Digital Agenda for Europe
A Europe 2020 Initiative

ICANN RESPONSE TO INTERNET GOVERNANCE CONSULTATION

Discussion

The Internet Corporation on Assigned Names and Numbers is honoured to have the opportunity to contribute to this important dialogue. Governance of the Internet • Is there a need to move toward one global principle-based framework? The world agreed on one global principle-based framework – the ‘Tunis Agenda’ – through the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS). This has proved to be a robust framework and has acted as the basis for the global debate on Internet governance. The framework described in the Tunis Agenda set forth principles for Internet governance, the roles of stakeholders, thematic areas of focus, and processes through which to realize the growth of the Information Society. These still stand today and shape our understanding of what is meant by the term ‘Internet governance’. However, no single set of principles stands alone. The Tunis Agenda should be read alongside other international agreements developed over the last ten years that have fostered a dynamic and evolving set of related frameworks. Continued interest in developing multilateral principles such as the OECD’s Principles for Internet Policy-Making and the Council of Europe Declaration on Internet Governance Principles as well as more regional and issue-specific principles such as APEC’s Privacy Framework, signal strong interest in creating a dynamic compendium of best practices on which stakeholders can draw. These various efforts highlight the need for nuanced frameworks through which to filter the myriad of issues involved in Internet governance and cyberspace writ large. ICANN welcomes the evolution of dialogue around Internet governance, including the on-going review of established frameworks to ensure their continued relevance. ICANN participates in a number of governance strands in a variety of institutional venues, and does not believe that there is any benefit or requirement in developing an additional formal structure to debate or develop principles. The number of governance strands is less important than the way in which each conducts its work – ICANN believes robust multistakeholder consultation and direct participation is critical to ensuring that deliberations are well-informed and produce the best possible outcomes for strengthening Internet governance. • Are we on the right track towards a system of governance on an equal footing? ICANN strongly believes that deepening and broadening the multistakeholder model is the only way to ensure a system of governance where all stakeholders can engage on an equal footing. The most impressive aspect of the multistakeholder system of Internet governance is its flexibility to address challenges as they arise, and we are confident that it will successfully address the current set of concerns relating to Internet governance. Within ICANN, a number of initiatives are underway to facilitate stakeholder participation on an equal footing. Examples include the growth of ICANN’s Government Advisory Committee (GAC) that now includes nearly 130 governments and over 25 observers. The GAC’s own processes and its interaction with ICANN continue to evolve as well to ensure diverse and representative participation and decision-making. ICANN has pioneered systems to consider the views of stakeholders on an equal footing within its various consultative organs. For example, the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) gathers the views from a wide variety of industry and non-industry constituencies, all of which are open to participation, and which have and will continue to evolve to meet stakeholder interests. ICANN maintains a diverse set of additional Advisory Committees and Bodies that relay input from the technical community and civil society, and the Country Code Name Supporting Organization (ccNSO) provides an important perspective of national top-level country registries into ICANN’s policy processes. The strength of ICANN lies in the multistakeholder nature of its consultative processes, all of which continue to adapt to the shifting needs of the domain name system and its technical management. Outside ICANN, various institutions with interests in Internet governance have developed ways to incorporate the views of stakeholders, and these too continue to evolve to provide platforms for stakeholder engagement. For example, ITU is taking its first steps to allow more diverse groups of stakeholders to engage in its discussions on Internet issues. The Internet Governance Forum continues to shine as an example of strong participation on equal footing, and national and regional level IGFs have also forged new consultative mechanisms that bear positively on equitable engagement. • Does the process of internationalization of ICANN go far enough? ICANN’s internationalization continues to proceed. ICANN’s hub offices in Singapore and Istanbul are operational, and sit alongside Los Angeles as the headquarters of ICANN; we have also established new Engagement Offices in Beijing, Geneva, and Montevideo. Additionally, ICANN either has, or is implementing regional engagement strategies in all Regions. By listening to the views of stakeholders, and developing targeted regional strategies, we aim to bolster the participation and engagement of stakeholders in ICANN from previously under-represented countries and constituencies. We have taken great strides to make ICANN processes open and transparent. Alongside existing and new