Wednesday, 25 June 2008

ICANN does Paris (part une)

Dear "What else is there" bloggers...

This week in Paris is all about ICANN and the discussion have been as controversial as always. ICANN talks legitimacy and transparency, its actions say different and participants try to salvage the remainings of ICANN's recommendations. One issue that has generated a fair amount of controversy has been the recent Westlake Report concerning the role and structure of the At-Large Advisory Committee (ALAC).
Historically, the role of ALAC has been in place to serve two purposes:
(i) to provide an opportunity to individual Internet users for participation in ICANN's activities; and,
(ii) to be a vehicle for ICANN's accountability to the Internet community in accordance with its core values and its bottom-up, consensus-based way of operating.
The aim of the report focused on whether ALAC should exist in ICANN and, if so, whether there are any changes that are required within its structure. The Westlake Report concluded the following:
1. ALAC should continue to contribute actively to ICANN's policy development processes;
2. ICANN's outreach activities must be made consistently relevant to the needs of individual Internet users throughout the world; and
3. ALAC must ensure that it is seen within ICANN as being a valuable component of the total structure.
The report is highly flawed and it does not reflect the organizational problems that are inherent in ICANN. It starts from the wrong premise that ICANN is involved or should be for that matter in policy making and from this perception it seeks to identify the role of ALAC within its structure. Moreover, the report still denies any voting ability for ALAC in ICANN's board, something that lies at the core of individual users' misrepresentation in ICANN. Another issues with reading the report is that the language used seems to be placing the burden of effort to ALAC to ensure that they maintain a significant role within ICANN. The report recognizes that the steps that ICANN has taken thus far are sufficient and that there is a noticeable progress of support that ICANN has provided ALAC. This is not really the case as ICANN has not really substantially changed any of its charters to acknowledge more rights to constituencies such ALAC that merely represent everyday users.
At the same time, Westlake consultants were not able to convince the participants on the Monday session about the conclusions of their report. On the question whether they have considered the prospect of end users having voting powers within the ICANN board, the response was "Now, our review was a review of the At-Large Advisory Committee. Individual Internet users, the question of whether they should vote members of the board, we believe, in fact, bypassed our review, was beyond the scope of our review of the At-Large Advisory Committee". This answer implies that this issue was not even considered and, once again, it proves that even independent reports seem to be not so independent after all and are merely serving ICANN's needs.
Finally, although the report identifies that RALOs do not really correspond to the global population of Internet users and that the Asia-Pacific region is misrepresented, still it failed to mention the implication for African countries and the lack of support that RALOs currently receive from ICANN. 
That is what has been happening in only one of the sessions of the ICANN meeting. The future now of the Westlake report rests on ICANN's board, which I do not see changing its position to offer more rights to individual users or ALAC for that matter. The conclusions are yours.

To be continued.....

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