear it away from the US government. ICANN will still need to stay under accountability structures. Its admirable for this strategy but its also good to note that the ICANN president may be receiving unlikely advice from the wisdom of the new strategists that he has on his side which could be misleading him.

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As the the blogger concludes in his article, “While Chehade has expansionist plans on a scale beyond any of his predecessors;  it seems unlikely that these include breaking the AoC, incurring the wrath of the US government.” ICANN leadership may want to watch how its strategies are to continue to be in favor with the US government where it is currently instituted.

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