participatory structures, there is a robust set of accountability mechanisms within ICANN. The mechanisms through which ICANN achieves accountability and transparency are built into every level of its organization and mandate – beginning with its Bylaws, detailed in its Accountability and Transparency Frameworks and Principles (adopted by ICANN's Board in 2008) and annually reinforced in its Strategic and Operational Plan. Furthermore, improving ICANN's accountability and transparency is an on-going priority of our organization's regular Organizational Reviews. These accompany required periodic assessment by community review teams of ICANN's progress toward ensuring accountability, transparency, and the interests of global Internet users under ICANN’s Affirmation of Commitments. Various mechanisms to hold ICANN accountable are readily available to any stakeholder, including governments. These include the ICANN Ombudsman, Reconsideration process, and Independent Review. We are aware that some believe that the internationalization of ICANN does not go far enough, and we are entering into dialogue with those parties to help ameliorate their concerns. The recent announcement by Brazil that they will hold a conference on Internet governance in April 2014 provides another opportunity for all stakeholders to present their views on how ICANN can further internationalize and develop a roadmap for the future. • How can a move from unilateral to multilateral accountability be realized? ICANN is committed to enabling a multistakeholder accountability structure. We are listening to all stakeholders and taking note of their comments. While there is broad agreement that ICANN should end its existing unilateral accountability to the US Government, details of an alternative model are still under discussion. At the IGF in Bali, ICANN was involved, along with others, in forming a coalition of stakeholders who will play a central role in developing initial drafts of discussion papers to help the multistakeholder community to debate how ICANN evolves its accountability. ICANN will also take note of the outputs from the upcoming conference in Brazil, and the outcome of the on-going ‘WSIS+10’ review process. It is critical that any shift in accountability does not imperil the multistakeholder model or the ‘One Internet’ principle. It may take time for a new model to be fully realized and implemented - ICANN are committed to ensuring that all stakeholders have the opportunity to have their views heard - but this is to be preferred over a rushed approach that could lead to a fragmentation of the Internet, and a future where a number of different internets operate in separate silos. • How do you see the role of governments within the GAC? The Government Advisory Committee (GAC) plays a critical role in the governance of ICANN. The chair of the GAC also has a seat on the Board of ICANN to ensure that the voice of governments is heard and understood. ICANN’s bylaws require that GAC advice be considered directly by ICANN’s Board of Directors, a requirement that recognizes the important role of governments in policymaking around the Internet’s system of unique identifiers. Furthermore, an invigorated ‘scorecard’ process to absorb and respond to GAC advice through ICANN’s new generic top-level domain (gTLDs) program demonstrates a commitment to ensuring government’s role on an equal footing. At the same time, ICANN recognizes that these processes are dynamic and should be responsive to concerns governments may have about their voice within ICANN. We continue to broker conversations with governments about how to improve its own consultative processes, as well as the related, overarching structures of Internet governance that affect government involvement in ICANN. Some of the concerns raised about the GAC come from a lack of understanding of its role within ICANN. Unlike in many other fora, governments do not have the final say on all policy issues. The multistakeholder model allows all stakeholders an equal voice and an equal say in decision-making. While the status of GAC members as representatives of their countries gives them a special status – as demonstrated by the unique requirement for the Board to respond to GAC advice – it remains an “advisory” body, with the ultimate decision taken by the Board. Architecture Matters • Do such calls pose a risk to the ‘One Internet’ principle? Calls to ‘withdraw inside national Internet borders’ do pose a risk to the ‘One Internet’ principle and clearly misunderstand the purpose of the Internet. The Internet has evolved as a decentralized network of networks, with no single organization having the ability to radically alter the nature of the Internet. The ability to share information with stakeholders around the world in an instant has changed how we do business and interact socially. It has also allowed ideas about human rights to be spread around the world. However, calls for the ‘diversification of physical infrastructure’ are to be applauded. The Internet is as strong as its weakest link, as is shown whenever undersea cables are cut connecting parts of Asia with the rest of the world, temporarily limiting access to the rest of the Internet. Laying additional cables, encouraging the deployment of mobile broadband and hosting more content locally - through projects such as locally supported IXPs – are all examples of recent efforts to develop new Internet infrastructure that will increase the robustness of the Internet. • To what extent are the current debates on Internet