[ALAC] At-Large: Part of the Private Sector? Part of Civil Society?

Wolf Ludwig wolf.ludwig at comunica-ch.net
Mon Aug 31 21:11:01 UTC 2015

Hello again,

just to underline what I said before, let me tell you a nice anecdote or conversation I recently had in a train. I met the father of my daughter’s best friend over many years. This fellow is highly intelligent, extremely curious but never really understood over the years what I am doing in the context of ICANN. Whenever we meet, he is asking new and more questions about ICANN’s mandate, role, composition, functioning (incl. At-Large and EURALO) and my tiny place or contribution to it – what BTW I deeply appreciate! His opening question or provocation always is: “Wolf, be honest, do you really believe that your time and commitment is worth the effort?”

Over many such conversations I tried to give him a basic picture about ICANN’s role and functioning … Meanwhile it seems he has understood quite a lot. Last time he focused on At-Large / EURALO “representing the user’s interests at ICANN” again. And he said / questioned: “Being a governmental official (what he is) that means, during my working hours I am more or less represented by the GAC and its Swiss representative. Coming home or in my private life, I am just an ordinary consumer or Internet user, like billions of others, represented by you (At-Large).” He added ironically: “This offers some comfort to me because I know I am sort of double and well represented at ICANN in my professional life AND my private sphere!” :-)

To him our claim “representing the user’s interests at ICANN” sounds simply pretentious (what we all know BTW)! Because strictly speaking and in his words and logic again: “If you pretend to represent Internet users at-large (or in total), there wouldn’t be much necessity for a GAC or GNSO etc. any more?” And he fairly assumes that the world incl. ICANN is far more complex ;-)

>From such conversations with alert people and “outsiders” (we want to reach-out, mobilize and include) I have learned that we need to be very and more precise about our terms and specific role – by avoiding any pretentious claims.


 Holly Raiche wrote  Tue, 1 Sep 2015 06:01
>Absolutely agree with the point that both Wolf and Alan are making.  Civil society is a good term - well used and understood. Another term is consumers - clearly distinct from industry and government
>On 1 Sep 2015, at 5:45 am, Wolf Ludwig <wolf.ludwig at comunica-ch.net> wrote:
>> Dear Alan and all,
>> that's a very valid point you raised below -- what BTW created some headaches during and after our recent briefing calls to me.
>> To me, the term and definition of Private Sector is too general and broad (anything besides government). And personally, I do not feel addressed and comfortable being subsumed under this term and category. For many people, I guess, it smells more like private enterprises and business sector.
>> When we usually and repetitious talk about "multi-"stakeholder approach and setup, there should be a bit more than just the Private Sector besides governments. And imprecise and generalizing terms may easily provoke misunderstandings, as we know. 
>> Consequently, when we always and fundamentally refer to the *multi-stakeholder model* at ICANN, we should reflect and list its diversity (at least like the IGF does) -- or add / include the "Voluntary Sector" what comprises individuals as well IMO.
>> My personal preference is still the term Civil Society according to the definitions by Wikipedia or the World Bank (you referred to) what is rather concise. On the other hand, I have (more and more) difficulties with our usual term "Users" what can be misleading again -- as I know from various discussions and remarks -- because generally, people working in / for governments and business employees are Internet users as well. For real outsiders (my neighborhood or the "man in the street") our term and definition of the "User" is not easily comprehensible.
>> Just my 2 cents with
>> regards,
>> Wolf
>> Alan Greenberg wrote Mon, 31 Aug 2015 11:58:
>>> These two questions seem to be coming up regularly. The current draft 
>>> proposal of the CCWG-Accountability refers to ICANN being leg by the 
>>> "Private Sector (as opposed to the Public Sector - Governments), and 
>>> includes us in the Civil society part of the private sector.
>>> Looking at definitions can be useful. There are many of both terms.
>>> The most common definition of the Private Sector says it is 
>>> everything that is not funded or controlled by government. Many 
>>> definitions even explicitly list individuals as part of it. That 
>>> certainly includes us.
>>> Some definitions talk about three groups, the public sector, the 
>>> private sector (referring to for-profit organizations) and the 
>>> "Voluntary Sector". The latter certainly includes the formal parts of 
>>> At-Large, but really leaves individuals, who are no longer part of 
>>> ANY of the sectors.
>>> From my perspective, that means that if we are part of the "Private 
>>> Sector", we better be explicitly listed as such.
>>> I would appreciate hearing how these terms are defined in other 
>>> languages and cultures.
>>> The Wikipedia defines Civil Society as "aggregate of non-governmental 
>>> organizations and institutions that manifest interests and will of 
>>> citizens." Civil society includes the family and the private sphere, 
>>> referred to as the "third sector" of society, distinct from 
>>> government and business.
>>> The World Bank has a more detailed definition: the term civil society 
>>> to refer to the wide array of non-governmental and not-for-profit 
>>> organizations that have a presence in public life, expressing the 
>>> interests and values of their members or others, based on ethical, 
>>> cultural, political, scientific, religious or philanthropic 
>>> considerations. Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) therefore refer to 
>>> a wide of array of organizations: community groups, non-governmental 
>>> organizations (NGOs), labor unions, indigenous groups, charitable 
>>> organizations, faith-based organizations, professional associations, 
>>> and foundations".
>>> In both definitions, Civil Society is listed as essentially being 
>>> defines as groups of one form or another. By those definitions, 
>>> At-large and our components parts are certainly civil society, but 
>>> the individuals whose interests we defend are not part of civil society per se.
>>> Thoughts?
>>> Alan
>> EuroDIG Secretariat
>> http://www.eurodig.org/
>> mobile +41 79 204 83 87
>> Skype: Wolf-Ludwig
>> EURALO - ICANN's Regional At-Large Organisation
>> http://euralo.org
>> Profile on LinkedIn
>> http://ch.linkedin.com/in/wolfludwig
>> _______________________________________________
>> ALAC mailing list
>> ALAC at atlarge-lists.icann.org
>> https://atlarge-lists.icann.org/mailman/listinfo/alac
>> At-Large Online: http://www.atlarge.icann.org
>> ALAC Working Wiki: https://community.icann.org/display/atlarge/At-Large+Advisory+Committee+(ALAC)

EuroDIG Secretariat
mobile +41 79 204 83 87
Skype: Wolf-Ludwig

EURALO - ICANN's Regional At-Large Organisation

Profile on LinkedIn

More information about the ALAC mailing list