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Accountability and Transparency Frameworks and Principles
Accountability to the participating community

Note:This page reflects work done between 2006-2008 relating to an independent review of ICANN's accountability and transparency. Please see other resources on ICANN's website for more recent activities relating to transparency and accountability.

ICANN's Accountability and Transparency Frameworks and Principles were approved by the Board on 15 February 2008.

The full frameworks and principles are also available in PDF format:


Accountability to the participating community

ICANN operates on a multi-stakeholder model that brings together a wide range of relevant parties to develop policy to promote the stability and integrity of the Internet. As a private-public partnership, ICANN is dedicated to preserving the operational stability of the Internet; to promoting competition; to achieving broad representation of global Internet communities; and to developing policy appropriate to its mission through bottom-up, consensus-based processes. Within ICANN's structure, governments and international treaty organizations work in partnership with businesses, organizations, and skilled individuals involved in building and sustaining the global Internet. Innovation and continuing growth of the Internet bring forth new challenges for maintaining stability. Working collectively, ICANN's participants address those issues that directly concern ICANN's mission of technical coordination. Consistent with the principle of maximum self-regulation in the high-tech economy, ICANN is perhaps the foremost example of collaboration by the various constituents of the Internet community.

ICANN is accountable to the global community, however the nature of ICANN’s unique mission does not permit “members” of the organization that could exert undue influence and control over ICANN’s activities. Thus by not having any statutory members, ICANN is accountable to the public at-large rather than to any specific member or group of members. This construct helps eliminate the specter of antitrust violations by allowing ICANN to operate in the best interests of the public at large rather than in the individual interests of certain members. This construct also allows ICANN to work collaboratively, rather than compete, with the various constituents of the Internet community.

This section sets out the mechanisms by which ICANN makes itself accountable to its participating community. The major aspects are:


Although the powers of the Board are clearly set out in the Bylaws, the Board derives an important aspect of its validity from the diverse and global nature of its membership. The ICANN Board draws its membership from community selection and through a Nominating Committee. The Nominating Committee membership is also drawn from amongst the community.

The Board is constituted as follows:

  • Six members of the Board (Directors) are elected from the ICANN Supporting Organizations (two each from the Address Supporting Organization (ASO), the Country-Code Names Supporting Organization (ccNSO), and the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO)).
  • The President is a voting member of the Board.
  • Eight members are selected by the Nominating Committee. (A description of the Nominating Committee composition and process follows.) These Nominating Committee appointees are selected on strict criteria including intelligence and integrity, a broad experience of the Internet community, and an understanding of ICANN’s mission. The Nominating Committee also is required to select candidates in such a way as to maintain the geographical diversity of the ICANN Board.

In addition, there are six non-voting liaisons, one each from:

  • The Governmental Advisory Committee
  • The Root Server System Advisory Committee
  • The Security and Stability Advisory Committee
  • The Technical Liaison Group (which represents the European Telecommunications Standards Institute, The International Telecommunication Union’s Telecommunications Standardisation Sector, the World Wide Web Consortium, and the Internet Architecture Board)
  • The At-Large Advisory Committee
  • The Internet Engineering Task Force

The liaisons participate in Board discussions and bring the views of their respective groups to the Board table.

The Bylaws lay out the term for each Director and the process for removing a Director from office, if necessary (see Article VI, Section 11).

The Board meets regularly throughout the year, usually by telephone conference. These are called Special Board meetings. Regular Board meetings are held three times per year (including the Annual Meeting), and these meetings are open to the public (either in person or through streaming media). A detailed Preliminary Report of each Board Meeting is posted on the ICANN website shortly following each meeting. That report then forms the minutes subject to approval by the Board.

