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Is ICANN’s independent review dead in the water?

Category : ICANN, Internet, Internet governance, Journalism · by Sep 29th, 2010

I have avoided the meetings of the Accountability and Transparency Review Team (ATRT) into ICANN for a few months because it was so incredibly frustrating to listen to 60 minutes of people organising hotel rooms in different parts of the world while the ICANN Board and staff ran rings around them.

But the meeting popped up while I was in front of my computer this afternoon so I decided to listen in. The 90-minute scheduled meeting lasted just over 30, and nothing was discussed except for organising its next trip – to Boston this time – and what sort of meeting the ATRT would have with the Board when the review team is on the final leg of its international tour of pointlessness in Cartagena in December.

While this was going on I noted a new document had appeared called CA-Corp-Law. It’s a PDF so I downloaded it and read it and it comes from ICANN Board/General Counsel. You can download it here [pdf]. And it states that ICANN is *legally* obliged to never allow a process that forces the Board to act. I then spent the next 15 minutes trying, and failing, to get the review team to discuss the fact that its entire work product had no weight whatsoever in ICANN’s eyes.

I thought the ATRT was dead in the water before this point. But now that the team won’t even discuss the fact that it is wasting its time, I think it’s pretty certain that the fearless wolf of review has been beaten, neutered and house-trained and that being forced to recognise that it is also toothless was too much for it to bear.

The ATRT is a dud. ICANN’s accountability problems will remain. Next time this issue explodes, it may take ICANN down with it.

Here’s a copy of the chatroom for the meeting. You may be able to sense my frustration:

Alice Jansen 2: Good evening James!
James Bladel: Hello. joining the bridge now.
James Bladel: lovely hold music….
Alice Jansen 2: :)
CLO: Hi all
CLO: James you still on hold?
James Bladel: No, I’m on mute
CLO: ahh
Erick Iriarte: hi
Kieren McCarthy: I saw that the second document basically says that the ICANN Board is legally obliged not to listen to you
Kieren McCarthy: Yes, I am being facetious but you would think that the Board would have mentioned the fact it doesn’t feel obliged to listen to ATRT recommendations before now
Louie Lee: I think the group understands that the final recommendations would not be legally binding.
Louie Lee: But since the review teams have the backing of a contract, the recommendations would have some weight behind them
Kieren McCarthy: A little unusual that ICANN feels the need to point this out to the review team in the middle of its work
Kieren McCarthy: Also unusual that earlier the ICANN Board felt that the review team didn’t understand the AoC
Kieren McCarthy: And unusual that ICANN staff lobbied the review team to drop its choice of independent reviewer
Kieren McCarthy: A little unusual that the Board withheld a budget for the review team’s work
Kieren McCarthy: Certainly unusual that a member of the ATRT team was removed
Kieren McCarthy: Is the Independent review team into ICANN’s accountability and transparency going to mention all these unusual events? I really hope you find the confidence to do so
Louie Lee: Put together these signs seem to point to something, yeah. :) But we did ask for legal clarification since we were last chatting about the Independent Review and the ombudsman role.
Louie Lee: WG#4
Kieren McCarthy: I am assuming that the legal document provided that says no matter what process ICANN creates it will never have legal weight was produced by ICANN’s own lawyers?
Kieren McCarthy: Would it not make sense to have an independent party review whether that legal opinion?
Kieren McCarthy: Seems like a pretty huge accountability review issue to me
Louie Lee: (brb)
Erick Iriarte: alice a problem with the conexion?
Erick Iriarte: i lost the sound
CLO: SOund was / is very low for me too especially from Brian
Kieren McCarthy: It’s probably worthwhile pointing out that during the .xxx IRP, iCANN made several arguments based on California law that were subsequently dismissed by the eminent panellists
Alice Jansen 2: I ll inform the operator – apologies for the inconvenience
Erick Iriarte: fine now
Kieren McCarthy: Rather than discuss the style of meeting at an ICANN meeting, maybe the Review Team’s limited time would be better spent discussing whether it’s entire work product will be given sufficient respect and review
CLO: We will be producing a product that we expect to be jusged and respected on its merit Keiren our work product will need to stand up to several tests and reviews from community and the Board but wondering ‘if, what & maybe” I doubt is actually a productive use of our time here rather we’ll put out a product we are happy and willing to stand by for all of its intended audience(s)
Kieren McCarthy: But you have been given a document in the middle of your process that says the Board feels it has a legal right to ignore anything you recommend. *Surely* that is a huge accountability issue?
James Bladel: Why wouldn’t that be expectd during the comment period?
Kieren McCarthy: You are relying on the community to do your work

[ends]

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(2) comments

James Bladel
4 years ago ·

For clarification:

My last statement was not directed at your comments, Kieren, but to the speaker (CLO) on the call.

J.

kierenmccarthy
4 years ago ·

@James: Ah, okay. So do you share my pessimistic assessment that you have all been wasting your time?

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