ALAC Assistance Group: Report to the Evolution and Reform Committee
19 August 2002
Assistance Group on Proposed Implementation
of an At-Large Advisory Committee
August 19, 2002
(See diagram below for outline of key recommendations).
The ICANN Evolution and Reform Committee (ERC) asked for help in the form of recommendations for implementing an At-Large Advisory Committee (ALAC) for consideration by the ERC and the public. The recommendations contained in this report are intended to implement the core values and principles outlined in the ERC's ICANN: A Blueprint for Reform, which requires ICANN to:
This report also builds upon the ICANN Board's subsequent action on June 28 in Bucharest, Romania, accepting and endorsing the Blueprint, and instructing the ERC to take due account of the need to:
The ERC asked Esther Dyson (a member the ALOC At-Large Organizing Committee, and former member of the ALSC ICANN At-Large Study Committee) and Denise Michel (coordinator of www.at-large.org, At-Large Organizing Committee, and former Executive Director of the ALSC) to identify a small group of individuals to provide assistance in defining how an ALAC could be created and what it should do.
Dyson and Michel asked for volunteers from the ALOC, and the ERC subsequently appointed these individuals, in addition to Dyson and Michel, to help craft this report as members of the Assistance Group:
The Assistance Group encouraged other individuals involved in At-Large organizing to assist with this effort, and would like to acknowledge the following individuals for their contributions:
It should be noted that, although individuals' affiliations have been included for reference, the recommendations in this report reflect the personal views of Assistance Group members, and do not necessarily represent the views or positions of any organizations referenced in this report. This report is intended to fulfill the ERC's request to provide ALAC implementation recommendations, as part of ERC's ongoing process to further develop and seek public input on the Blueprint for Reform. It does not represent the Assistance Group's individual members' endorsement of the current Blueprint for Reform, nor does it represent its members' preferred approach to individual user (At-Large) participation or representation within ICANN. (Many participants favored direct elections, with differences only on their timing.)
These recommendations are the Assistance Group's suggestions on how to implement an ALAC according to the Blueprint, and are offered for consideration and use by the ERC. Soliciting public comments was not part of our compressed, report-development process. Our process was a precursor to a public comment process, not a replacement. We note that the ERC "strongly encourages public feedback" (Forum closed 18 August 2003) on specific details of their implementation efforts and look forward to reading the public's comments on this report.
The method by which the global Internet community should participate in ICANN has been the subject of contentious debate since before ICANN was created (see brief summary in addendum). According to its Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the U.S. Department of Commerce, ICANN, as a private sector, non-profit corporation with technical management responsibilities for the Internet's domain name and address system, should have a structure that fosters accommodation in decision-making among various interests, including individual Internet users. The stated goal of "At-Large" (individual Internet users) organizers and organizations is to represent a broad set of interests, thus helping to ensure that ICANN's policies truly reflect the needs, interests and rights of a full range of stakeholders. This in turn will contribute to the stability of the domain name system and attract broader public support for ICANN over time.
The Assistance Group agrees with the ALSC's statement that "ICANN needs to be accountable not just to governments and members of its existing Supporting Organizations, but also to those who are affected by its actions. Actions ICANN takes within its seemingly narrow technical and administrative mission can affect (and generate interest among) the world's individual Internet users in a myriad of ways." These users hold a variety of values and interests and represent a critical voice in how ICANN's actions can and should impact them. For example, the ALOC, which is encouraging the self-formation worldwide of "At-Large Structures," is considering/soliciting comment on issues such as internationalized domain names, the implementation of IPv6, practices and policies for registering and transferring gTLD's (including access to, and use of, "who is" data), the fair allocation of address space, and introduction of new TLDs. (Note: The ALOC is but one of several efforts to advance At-Large issues and involvement.)
Members of the "ICANN community" have been searching for the fairest and most practical compromise among those who seek global democratic procedures to realize At-Large representation, those who want ICANN to be governed by experts in the technical and administrative tasks for which ICANN is responsible, and those who think it should be managed by government (-selected) officials. Identifying a mechanism that would enable all of ICANN's "constituents" to influence its actions and ensure the "public interest" is represented has proven challenging. There remains significant concern in parts of the ICANN community about the potential destabilizing effects of direct elections, or even substantial At-Large involvement in ICANN decision-making.
