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Internet Governance 20 January 2016

IANA: Keeping The Ultimate Objective In Mind

By Kathryn BrownFormer President / CEO

Later this week, ICANN’s Chartering Organizations will indicate whether they will support the third draft proposal of the CCWG-Accountability Work Stream 1 Recommendations. This is a significant moment in the IANA transition process. Support for the accountability proposal by the ICANN community will mean that we are very close to a point when the transition can move to its next phase.

Since the beginning of this process, the IANA transition has had many moving parts. In its original announcement, NTIA identified what it called “directly affected parties” – each of whom had work to do to develop a consensus proposal on how the transition could take place in a way that upholds the core principles that NTIA set forward.

On the operational side, this work has been completed by the IETF, the RIRs and, for the most part, by the names community.

The remaining piece is to ensure that, post-transition, ICANN is fully accountable to the community it serves. This work has been ably led by the CCWG.

In Dublin, the community reached a milestone inasmuch as it agreed, in concept, to work within a so-called Single Designator Model. It is understood that this governance model can meet the requirements of the community for accountability while having minimal impact on ICANN’s corporate structure.

There is also agreement on a set of community powers “designed to empower the community to hold ICANN accountable for the organization’s Principles”.

In addition, there is general agreement on the need to clarify ICANN’s Mission & core values; to appropriately reaffirm ICANN’s commitment to human rights; and, to discuss the accountability of the Supporting Organizations and Advisory Committees.

Finally, in Dublin, the community agreed to a general set of procedural steps for the exercise of the community powers, namely:

Community powers will be exercised through consensus: Engage, Escalate, Enforce.

In short, there appears to be consensus around a governance framework for how accountability will work inside ICANN going forward.

Let’s not lose sight of this considerable progress.

The open questions that remain to be solved have to do the scope of those powers, who exercises these powers, and the implications for ICANN as a corporation. While these issues are by no means trivial, they are solvable, particularly if the parties stay focused and collaborate in good faith.

It strikes me that we are in a place where we need to grab consensus knowing that the community has done the hard work of satisfying the fundamentals of its Charter — meeting the criteria for success that has been set forth, not just by NTIA, but by and for itself. I was encouraged by Steve Crocker’s blog earlier this week in which he expressed the Board’s commitment to work with the community to get the transition done on time.

For the past few weeks, there have been intense discussions on how to improve the current draft proposal based on community feedback. This is typical in any consensus process but in working collaboratively towards the ultimate objective, we should make sure that the timeframe of the transition is met.

Importantly, while the discussions about accountability are primarily focused on the ICANN community and its processes, the outcome of this is critical for the IANA transition as a whole and for all the directly affected parties to the transition.

Moreover, seeing this transition through, in a timeframe that is realistic in light of the U.S. political environment, matters for the entire multistakeholder ecosystem. We cannot go back – we cannot simply pretend that the past 22 months haven’t changed the landscape for Internet governance. They have. If we, as a community, fail to deliver, there will be ripple effects throughout the IG ecosystem.

But if we succeed, when we succeed, we will have collectively done the right thing for the Internet.

Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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