Despite embarassing connectivity problems and wide agreement that some of the plenary discussions needed to be more focused and outcome-oriented, the UN's conference in Athens concluded Friday with most participants reasonably satisfied. So far as we know, neither governments, business nor civil society participants thought they had been slighted or excluded, and most felt the whole exercise had been worthwhile. Thus the Forum succeeded in its most fundamental goal: establishing the basis for a cooperative, pluralistic dialogue that spans governments and other sectors of society. IGP's two Workshops on DNS and free expression were standing room only affairs, and so were many other workshops, as our prediction came true that the participant-defined activities provided the most focused and mobilizing elements of the agenda.
The Internet Governance Project was prominent at the Forum. Below is a summary of our activities.
GigaNet is the “global internet governance academic network,” a new network of researchers in the field of internet governance. GigaNet plans to hold annual conferences preceding the forum and engage in research collaboration and discussion around IG issues. The first GigaNet pre-conference vastly exceeded the expectations of its organizers, filling the room to capacity (80+ people) and provoking many compliments about the value and quality of the presentations and discussions.
Responding to public comments showing widespread reluctance to set ICANN free of the US Government before it improves its accountability and transparency, ICANN issued a call today for public comment on developing transparent and accountable management operating principles (MOPs) for possible adoption in to its Strategic Plan. The organization hopes to start setting “new standards for interactions within the ICANN community and between members of the community and staff” by soliciting responses to a set of questions defining accountability and transparency in the ICANN context. IGP welcomes the effort and hope it comes to fruition. But is it anything more than PR? A short, two-week comment period and ICANN management's apparent belief that they are going to settle on the right principles by early December (!) can only fuel doubts about the sincerity and depth of this effort.
The new agreement, called a Joint Project Agreement (JPA) is a cosmetic response to the comments received by NTIA during its Notice of Inquiry in July 2006. Public responses expressed widespread support for a DNS governance regime that was free of dominance by one government and indeed, any government. At the same time, various interest groups for many different reasons asked for a more accountable and representative ICANN and often expressed reservations about freeing ICANN from governmental oversight until suitable reforms in its processes and accountability were made.
The London School of Economics Public Policy Group finally released its long-awaited assessment of the GNSO, ICANN's representative organ for making global domain names policy. The impartial X-ray the LSE group administered on the GNSO is, on the whole, excellent as an analysis of how things are. Many of the recommendations are good, too. But on the most critical issue of all the distribution of voting power among GNSO constituencies the LSE has put forward recommendations that cause serious concern.