In contrast, many interested individuals and organizations (including some members of the ALOC) remain convinced that direct user representation on the Board is the only appropriate mechanism for full individual user (At-Large) involvement in ICANN, and they remain unconvinced that the ALAC approach is the appropriate course of action, or even the appropriate first step towards an organized and representative approach for user involvement in ICANN.
This report does not seek to end these disagreements, per se. Rather, we offer for consideration some initial steps that we believe are consistent with the ERC's reform efforts and that could serve as a starting point from which to phase-in broader At-Large involvement to support ICANN's work in the future. (Should ICANN's reforms take a different course, some of these suggestions might still be appropriate, while others could be modified.)
The Blueprint for Reform proposes two types of entities in a "reformed ICANN:" Supporting Organizations, which would be organized to address policy issues for each kind of identifier (e.g. GNSO, CCSO), and Advisory Committees, which would be structured to provide specific perspectives or expertise deemed useful to ICANN's activities (e.g. TAC, GAC). Based on this structure, and taking into account the initial reform decisions made by the Board, we recommend the creation of an ALAC to provide ICANN with advice and information on issues affecting individual Internet users.
The establishment of an ALAC should be viewed as a critical first step towards structured involvement of the individual user community in ICANN and, in particular, towards a formalized role in ICANN's policy development process that ensures users' views are taken into account. Without a structured entity such as an ALAC capable of presenting user perspectives, a critical group of stakeholders would be excluded from the reformed-ICANN, ultimately undermining its (and their) effectiveness.
ICANN was created to provide a way for members of the global Internet community to join to offer input and develop policies in a transparent manner for the technical management of the Internet's domain name and address system. Neither ICANN's current structure, nor the latest version of the Blueprint for Reform, however, provides for adequate participation by individuals or representation of their interests. The existing and proposed Supporting Organizations are structured to provide expert advice to the Board, and they afford only limited opportunity for At-Large participation. Governments (and ICANN's Government Advisory Committee), though useful, are not the appropriate mechanisms for individuals' participation.
Other alternatives for achieving these goals were considered and rejected by the Assistance Group. A "Public Participation Manager," while potentially useful in advancing ICANN outreach and public participation, is a top-down mechanism, limited in scope, and not suitable for achieving bottom-up, structured user involvement in ICANN's policy development process (although ICANN will need to hire staff to communicate with At-Large, and to help foster its members' participation in ICANN activities). Placing At-Large solely within the GNSO would limit At-Large representatives' ability to address user issues related to other Internet resources within ICANN's purview. Although gTLD issues figure prominently in individual users' list of priorities, the At-Large constituency comprises users (either directly or indirectly) of all Internet resources. At-Large's place within ICANN should enable it to address the breadth of issues concerning this constituency.
Like ICANN's existing and proposed Advisory Committees, the ALAC should be available to provide advice and guidance to the Board and to other organizations within ICANN (for the ALAC, this would be based on its members' expertise in the area of individual Internet users and their needs and rights). The ALAC should serve both as a resource that can be called upon to pursue specific questions involving users, and as an active "watchdog" ensuring that issues affecting individual users that might otherwise be overlooked are brought to the attention of decision makers. The ALAC should work with the ICANN Board to design and adopt mandatory procedures through which ICANN entities will provide the ALAC with appropriate notice of upcoming and pending policy discussions and decisions to ensure adequate opportunity for At-Large input and ICANN accountability.
Through At-Large Structures and Regional At-Large Organizations (discussed below), the ALAC should engage in outreach to, and education of, individual Internet users on ICANN and issues for which it is responsible. The ALAC also should involve users and their representatives in discussion, decision-making, aggregation of views, and identification of relevant Internet user priorities. The ALAC should use on-line mechanisms for discussions and information dissemination, ensuring broad public access to ALAC activities. The ALAC also should provide "virtual meeting points" for geographically diverse users to come together to discuss individual user issues within the scope of ICANN's mission. Encouraging international participation in ICANN, and ensuring that a productive two-way dialogue is established between ICANN and the At-Large community also should be important, priority contributions of the ALAC.