Apart from the Nominating Committee appointments, the other positions on the Board are derived from a bottom-up selection process. Under ICANN’s corporate structure, Supporting Organizations and other bodies within ICANN representing certain sectors of the participating community are entitled to elect directors to ICANN’s Board. These directors, in turn, owe all of the duties of a director to ICANN in their roles as members of the Board. These duties for a director of care, inquiry, loyalty and prudent investment to the corporation and its constituencies take supremacy over the interests of the electing organization. Each member of ICANN’s board is accountable to the participating community as a whole through his or her fiduciary duties and is required to make decisions that are in the best interests of the corporation and community at large.

The Nominating Committee

The Nominating Committee is responsible for the selection of eight of the voting members of the Board. Its membership is drawn from the community.

The Chair of the Nominating Committee is appointed by the Board and is responsible for the smooth running of the committee process. However, the Chair of the Nominating Committee cannot vote. The immediately previous Nominating Committee Chair acts as a non-voting advisor.

The committee is made up of 18 volunteers including the chairman. It is composed of voting members from:

  • The At-Large Advisory Committee (5 members)
  • The Business Users Constituency of the GNSO (2 members, one representing small business users and one representing large business users)
  • The gTLD Registry Constituency of the GNSO
  • The gTLD Registrar Constituency of the GNSO
  • The Internet Service Providers Constituency of the GNSO
  • The Intellectual Property Constituency of the GNSO
  • The Council of the ccNSO
  • The Council of the ASO
  • An entity designated by the Board to represent academic and similar organizations
  • Representatives of consumer and civil society groups selected by the Non-commercial Users Constituency of the GNSO
  • The Internet Engineering Task Force
  • The Technical Liaison Group

The Nominating Committee also has 3 non-voting liaison representatives, one each from:

  • The Root Server Advisory Committee
  • The Security and Stability Advisory Committee
  • The Governmental Advisory Committee

With this membership, the Nominating Committee is extremely representative of the ICANN community and well placed to select appropriate members for the ICANN Board.

The size of the committee and the breadth of representation ensure that it is not able to be captured by one interest group and that it is not possible for any individual to force their ideas onto others.


One of the most important ways that the community participates in ICANN is through the planning element that encompasses Strategic Planning, Operational Planning, and budgeting. Members of the ICANN community are able to contribute through a multi-phase consultation process to the strategic direction of the organization and to its operating and budget prioritization.

During the first six months of each fiscal year, ICANN develops its three-year strategic plan. During the second six months of each fiscal year, ICANN develops the operating plan and the budget for the next fiscal year. Each of these elements of the planning phase is developed through a thorough, multi-phase process of consultation with the ICANN community.

Strategic Plan

  • The Strategic Plan outlines the strategic priorities for ICANN over a three-year period. It is updated annually to reflect changes in the environment in which ICANN operates and the changing needs of the ICANN community. The strategic planning process begins with consultation with the ICANN community to gain initial input to the plan. This usually takes place at an ICANN meeting where sessions are conducted in several languages and also through online forums or similar tools.
  • Based on this input, an issues paper is compiled that summarizes the main opportunities and challenges for ICANN over the coming three years, and a list of key priorities to address those opportunities and challenges. Consultation is undertaken on this issues paper by posting it for comment on the ICANN website.
  • Based on this feedback, a draft plan is developed and posted for comment. Consultation is undertaken with the community on the draft plan through online forums and at the ICANN meeting held in the last quarter of the calendar year with sessions conducted in multiple languages. The plan is refined to reflect comments from the community, with each draft being posted for consultation.
  • The final version of the plan is submitted to the Board for approval at its December meeting.
  • The approved plan is posted on the ICANN website and previous plans are also available.

Operating Plan

  • The Operating Plan is a one-year plan that turns the priorities identified in the Strategic Plan into action.
  • An initial draft of the Operating Plan is prepared by ICANN staff in the first two months of the calendar year.
  • The Operating Plan draft contains details of ongoing operations and special projects developed to address strategic priorities. This draft plan is posted for community comment and consultation sessions are conducted at the first ICANN meeting of the calendar year.
  • The plan is redrafted based on the feedback received and posted for further comment. Another round of consultation is conducted at the second meeting of the calendar year. After any necessary redrafting, the Operating Plan is submitted to the Board. The current Operating Plan and previous plans are available on the ICANN website.

