ICANN 55: how history is being made. Personal impressions.

By Tatiana Tropina

There is no right time to write a blog post on your personal impressions about important landmarks achieved at the ICANN meetings. During the meeting you have no time for anything than reflecting the history in your twitter feed, because you want to take part in history-making process. After the meeting you are catching up with your day-to-day work, which you have to put aside for a week… and still digesting your impressions. And then the wheels of history keep moving, and you have to reconsider again, what kind of importance the meeting you attended had in between the “past” and the “future” of ICANN.

All the memorable moments of the ICANN meetings are, of course, going though the prism of one’s personal interests and agenda. It is impossible to attend all of the gazillion of sessions listed in the ICANN meeting schedule. And did anyone mention that the sessions of one’s interest could overlap? To my greatest regret, some of the meetings that are directly related to my professional expertise conflicted in the ICANN meeting schedule: like some privacy-related or law enforcement-related sessions were scheduled at the same time human rights-related meetings. Hard choice. Furthermore, one specific issue can be discussed on different days within different sessions or stakeholder groups. Thus, instead of just listing my ICANN experience based on day-to-day schedule, I would rather provide some of my impressions based on issues that were of my particular interest.

CCWG Accountability proposal approval

Thousands of emails, hundreds of virtual meetings, three draft reports: the development of the CCWG Accountability proposal has been a long and exhausting process for many who participated in it. Getting the proposal approved at the ICANN 55 was perceived as a very important milestone in IANA transition and it wouldn’t be overestimating to say that the approval itself was historical.

The fist positive votes came from the SSAC and the ASO, with ALAC following on Tuesday of the ICANN meeting week; and GAC issuing statement of non-objection for the proposal to go forward and confirming its participation in the “empowered community mechanism as a decisional participant, under conditions to be determined internally”. The same statement, however, expressed the lack of consensus on the Recommendation 11 of the proposal. The document from GAC was issued after many hours of fierce debates with several governments of the countries submitting minority statement, expressing the “extreme disappointment” with some of the proposals of CCWG Accountability report.

No less intriguing, due to the diversity of the councilors’ opinions, was the process of the GNSO approval of the proposal on Wednesday of the ICANN 55 meeting. While GNSO passed report as a whole, several particular recommendations raised the objection from the councilors. Thus, while some of the accountability recommendations went through as a package, others, especially related to GAC powers, required individual voting with objections raised by Non-Commercial Stakeholder Group members. The final step came on Wednesday in the late afternoon, when the last chartering organisation – ccNSO – approved the proposal with two abstentions. The moment when the room was full of green voting cards felt like a big relief: the milestone in IANA transition was passed.

Witnessing the process of approval felt exactly like watching history being made, especially for those who have been involved into the work on development of the proposal. As someone who participated in the process of “sausage making” and in accountability discussions, I (as some of the other NCUC members) am not fully happy with all of its content; however, I assume this is what true consensus means. The most important message of the development and approval of this document is that ICANN, as a community, showed that it is mature enough to reach consensus on many important issues. This does prove that the community can take charge of running the Internet without the US government oversight. There is still hard work ahead with regard to accountability: some of the issues were moved to the so-called Workstream 2, which is intended to focus on the issues of jurisdiction, transparency, interpretation of the human rights commitment bylaw, and others. However, the landmark was achieved in Marrakech: the accountability proposal and IANA Stewardship proposal are complete.

Human rights: CCWP on ICANN’s Corporate and Social Responsibility to Respect Human Rights (CCWP-HR)

Between ICANN 54th and 55th meetings, the members of the CCWP-HR have been working tirelessly on many issues, including the insertion of the bylaw language on ICANN commitments to respect human rights into the CCWG-Accountability proposal and on suggesting the framework for human rights impact assessment for ICANN. While the bylaw language reflected in the final draft of the CCWG-Accountability proposal represents a compromised between opinions of the different members of the ICANN community and the ICANN Board, the fact that this language made it way to the proposal has already been a big step forward for the community, and NCUC members and CCWP-HR provided a great input into this work.

As on of the many contributors to the CCWP-HR on-going work, I was more than pleased to see how well the public session of this working party was attended and how good the discussions between different parts of the community and also ICANN board members went. Taking into account that the CCWG-accountability proposal includes the bylaw on the commitment of the ICANN to respect human rights, the CCWP has a great deal of job to accomplish in being a cross-community «hub» for discussing different human-rights related issued and providing the possible input not only to the Workstream 2 of the accountability work, but to various policy development processes. Furthermore, a very constructive dialogue between CCWP-HR and GAC Working Group on human rights at the additional joint session confirmed that the work is being undertaken through different processes within the ICANN community. Last but not least, the working session of the CCWP-HR reflected the work being done so far and restructured the group, merging some of the activities into several new subgroups: research, policy and accountability.

Hint: call for volunteers to join the CCWP-HR is always open, so one can easily join and contribute any time.

NCUC/NCSG sessions.

I am a relative newbie at the NCUC – I joined the constituency only half a year ago, shortly before the ICANN 54 meeting in Dublin, though I attended several NCUC sessions at the ICANN meetings before that. The constituency day was one of the real highlights of my time at the ICANN 55 – it is great too meet newcomers and old friends during this day; it is inspiring to see the interest in the NCUC activities from the ICANN newcomers and the local community. This is where one realises how much of the coverage of different issues NCUC members provide within the ICANN: processes related to gTLDs, privacy in general and privacy-related issues of Next-Generation gTLD Registration Directory Service in particular, transparency, accountability, human rights, diversity, to name but a few. I still remember my first ICANN meeting and how I was struggling with answering the question “what is there for me?” I wish I had attended such a meeting as NCUC session in Marrakech in my early days of ICANN, because it does answer this question, and, moreover, gives a very inspiring feeling that NCUC can be “your” community for working on many issues and that you can take part in the history being made.

Oh, and Fadi leaving ICANN…

…with the new CEO Göran Marby stepping in and promising us that Swengish is a new English for ICANN communications. Not exactly the issue I personally dealt with (except learning how to find the letter ö on my keyboard), but a kind of milestone and may be a turning point, right?

Beyond ICANN 55: be a part of day-to-day process

I believe that ICANN 55 meeting in Marrakech was a historical one. Who would question the importance of the approval of the CCWG-Accountability proposal by chartering organisation and the ICANN Board? Who would say that the moment one CEO steps down is not a milestone in the ICANN history?

However, I think that the most significant moments are those happening before and after the meetings, in the process of hard work of the community. Which include thousands of emails, hours of calls, numerous attempts to find solutions, and – at the end – reaching consensus. A kind of compromise, when everyone has to pull back and give something away; an agreement, that might make no one happy – but allows everyone to move forward. Such consensus is one of the most important personal lessons I learnt both from the ICANN 55 meeting and from working within the ICANN community.

I would like to sincerely thank NCUC for providing me with the financial opportunity to attend ICANN 55. Even more important for me is all the support and encouragement I got from NCUC community members before, during and after the ICANN 55, while I was trying to provide my small input into the history being made. Meeting like-minded people, working with like-minded people and reconciling the differences with people, who are not like-minded: this should have been one of the issues to be listed on the top of my ICANN 55 impressions. Attending ICANN meeting as a part of the NCUC community is a very inspiring experience, and I am very much looking forward to providing further input into the ICANN processes as the NCUC member.

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