To ensure the ALAC's incorporation into ICANN and to strengthen the individual user's voice in ICANN, the ALAC should appoint:
ICANN is, and should be, operated to address issues of global interests and concerns. In reality, however, there has been significantly less participation from the developing areas of the world in ICANN's various activities and decision-making processes. If ICANN wants to fulfill its own mission with global scope, then there must be proactive institutional measures to extend and encourage outreach and participation from those developing parts of the world. We think the ALAC, with its diversity, will be one of the best institutional setups within ICANN to pursue this important quest for broader, more balanced and equitable participation and representation of ICANN. Therefore, we recommend the inclusion of an outreach policy and processes as part of the ALAC's mandate in collaboration with other ICANN community members.
An important element of global participation is the translation and dissemination of key material and also of receiving and processing comments from non-English speakers. The ALAC should encourage and help guide this activity to facilitate global user involvement. We recommend that the proposed "Public Participation Manager" coordinate with the ALAC in facilitating the receipt and use of public input, and that the ALAC provide guidance to the Public Participation Manager, and review his/her performance.
Given the lack of opportunities for *informed participation* ICANN needs to create mechanisms which provide a sustainable incentive for Internet users around the globe to participate in a constructive and informed way, which will help ICANN better understand what individual Internet users want and need. ICANN currently has no mechanism in place to assure an ongoing dialogue between individual Internet users and their representative organizations and the Board, which would enhance the Board's "informed decision making" and increase incentives for internet users to participate in ICANN's policy-making process. We suggest that ICANN (as it has done in the past, but with a more formal "deliberative platform") experiment with the use of online and other mechanisms to provide virtual meeting places, and also improve its processes for soliciting and incorporating public input. The Assistance Group, or some ALAC members, will provide the ERC with specific suggestions in the near future.
Some members of the Assistance Group believe that the ALAC should have a voting liaison to the Board, while others think that, given the current climate, a non-voting liaison is an important, pragmatic first step that is needed to allay concerns, instill confidence and trust, and build a working relationship between the Board and At-Large. The Board may gain confidence in At-Large representation after observing the creation and operation of Regional At-Large Organizations and Councils (discussed below).
Assistance Group members are in agreement, however, in recommending, in any case, that ICANN and the At-Large community review At-Large involvement after a full year and consider providing At-Large with full representation on the Board. This conforms to the ERC's suggestion of an early management review of all of the component structures of ICANN so that timely adjustments can be made as experience with the operation of the new organization accumulates. As noted in discussions with ERC members, it may be that some of the conditions considered necessary at the start can be relaxed as the ALAC gains experience and establishes the constructive record that is expected.
In addressing the purpose and responsibilities of the Board, it should be emphasized that the ALAC Board liaison does not bear the sole responsibility for communications with the At-Large community in either direction.
The ALAC can provide an important contribution by appointing knowledgeable, skillful delegates to help select Board members. Since the Blueprint for Reform did not specify "At-Large delegates" for the Nominating Committee (NomCom), and since we are loath to significantly expand the Committee beyond its proposed 22 members due to operational concerns, appointing the "unaffiliated public interest persons" to the Committee is, in our view, an appropriate role for the ALAC. As discussed below, At-Large organizing efforts should be at a point where a regionally-based, global structure can be put in place to support an ALAC and, in particular, to suggest a geographically and culturally diverse group of high-quality potential Nominating Committee delegates. This is also consistent with a regional approach to At-Large involvement recommended by the ICANN At-Large Study Committee.
In its "First Interim Implementation Report," the ERC suggested "Using the 'unaffiliated public interest persons' as guarantors of geographic diversity, by specifying that each must come from a different region," and also stated that "One possible source of some or all of those [four 'unaffiliated public interest persons'] delegates would be an At Large Advisory Committee . . . ." We endorse this approach. The ALAC is potentially the most diverse among the ICANN constituencies. Since we suggest a regional approach for At-Large self-organization (detailed below), we recommend that the four public interest representatives in the NomCom be increased to five, one per each ICANN Region, and that they be chosen by the Regional At-Large Organizations (proposed below). This would be an effective solution to geographic diversity of the Nominating Committee, would broaden its membership, and would ensure the presence of true public interest representatives in the Committee.