ICANN Budget

  • The ICANN Budget is developed in parallel with the Operating Plan. Initial consultation on the Budget takes place at the first ICANN meeting of the year. All of ICANN’s Supporting Organizations, Advisory Groups and constituency groups are consulted and general consultation sessions are conducted in multiple languages.
  • The budget is adjusted in line with comments received during consultation about the Operating Plan and a draft budget is posted for community comment in May.
  • Based on feedback received, a further draft is prepared and posted.
  • Community consultation, including consultation with all of ICANN’s Supporting Organizations, Advisory Groups and constituency groups, is undertaken at the second ICANN meeting of the calendar year with sessions conducted in multiple languages.
  • The budget is fine-tuned on the basis of comments received and the final version of the budget is presented to the Board for approval in June. The approved version of the budget is posted on the ICANN website.
  • As a final step in the consultation process, the registrar fee structure contained in the Budget must be approved by two-thirds of the gTLD registrars using the methodology contained in the Registrar Accreditation Agreement.


Another way in which ICANN maintains and strengthens accountability to the participating community is through an ongoing schedule of reviews of its structure. A regular review of performance is an important aspect of seeking continuous improvement in effectiveness and accountability. The ICANN Bylaws stipulate that an independent review of each of the key parts of the ICANN structure should take place no less frequently than every three years. “The goal of the review, to be undertaken pursuant to such criteria and standards as the Board shall direct, shall be to determine (i) whether that organization has a continuing purpose in the ICANN structure, and (ii) if so, whether any change in structure or operations is desirable to improve its effectiveness.” (ICANN Bylaws Article IV, Section 4) These reviews examine the effectiveness of ICANN’s community structures and identify improvements that help the ICANN community and the ICANN model work more effectively.


ICANN is based on a multi-stakeholder model that develops policy through a bottom-up, consensus-driven process. ICANN’s values contained in the Bylaws set out the importance of consultation in the ICANN process

4. Seeking and supporting broad, informed participation reflecting the functional, geographic, and cultural diversity of the Internet at all levels of policy development and decision-making.

7. Employing open and transparent policy development mechanisms that (i) promote well-informed decisions based on expert advice, and (ii) ensure that those entities most affected can assist in the policy development process.

(Article I, Section 2)

Furthermore, ICANN consults in other aspects of its operations beyond policy development, including strategic planning, operational planning, and budgeting.

The ICANN Bylaws set out clear frameworks for aspects of consultation, particularly those associated with policy development.

This document does not override or replace any of the Bylaws requirements. However, given the importance of consultation to the ICANN community, this document establishes a set of principles that guide consultation that takes place within the ICANN community.


In consulting with the ICANN community, ICANN seeks to uphold the following principles.

To maximize the ease of participation in any consultation, ICANN will:

  • Provide information on upcoming issues as far in advance as possible to give the community time to respond. Where issues are to be discussed publicly in a meeting, best efforts will be made to provide relevant information at least one week in advance of the meeting.
  • Maintain a calendar of current consultations and, where practicable, forthcoming consultations so that the ICANN community can be aware of times when their views will be sought on issues
  • Use online forums as the basic mechanism for conducting consultation
  • Provide sufficient context and background material to enable participants to understand the issues on which they are being asked to comment
  • Make clear the purpose of the consultation and the way in which comments will be used
  • Use developments in technology to enhance the consultation process
  • Follow the ICANN translation policy, with relevant documents and questions being translated and posted according to that policy
  • Except where Bylaws stipulate otherwise, ensure the minimum time for a comment period will be 21 days
  • Maintain a public participation site that encourages the community to discuss particular issues ahead of time and so clarify arguments and positions early on. If necessary, specific web pages, forums, and chat rooms can be quickly set up to cater to demand

To encourage active debate of issues, ICANN will:

