It is time for ICANN to walk the talk of accountability and stop playing the lame duck

Adding Africa to the Case:

ICANN has long been the greatest promoter of the Multi Stakeholder process where every upcoming development issue was managed in a bottom up process.

However having been interested in the New gTLD game, and blogging about it since it started, I was just beginning to start questioning ICANN’s accountability and transparency issues when I think my suspicion was validated with a report covered by the new internet report  titled Walking the Talk: ICANN must address its Accountability Meltdown. The author writes:

“Looking back over the record, we find ourselves increasingly alarmed. ICANN the corporation has jettisoned all pretense of bottom up policy development. Its staff has taken direct control of most essential policy decisions. Its board is clearly impotent: its members take no collective initiative and their decision making and access to information is guided and channeled completely by the staff, the CEO and the Chairman. Far from distancing itself from unilateral oversight, the US government increasingly makes ICANN a tool of its own global diplomacy.”

Alarming Issues:

The alarming issues around accountability have been affecting ICANN’s abilities to perform as a central and transparent body guarding and governing the internet root.  It’s apparent that the increased problems of Conflict of interest issue or lack of it thereof has been handed over generations of leadership in this organization. When ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom was addressing the ICANN 43 in Costa Rica he said

  “ICANN must be able to act for the public good while placing commercial and financial interests in the appropriate context,”  and continued that “How can it do this if all top leadership is from the very domain name industry it is supposed to coordinate independently?”

He also noted that

 “There is value in having community members with domain name industry experience but it is equally valuable to avoid even the perception of a conflict of interest,”

Seven Conflicted ICANN Directors:

Here its reported that  in the previous board meeting seven directors – including chair Steve Crocker and vice-chair Bruce Tonkin – excused themselves from a new gTLDs discussion due to conflict.

When the New CEO Fade took over as ICANN he specifically noted that

“ICANN cannot become a fortress. ICANN must become an oasis” he continued that “I will be very transparent, super transparent. Is there a bigger word? Extra transparent. It’s very important that I remain — this is an oasis model. I have to be very transparent.”

Dr Steve Crocker, ICANN Board Chairman

Start from Dr. Crocker, a Must Go!

Well it has not been apparent that transparency but its notable that the same board Chaired by Dr. Crocker even in his conflicts has continued to serve, so how could ICANN begin on a clean slate?

The blog continues to attack the multistakeholder model  that Chehade remarked saying “Multi-stakeholder models require patience … but I believe this process is nearly sacred,” . The report goes on to state that

  “ In order to do this it must subordinate bottom up policy making to top-down political games it plays out in the Governmental Advisory Committee and in private conversations with ICANN’s CEO and Board chair. Appeals to “the multistakeholder model” and “bottom up policy development” are now nothing more than cynical rhetoric, propaganda in the global diplomacy wars with the ITU and other states. In reality, ICANN and its growing financial resources are seen as a tool of top-down Internet governance diplomacy led by the U.S., a role that is diverging farther and farther from ICANN’s core mission of coordinating a secure and stable domain name system.”

Sample .africa, a victim of COI:

Several applications have fallen victim to the handling of familiar friends in the ICANN core and it’s not a secret that ICANN is not about to address these Conflict of Interest issues that have seriously damaged the processing of new gTLD applications.

Sample this, in Africa, where I am closely following and reporting, even before the applications for new gTLD round had been processed for instance, DotConnectAfrica gravely advised and warned ICANN giving adduced reasons

 “to justify fears that Mr. Mike Silber and Mr. Chris Disspain might be deeply conflicted over the DotAfrica (.Africa) gTLD issue, and how this would cause them to be strongly prejudiced against DCA’s application because of their relationship to a competing applicant for DotAfrica (.Africa). We had requested that to avoid any Conflict of Interest, Mr. Mike Silber and Mr. Chris Disspain should recuse themselves from participating in any future Board-level, Executive-level or Committee-level discussions and or decisions regarding any of the .AFRICA (dotAfrica) gTLD application(s) submitted to ICANN.” 

ICANN took its sweet time and never actually addressed the issue until more letters had been sent. This resulted to an investigation that according to the ICANN ombudsman charged with neutrally managing such issues, he then considered that

“no disqualifying conflict of interest or indeed any conflict of interest at all, is present in the actions of both Chris Disspain and Mike Silber. It is likely this complaint has led to increased awareness of the possibilities of conflict of interest, which the Board will carefully consider in terms of the existing policy about conflict, when the issue arises. I consider this should continue to be a matter for consideration in gTLD decision making by the Board.”

 As it turned out Mike Silber would later stay through meetings that discussed the .africa issue, and to bring this upto speed, as part of the New gTLD decision making committee, passed a Resolution (No. 2013.06.04.NG01) that nearly killed the DCA .africa application.

As if not enough, the Board Governance Committee which Mike and Chris also sit Resolved that same Resolution stating, “the New gTLD Program Committee adopts the BGC Recommendation on Reconsideration Request 13-4,” How can ICANN ever redeem itself from causing injurious damage to thousands of dollars of investment by companies who rely on ICANN to transparently manage the process without favoritism?

It is time for ICANN to walk the talk of accountability and stop playing the lame duck.

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