While some may point to the Blueprint's recommendation that other Advisory Committees have only one delegate on the Nominating Committee as an appropriate guide for ALAC involvement, it is important to note the unique characteristics and potential contributions of an ALAC. The ALAC is proposed as a diverse, globally representative body comprising individuals knowledgeable about the environment in which ICANN operates, but who place the interest of individual users (a critical public interest) ahead of any particular special interest. (Just the sort of people ICANN would want on a Nominating Committee.) Add to this ICANN's mandate to involve individual user communities and promote the functional, geographic, and cultural diversity of the Internet, at all levels of policy development and decision-making, and we see a compelling reason to allow the ALAC to appoint five delegates to the committee that will, in large part, choose ICANN's decision-makers. In addition, the ALAC could help ensure that nominees are drawn from outside the existing ICANN community both culturally and geographically. (The rationale for five such delegates is that each will bring an additional geography/community into the ICANN fold. Note that these appointees are intended to not be ALAC members themselves, but rather people selected by the ALAC.)
We recognize that At-Large and the ALAC is not the embodiment of "public interest," but rather one element albeit a very critical one. Governments, of course, represent the broad public interest, and other, narrower, constituencies identified to appoint NomCom delegates also fall within the "public interest" rubric: academic and other public entities; consumer and civil society groups; and individual domain name holders. However, we would suggest that the world's individual Internet users are, ultimately, the largest, most diverse, and most important constituency, and the NomCom would not have "a workable balance among providers, users, technical and public interests" without a significant number of ALAC delegates.
Finally, in considering candidates for the Board, the Nominating Committee should be directed to give proper consideration to the needs and perspectives of the At-Large community and seek potential Board members among the global Internet community in the broadest sense.
The Assistance Group also recommends careful consideration of our suggestion for ALAC liaisons to ICANN policy-related entities. Formal liaisons to Supporting Organizations and Advisory Committees will be vital to the At-Large community's ability to understand and contribute to ICANN's policy making to provide the individual user perspective at those critical points in the policy-making process. The ALAC liaisons can offer useful insights, and act as conduits for information and assistance to and from the At-Large community. Without a seat at the table, it is unlikely that At-Large would fully achieve meaningful and informed, bottom-up participation in ICANN's policy-making process.
As noted, we suggest the ALAC/At-Large eventually have voting liaisons/members of the GNSO and CCSO Councils. In the area of TLD policy development we expect these SOs to be the starting point in the bottom-up policy development process on issues of particular interest to, and impact on, the At-Large constituency. Unless, and until, individual users have a formal, structured role in these SOs, including seats on their Councils, the ALAC should have fully participating liaisons. Regardless of whether this approach is accepted, the most critical aspect of ALAC liaisons, is that they be allowed to speak and ideally persuade other ICANN stakeholders.
The Assistance Group agrees with the ERC's assertion that "bodies that start with commonly agreed, well-defined standards and criteria for activities are more likely to promote good outcomes regardless of the personalities or qualities of the particular members." The following standards and criteria have been used to guide our recommendations on the ALAC's structure and membership. The ALAC should:
The Assistance Group recommends that an ALAC be established as a standing advisory committee of the Board with 15 members to provide advice to the Board and other policy-making and advisory organizations within ICANN on the needs of, and the impact of proposed policies on, the Internet's individual users. As noted above, we suggest that the ALAC via its liaisons also participate in some of these organizations, rather than merely give advice.
Underpinning the ALAC should be a network of self-organizing, self-supporting At-Large Structures throughout the world involving individual Internet users at the local or issue level (see examples of potential At-Large Structures). The At-Large Structures should self-organize into five regional groups called "Regional At-Large Organizations" (using ICANN's 5 geographic regions). This will allow each geographic area to select the type of structure and processes that best fit its customs and characteristics, and to manage outreach and public involvement more easily, so that the Regional At-Large Organizations can become the main forum and coordination point for public input to ICANN in their region.
It should be noted that the Assistance Group had extensive discussions about various approaches, including direct user involvement/selection of ALAC members and At-Large structures that were *not* organized by ICANN regions. A concern remains among some Group members that we are over-emphasizing geographic diversity at the expense of addressing user issues or involving broader user perspectives. We encourage all interested parties to continue this dialogue and share their views directly with the ERC.