  • Explore interactive approaches to comments that encourage discussion and resolution between members of the community
  • In the spirit of the values contained in the Bylaws, proactively seek comment from those entities most affected by an issue

To maximize transparency of the consultation process, ICANN will:

  • Make all comments visible to the community
  • Require that all comments be tagged with the sender’s name and any relevant affiliation (where the individual is speaking on behalf of a group). Where the respondent is an ICANN Supporting Organization, Advisory Committee, or constituency group, some indication must be given of the process that was used to develop the comment and the parties who took part in that process
  • Post a summary of comments at the end of each comment period and in the same place as the comments
  • Post an analysis of the comments
  • Explain how the input will be used
  • Make clear wherever possible the impact of public comment on decisions
  • Request explicit discussion of that summary and analysis by the relevant body while discussing the topic under consideration

To maximize the effectiveness of the consultation process, ICANN will:

  • Conduct annual reviews of the consultation process


As a globally authoritative body on the technical and organizational means to ensure the stability and interoperability of the DNS, ICANN aspires to be an organization that is capable of communicating comfortably in a variety of languages. Through consultation with the community, ICANN will continue to improve its capabilities in this area. To encourage effective dialogue amongst all parties in the ICANN global multi-stakeholder process:

  • ICANN commits to timely and accurate translations to encourage real dialogue in different languages.
  • ICANN commits to translate core strategic and business documentation (such as the Strategic and Operating Plans; the budget; the annual report; ICANN's mission and by laws) into the UN languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish), and the language of large Internet economies where there is little bilingualism in one of the UN languages (e.g. Japanese) and to continue to take expert advice on language choice and translation policy.
  • ICANN works with the community to identify other types of documents that should be translated into the agreed block of languages.
  • From time to time, ICANN will also translate documents into languages outside of the agreed block to communicate about issues that may be of special interest to particular communities.
  • ICANN works collaboratively with the community and experts to develop tools for multi-lingual dialogue. Every effort will be made to ensure equity between comments made in languages other than English and those made in English.
  • ICANN provides transcription (scribing) for major sessions at ICANN meetings to assist those who do not have English as a first language to follow discussions.
  • English will remain the operating language of ICANN for legal purposes.
  • ICANN has adopted the International Organization for Standardisation’s 639-2 naming system for identifying and labeling particular languages.


Note: Revised ICANN Expected Standards of Behavior were adopted on 6 May 2012 and are available at

Those who take part in ICANN multi-stakeholder process including Board, staff and all those involved in Supporting Organization and Advisory Committee councils undertake to:

  • Act in accordance with ICANN’s Bylaws. In particular, participants undertake to act within the mission of ICANN and in the spirit of the values contained in the Bylaws.
  • Adhere to the conflict of interest policy laid out in the Bylaws.
  • Treat all members of the ICANN community equally, irrespective of nationality, gender, racial or ethnic origin, religion or beliefs, disability, age, or sexual orientation; members of the ICANN community should treat each other with civility both face to face and online.
  • Act in a reasonable and informed manner when participating in policy development and decision-making processes. This includes regularly attending all scheduled meetings and exercising independent judgment based solely on what is in the overall best interest of Internet users and the stability and security of the Internet’s system of unique identifiers, irrespective of personal interests and the interests of the entity to which an individual might owe their appointment.
  • Listen to the views of all stakeholders when considering policy issues. ICANN is a unique multi-stakeholder environment. Those who take part in the ICANN process must acknowledge the importance of all stakeholders and seek to understand their points of view.
  • Work to build consensus with other stakeholders in order to find solutions to the issues that fall within the areas of ICANN’s responsibility. The ICANN model is based on a bottom-up, consensus driven approach to policy development. Those who take part in the ICANN process must take responsibility for ensuring the success of the model by trying to build consensus with other participants.
  • Act in accordance with ICANN policies.
  • Protect the organization’s assets and ensure their efficient and effective use.
  • Act fairly and in good faith with other participants in the ICANN process.


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