governance sufficiently focusing on who controls key physical and logical resources (e.g. where does the majority of the traffic go to, who controls major Internet exchange points, how do key standardization efforts influence the balance of power among stakeholders?) The location of key physical and logical resources should not be the key focus of this debate. Instead, the focus should be on supporting the development of local content and local IXPs to both reduce the reliance of a country on others for access to content, and reduce the number of Internet access bottlenecks. Users on the Internet crave local content, and the creation of local Internet infrastructure and local content will necessarily drive users to access infrastructure within their own geography. ICANN is supportive of the work of the IETF in standardization efforts, and of the ability for all interested parties to attend and engage with its meetings. The IETF has worked hard to engage stakeholders from developing countries, and while more can certainly be done to communicate the work of the IETF and other technical organizations to the lay person, the direction of travel is positive. ICANN does not believe that ITU has a role in developing Internet standards. While it can play an important role in helping to disseminate IETF standards more broadly, its lack of multistakeholder engagement means that it does not have access to the leading experts, making it impossible to develop standards that are in-line with global best-practice. • How can the risk be limited that separate network infrastructures co-exist or can be isolated from one another, thus undermining the One Internet principle. The Internet operates as a network of networks, with each network operator having the choice of which networks they choose to share data with. We believe that by maintaining the multistakeholder principle, and emphasizing the importance of an open and transparent decision-making process, we have our best chance of maintaining the One Internet principle. The Multi-stakeholder Approach • Do you think that the current multi-stakeholder model has enough legitimacy – both regarding process and stakeholders – given the fundamental impact of the Internet on our societies? The Internet is recognized as playing an influential role on an increasing number of societies, and it is appropriate that its governance should also reflect those societies. The multistakeholder model is the best way to ensure a broad and representative body of stakeholders are involved in the decision-making process, rather than a narrow political or commercial elite. Now more than ever the multistakeholder model is in need of active proponents, to resist pressure from some quarters to turn Internet governance over to multilateral fora where only governments can participate in a decision making process. The multistakeholder model is implemented in different ways by different organizations, and there should not be a single model. However, the principles of transparency, balance and inclusion, and accountability you include in your letter are principles that ICANN supports and implements in its own work. • How can capture of the process by vested interests be prevented? The multistakeholder model presents the best opportunity of avoiding vested interests capturing the process. By ensuring that organizations involved in Internet-related policy making are transparent and open in their discussions and decision-making processes, all stakeholders will have an equal opportunity to engage and avoid a single group of interests capturing the process. • Where does the model need to be improved? No model will ever be perfect. ICANN realizes that many people have concerns with the existing design of the multistakeholder model and continues to engage with stakeholders through its Strategy Panels and Accountability and Transparency Review Team to ensure that the its implementation of the multistakeholder model is open to scrutiny, and suggestions for improvement. We also set up ad-hoc committees to review specific issues raised by stakeholders to ensure that swift solutions are found to pressing concerns. We believe that there should also be a focus on organizations where the multistakeholder model has not been fully implemented. An organization that uses the term ‘multistakeholder’ should allow all stakeholders to engage in both debates, and the decision-making process. The Internet as a Legal Space • In your view, is the current framework of international law sufficiently suited to the Internet? ICANN operates within the legal jurisdictions where it is resident. We watch legal debates with interest and are happy to provide our input where requested. • How do you think that discussions and solutions to these challenges should be designed? ICANN participates in conferences around the world on a wide range of Internet-related policy issues, as well as listening to all stakeholders at the regular ICANN meetings. Many legal challenges facing the Internet are discussed, and solutions presented for discussion. We will continue to allow ICANN to be used as a forum for stakeholders to discuss all Internet-related issues. Our main concern is that solutions are developed within the existing multistakeholder framework. Only if all stakeholders are allowed to participate and engage with the decision-making process on an equal footing will we be able to clearer identify where the challenges lie, and the appropriate solutions identified.

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