A wonderful thing is happening on the ICANN public comment board. Public interest groups from all over the world have mobilized to express support for the NCUC charter proposal. What seemed to be an obscure procedural issue months ago has attracted worldwide attention. Civil society groups are objecting strongly to the ICANN management's attempt to manipulate and control its allegedly “bottom up” policy making structures. These are not your standard two-line ICANN public comments, “I support this, I hate that.” These are not your usual commenters, the same ICANN insiders who have held the same positions in the GNSO for 10 years. The entries are from new people, many of the comments are unusually long and articulate, and motivated by a sense of disbelief and injustice.
The IGP filed comments today in ICANN's second proceeding on GNSO Stakeholder Group Charters. In its comments IGP identified both substantive issues in the revised NCSG charter proposal drafted by ICANN policy staff, as well as procedural flaw in ICANN's proceeding. In light of these concerns, IGP asked that ICANN immediately drop its attempt to impose its revised NCSG charter proposal, and instead reinstate the original Noncommercial Stakeholder Group (NCSG) charter proposal submitted by the NCUC for consideration by the Board.
A few days ago we described the discrimination and barriers ICANN’s Board and staff have unjustly placed on civil society representation in ICANN. In a reply on our blog, ICANN’s Director of Public Participation, Kieren McCarthy, made an attempt to be constructive. After implying that hundreds of thousands of people should be actively involved in the GNSO, he stated, “Now if you want my help in getting those people in, just ask – that's my job after all. But I've never been asked by anyone in ICANN …to help them go get more people. I'd be happy to do so.”
The Obama administration is making security a high priority. However, prioritizing security goes contrary to Internet privatization, multi-stakeholderism, civil society, and even international cooperation.
A little-noticed outcome of the Sydney ICANN meeting (overshadowed by the excitement surrounding the selection of its new CEO) was a shockingly flagrant display of how arbitrary and unfair ICANN can be. A year ago a Board Governance Committee recommended, and the full Board adopted, a proposal to give civil society and commercial user interests the same number of votes (6) on the GNSO Council. The action was intended to correct what was widely perceived as an indefensibly unfair distribution of votes, in which trademark/ commercial interests were given nine votes and noncommercial interests only three. The rebalancing was first proposed in an independent, expert evaluation of the GNSO by the London School of Economics, and later endorsed by the Board. A July 2008 GNSO committee – which included representatives of the trademark and commercial users – also endorsed the idea of representational parity.
But when faced with the prospect of equal representation of commercial and noncommercial user interests, the commercial user groups revolted. Having lost the fight against parity on principle grounds, they shifted tactics and “went negative,” claiming that the Noncommercial Users Constituency was not “representative enough” and did not warrant additional representation. The staff and Board were inundated with non-stop criticism of this sort for months. Numerous threats about withdrawing from the GNSO were made.
And yet, in Sydney the Board's Structural Improvements Committee turned a deaf ear to the vibrant new participation and caved in to the incessant pressure of the commercial interests. Two decisions, almost unbelievable in the degree to which they discriminate against civil society and completely ignore public comments, emerged from the Sydney meeting.