Each of the five Regional At-Large Organizations should elect (or select, depending on their capabilities and preferences) a Regional At-Large Council comprising representative(s) of each At-Large Structure. To help prevent capture, some Assistant Group members think the Councils should have a fixed number of members, while others felt it should remain flexible to meet region's needs (we also did not agree on numbers, but discussed 5 20). Each of the five Councils should then elect/select two members from their region (from different countries) to serve on the ALAC for two-year terms. Each Council also should elect/select one delegate to serve on the NomCom.
To accommodate the ERC's wish to have the NomCom appoint some of the ALAC's members, we suggest that, initially, the NomCom should appoint five ALAC members, with special consideration given to individuals from among the international and issue-based organizations relevant to ICANN's mission. This will help to further ensure a broad user perspective is represented on the ALAC.
After the ALAC and a global At-Large framework are established and operational, the ALAC should work to help establish a process in which seats are filled through elections by members of accredited At-Large Structures. Those elected should serve two-year terms (with a staggered term system phased in) and comply with criteria that foster rotation (e.g. the same organization cannot have a representative in the ALAC for two consecutive terms, and the same country cannot send a person for 2 consecutive terms).
Each Regional At-Large Organization should be required to enter into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with ICANN to participate in the ALAC member election process. The MOU should address the reciprocal duties and rights of ICANN and the Organization regarding the process of selecting ALAC members, and minimum requirements of openness, accountability, diversity, etc. in the Organization's structure (as outlined below). Each Regional At-Large Organization should be self-supporting and separate from ICANN, and should be responsible for establishing its internal bylaws, structuring its organization, and managing the election/selection of ALAC members, provided that they meet the basic requirements.
If this approach is recommended by the ERC and adopted by the Board, ICANN should ask the ALOC participants to help develop criteria for At-Large Structures, and encourage the formation of both At-Large Structures and Regional At-Large Organizations. ALOC participants also could assist with development of an MOU template for the Board's consideration at ICANN's Shanghai meeting, which would help accelerate the MOU process and enable Regional At-Large Organizations to start working and to select their ALAC representatives in the following months. However, in the event not all ALAC seats can be assigned at the inception of the ALAC (e.g. due to lack of one or more Regional At-Large Organizations) those seats should remain dormant and be filled as soon as the related conditions are met. Also, the ALAC should not start working until an appropriate number of members are in place.
The Assistance Group is aware that the risk of capture and control has been raised as an argument against more direct At-Large participation. Capture is by definition the opposite of diversity, which is why we have specifically looked for a structure that preserves both regional and organizational diversity. Within the ALAC, no region can become dominant; within each region, organizations will rotate so that no organization can dominate the regional representation and each Regional At-Large Organization will make sure that no more than a fraction of the Regional At-Large Organization's seats are held by people from a single country.
To help prevent participation by organizations that don't genuinely reflect the interests of individual members, and to increase the quality of At-Large involvement, we recommend that At-Large Structures should comply with the following criteria and earn "accreditation" from ICANN (initially, the Board could delegate this responsibility to the ALOC; the ALAC would have responsibility for accreditation once it is established). Only accredited At-Large Structures should be allowed to participate in the Regional At-Large Organizations, or operate as international, issue-oriented At-Large Structures.
We recommend the following criteria and standards for At-Large Structures and Regional At-Large Organizations:
To launch this effort, ICANN and entities involved in At-Large should distribute a call for the development and designation of At-Large Structures and establish a simple accreditation process. At-Large Structures should work together to form Regional At-Large Organizations, sign an MOU with ICANN, and participate in the selection of ALAC members, an executive committee of members who would participate in other ICANN entities, and NomCom delegates. To avoid the potential for "early capture" we suggest that Regional At-Large Structures meet minimum requirements before ICANN signs an MOU and the Organizations s/elect ALAC members and NomCom delegates (e.g. Regional At-Large Organizations should be allowed to sign the MoU with ICANN only when they, either directly or through their affiliated At-Large Structures, have at least 200 individual members from their region). (The Assistance Group is discussing additional specific suggestions for criteria and the accreditation process which we will submit to the ERC in the near future as a group or individually). Organizations fulfilling the criteria should be able to apply to become At-Large Structures at any time and participate in the Regional At-Large Organizations and the ALAC activities, as appropriate.
