IGP today responded to a U.S. Department of Commerce proceeding seeking comment on the future of its political oversight over ICANN. The proceeding is part of a mid-term review of ICANN's 3-year Joint Project Agreement (JPA) with the U.S. Commerce Department NTIA.
In a move that is likely to attract attention and debate we called for ICANN and the U.N. Internet Governance Forum (IGF) to forge an agreement to institute a bi-annual review and public consultation concerning ICANN’s record and accountability. These ideas will be raised both at the U.S. Commerce Department public meeting February 28 and at the public consultation of the IGF in Geneva February 26.
“We look forward to replacing the JPA with new forms of oversight rooted in the global Internet community,” the comments said. “The IGF is an appropriately neutral, nongovernmental platform for discussion and the development of non-binding reports and recommendations.” Biennial review by the multi-stakeholder IGF would serve as a kind of “soft oversight,” an experimental approach with more international legitimacy than any of the available alternatives.
The JPA, like the Memoranda of Understanding which preceded it, was designed to be a checklist of policy-oriented tasks that must be performed to the US Government’s satisfaction. IGP believes that the JPA has served its purpose in nudging ICANN forward towards more mature governance practices. It is no longer appropriate for the U.S. government to set policy priorities for a global governance institution such as ICANN.
ICANN still has serious accountability problems but it can fix those by instituting five specific reforms, four of which are either already in the works or already being considered. If those tasks are accomplished by September 2009, IGP believes that the JPA should be terminated.
The reforms we call for are as follows:
1. ICANN Supporting Organizations and the At Large Advisory Committee should be empowered to hold a “vote of no confidence” in the Board or the CEO, which would result in the recall of those SO's Board members or the dismissal of the existing CEO and hiring of another.
2. ICANN must complete the process of instituting the reforms in GNSO representational structure proposed by the ICANN Board Governance Committee
3. ICANN must change the Independent Review Procedure to follow the recommendations of the One World Trust report
4. ICANN must allocate a certain portion of ICANN’s budget to the support of a staff/secretariat that reports directly to the Board chairman and is independent of the CEO.
5. ICANN and the UN Internet Governance Forum should agree to conduct a bi-annual review and public consultation concerning ICANN’s record and accountability.
The comments also address the argument, made by a few Washington-based organizations, that the JPA should be continued and leveraged as a way of “protecting the DNS against interference by governments.”
The IANA contract is the real source of ICANN’s authority over the DNS, and the key to U.S. authority over ICANN. Ending the JPA only removes the U.S. from the business of specifying particular policies and practices, which is a good thing. U.S. authority over the IANA function will remain controversial and troublesome to the rest of the world regardless of what happens to the JPA. Trying to use the JPA to expand or extend U.S. authority over the Internet would only make the situation worse.
The complete comments are available on the IGP site: