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Citizenship versus Residency as a measure of diversity
I would like to share some thoughts about the citizenship requirements
for achieving geographical diversity on the ICANN BoD and the
Organizations Council's. I will draw on examples from personal
although I feel that this issue is not isolated to just a few instances.
First of all, I would like to restate that I am firmly in favor of
diversity requirements for seats of leadership in the ICANN
I have spoken to this affect at many of the ICANN public meetings and
on the mailing lists. I have also brought up the fact that conducting
meetings and mailing lists only in English presents a great challenge to
ICANN internationalization efforts. My problem is, however, that a
blanket requirement for citizenship in order to achieve diversity is
insufficient in my view.
I am not certain that my recommendations should be applied to
all aspects of the ICANN organization, but I certainly believe they
should be applied to the Supporting Organization Councils, in particular
DNSO Constituencies and requirements for seats on the Names Council.
Many SO constituencies base their membership on "organization." An
example is my constituency, the Registrar constituency. I am a member,
because my company, interQ Inc. is an ICANN accredited registrar.
We are a Japanese company, we operate only in Japan, and our users
are primarily Japanese. I represent interQ at ICANN meetings because I
am a member of the board, and thus able to express opinions that reflect
the organization, and more importantly because I am a native English
speaker (the only native English speaking board member.)
When I run for the Names Council of the DNSO however, according to the
current system, I should be separated from my organization, and placed
in a category based on my citizenship. This does not seem rational, as
interQ does not expect me to be a representative from the US, but rather
from Japan, as I am representing my organization.
Language issues and "bridges:"
While English is widely used in Internet communities, one of the
challenges to increasing awareness and participation in the ICANN
process, is indeed language. In Japan, while most of the population do
study English in secondary education, a very large majority of
those do not feel comfortable using the language. Even in the
Internet field, most of the Japanese Internet professionals I know
do not speak English, and would not feel comfortable having to
express themselves in public meetings, or even on mailing lists.
By making a requirement of citizenship, a potentially large
number of individuals who could potentially serve as cultural
and linguistic bridges, will not be able to participate. I believe
this will hurt the overall goal of increasing international
participation. I feel a strong responsibility to my community
to attempt to represent ICANN in Asia Pacific, and in Japan,
to do so in Japanese - many of my neighbors would not be
able to do so because they do not have the sufficient English
language skills to participate.
Is Citizenship an accurate measure?
I believe there are many instances where relying solely on citizenship
would produce the opposite result of the intention of the ICANN
requirements. A long term resident of the United States, who may be
a citizen of an Asian country, may have less in common with his or her
fellow citizens that with his or her co-workers, neighbors, and social
networks. Further, how would a long term resident of a foreign
country be able to represent his home country if he is not current
with that region? While it may be an easily verifiable measure
of diversity (by checking the passport) it does not necessarily
truly measure "diversity."
What is the worry about residency?
I believe the primary worry of using only residency as a measure
of geographic diversity, is that it will not actually result in
diversity. Realistically, I believe the worry is that there will be
a bunch of North Americans, who happen to live overseas, but
have no responsibility to the region they represent, and maybe
even have no understanding of the region's culture, people and
languages. While this is a valid concern, I do not believe that
citizenship solves all the problems, nor that ruling out long term
residency is wise.
Possible ways around the problem?
I agree that using only residency, with no other qualification
could place the geographical diversity goals in danger. I believe
however, that these issues can be solved by using a combination
of citizenship, OR residency with certain criteria to rule out the
worries I mention above. These criteria could include, number of
years in the region (at least 2-4 I would think), knowledge of
local language, or membership in local organizations. Overall, I
believe a criteria of years in region (easy enough to verify basically)
as a visa holding resident should suffice.
Overall, I personally believe that in certain instances, using
citizenship only as a measure of geographic diversity is not
sufficient. I urge the ICANN board to examine this issue, and I
strongly recommend that at least as a first step, the Supporting
Organizations be allowed to base their geographic diversity
requirements for council seats, on either citizenship or
residency with criteria of longevity as I have described. I
understand the nature of the problem, but I believe this initial
step may provide additional data to truly examine which is the
best course of action.
_/_/_/Director and General Manager
_/_/_/Richard A. S. Lindsay