It should be the ALAC's responsibility:
(Deliberations of type i) and ii) should require a majority vote of 2/3 of the ALAC and de facto would most likely have to be approved by ICANN at least in principle under the MOU recognizing the ALAC.)
In the event that an organization is denied accreditation and wishes to appeal, we suggest that the issue be sent to the proposed "Ombudsman" who would be responsible for considering and making a decision on the appeal.
It also should be the ALAC's responsibility, working in conjunction with the Regional At-Large Organizations and using each Region's main languages, to:
ICANN should provide a staff person to serve as secretariat for the ALAC and as support for facilitating individual users' participation in ICANN's policy-making processes. In furtherance of ICANN's outreach and public involvement goals, ICANN should share with the Regional At-Large Organizations resources that support the work of the ALAC (e.g. web forums, discussion lists, ALAC announcements list, etc.). We also recommend that ICANN reimburse ALAC members' travel costs for participation in ICANN Board meetings. ICANN should include these and other ALAC start-up costs in its budget and commit to funding them, as an important signal to the At-large community and the Department of Commerce that it takes individual Internet users' participation and their concerns seriously.
In the context of ICANN's current reform process, we view the establishment of an ALAC as an important first step towards structured involvement of the individual user community in ICANN. We offer these recommendations for the establishment of an ALAC and a supporting regional At-Large structure as a practical way of formalizing a role for At-Large within ICANN's policy development process that ensures users' views are taken into account. The Assistance Group would be pleased to answer any questions the ERC may have and will continue to provide additional suggestions and comments either as individuals or as a Group.
In November 1998, the U.S. Department of Commerce recognized ICANN in a Memorandum of Understanding/Joint Project Agreement. With regard to membership, the MOU specified that ICANN and DOC would, "Collaborate on the design, development, and testing of appropriate membership mechanisms that foster accountability to and representation of the global and functional diversity of the Internet and its users, within the structure of the private-sector DNS management organization." In January, 1999, ICANN created a Membership Advisory Committee (MAC), and asked for its recommendations on a range of membership policy and procedural issues. The MAC's final report and commentary was submitted to the Board in May 1999.
After considerable public discussion and no apparent consensus, ICANN's Board adopted what is described as "a compromise interim solution": the direct selection of five ICANN directors by a self-selected At-Large constituency; the continued service of four of the original ICANN directors; and a study of how to provide appropriately for input and influence into ICANN policy deliberations and decisions by the general Internet community. Five At-Large Directors were selected in a global, direct election by 34,035 e-mail address holders, and seated in November 2000. The At-Large Study Committee (ALSC) submitted their report in November 2001 and a subsequent implementation report in March 2002.
That same month, the Board decided that "ICANN should have a robust At Large mechanism for meaningful, informed participation by Internet users of the kind recommended in the ALSC report." To achieve this, the Board called "upon the ICANN community to devote sustained energy to the creation of At Large structures built upon bottom-up, self-organized, local Internet community institutions and other organizations that meet the general criteria of openness, participation, and self-sustainability, anticipating that most such entities are not ICANN-specific, but already serve their communities in broader ways."
As stated in the "White Paper," issued by the U.S. Department of Commerce designating ICANN as the technical coordination body of the Internet, "The new corporation should operate as a private entity for the benefit of the Internet community as a whole. The development of sound, fair, and widely accepted policies for the management of the DNS will depend on input from the broad and growing community of Internet users."
The issue of how to involve Internet users in ICANN has gone unresolved despite more than four years of debate (started before ICANN itself began), several studies, one global election of five At-Large Directors to ICANN's Board, and the recently completed ALSC reports. The Board took an important step towards resolving the issue with passage of its March 14 resolution calling for At-Large organizing and involvement in ICANN. Many details, however, remain unresolved and it is hoped that an emerging At-Large constituency can help settle, once and for all, the details of how ICANN achieves representation and participation of the world's individual Internet users.
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