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ICANN review team: FAIL

Category : ICANN, Internet, Internet governance ยท by Oct 8th, 2010

I’ve sent the following note to ICANN’s Accountability and Transparency Review Team (ATRT) on its own mailing list that it pays no attention to.

I’m frustrated that they have become a part of the problem, rather than the solution. And in reviewing their draft recommendations, you can’t help but be struck by the vagueness, lack of focus, and weak wording. Anyway…


Becoming what you set out to change. In this, you have failed miserably.

Gandhi said: “You must *be the change* you want to see in the world.”

When you put out a call for ATRT members to provide statements of interest in being a member of the team, you received 26 applicants.

Of these, 17 were “endorsed” – although we don’t quite know through what process or why.

Of these 10 were chosen for the team – although we don’t quite know through what process or why.

When Becky Burr was kicked off the team for an apparent conflict of interest that she had declared from day one, the ccNSO replaced her with Chris Disspain – a very able and respected member of the community but not someone who was in the original 26 applicants, or 17 endorsed candidates.

Just this week, Willie Currie has stepped down from his position on the ATRT because he has taken a job with a regulator in his own country. The NCSG part of the GNSO replaced him with Carlos Alfonso – a very able and respected member of the community but not someone who was in the original 26 applicants, or 17 endorsed candidates.

This begs two big questions:

  • What exactly was the point in running a convoluted and largely opaque selection process which chewed up months of the ATRT working time, when members are allowed to be simply replaced by non-applicants chosen by a small group of stakeholders in a process that is unknown? Why were they not replaced with two of the spare seven “endorsed” candidates?
  • Does the ATRT not see how this whole process is neither accountable nor transparent? In fact, the ATRT appears to be simply reflecting the insider culture and status which is behind a very large part of the problems with ICANN’s accountability and transparency – and which the ATRT is supposed to be reviewing.

It may also be worth pointing out that none of the actual work done – the discussions about issues and ways to fix them – have been done out in the open.

None of the decision-making has been transparent. Because no one has been in a position to actually see or hear it.

And neither it is accountable. People are not able to respond to the workflow as it happens; there is no mechanism to do so. So what you will actually do is a publish a large document, put it out for public comment for 30 days and delude yourselves that this represents some kind of accountability.

What you should have realised during the course of your work is that it is *precisely* these working practices that are behind the majority of ICANN’s accountability and transparencies problems.

Unless the ATRT’s cunning plan is to highlight accountability and transparency failings in ICANN by becoming an exact carbon copy of the problems themselves, I am afraid you appear to have not only failed miserably in your job but actually strengthened the culture that makes these problems so difficult to deal with in the first place.

The only thing you need to do to put a cherry on top is to ignore this very clear criticism of the process and your work and possibly pretend you’ve never seen it, rather than look at the fact that it may hold some valid pointers. If you read the submissions made to you by the community, you will find that ignoring comments that don’t fit in with pre-conceived notions is very high on the list of issues they have with ICANN.

However I suspect that almost all the ATRT team will never even see this message because what you did was create a process that gave an appearance of public input and accountability – this email list – and then completely failed to include it into actual discussions, thereby making it worthless.

All that remains for you to do is applaud yourselves for the hard work you have all done. I am hoping you will give yourselves at least 10 minutes at the end of your session in Cartagena to slap yourselves on the back, and the Board should also give you at least two resolution paragraphs thanking you for you have done. You may even get some applause.

Won’t you won’t have done however is to fix the accountability and transparency problems at the heart of ICANN.


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