[At-Large] ICANN oversight

parminder parminder at itforchange.net
Sun Oct 11 07:57:44 UTC 2015

Thanks to all who have engaged with this discussion.

I will try and pull together my response in a single email.

I see two kinds of responses. One, from what I understand are people who
seem to be close to leadership positions in ALAC, which centre on the
argument that a membership model as currently proposed by the CCWG is
likely to (further?) put ICANN processes in control of powerful
commercial interests, especially of the DN industry. The second set of
responses are from those who are relatively on the periphery of the ALAC
power structure, or at least seem to like to identify themselves as so.
The main proposition here is: they are outraged but feel helpless, and
have sort of given up. In any case, for them, the matter may not be of
that great an importance.

Before I respond to these two kinds of responses, which appear rather
opposed to one another and strange to be coming from the same group
which fact itself suggests some level of dysfunctionality of the group,
I may summarily observe that one thing that is common to the two is that
they both represent a rather problematic abdication of responsibility by
a group that is officially the representative of the users and the 'real
Internet community' in the ICANN system. If one is abdicating, one
should do it properly by declaring so and vacating the space. This
abdication however proceeds without vacating the space. And for people
and groups to both keep occupying the 'representative spaces' and
abdicating responsibility at the same time is a double whammy that I
find very worrisome. More about that later, but let me first respond
separately to the two kinds of arguments.

First about the argument that a membership based model as currently
proposed is such that it will lead to capture of ICANN processes by DN
industry related commercial interests. Very interesting! And I wholly
agree with the spirit behind it.... But my question to Olivier and Alan,
and others who support thier contention, is simple and straightforward;
how do you then accept the fact that the most important policy work - as
the most political pubic function -  that ICANN does, which is GTLD
related policy development, is done by the same group which you now say
is captured by commercial interests. I havent ever heard you opposing
that fundamental pillar of ICANN - but please do correct me if I am
wrong. (In fact, the biggest screw up under the influence of commercial
interests that the GNSO ever did which was about allowing 'closed
generics' which was never appropriately opposed by ALAC.)

Can you please explain how are you fine with the same group (commercial
interests captured, as per you, and I agree) can undertake domain name
policy development, but it is not ok for that group, in association with
ALAC and GAC (two groups which, whatever their other faults, certainly
serve to balance against commercial interests), to undertake oversight
over the board, which is supposed to be a role that gets activated only
in exceptional circumstances, and by design is supposed to just keep
people with executive power on their toes rather than be acting often.
Preferably, they never need to act, as US did not, I mean mostly, which
does not mean that the oversight hang was not there, and not doing its

Making the question shorter to be clear: How are you ok with commercial
capture of a/the policy making function in iCANN, but not of the same
groups (esp GNSO) associating with others in an oversight role?

In any case, if indeed you do think the Board needs oversight, and it
should be by a group that is as closely representative as possible of
the global public or the Internet community, rather than commercial
interest dominated, lets first agree on these principles. Do we agree?
And then from there arrive at what we want, and what the ALAC should
seek. Since a membership based model is so much more public (and thus
closer to ownership by the internet community - I mean the real one)
than a board-centric corporate model, we should certainly be asking for
a membership based structure, but seek a different way of populating
that membership. Let ALAC develop a position on that, and it is indeed
the responsibility of the people in ALAC's leadership positions to guide
ALAC towards such a position. Representing those who are outside the
relevant power configuration, in this case ordinary Internet users, is
almost a sacred responsibility, and it does not get fulfilled by
opposing proposals that cause at least some dispersal of power citing
obscure, unsubstantiated, reasons, which simply do not square.

I myself want a membership structure for ICANN oversight that goes
towards new innovations that can include ordinary Internet users in some
way, as much as practically possible. The ALAC structure if properly
developed seem the best candidate for it. Lets be bold and propose what
we want to propose, rather than getting caught in power shenanigans. I
am ready to work with you on this. Let the ALAC community assert itself.
It may look powerless but that is because it has made itself so... It is
in my view the most powerful part of ICANN if we really look towards and
connect to where its power and legitimacy comes from - the people,
rather than getting bogging down in high power games, and manipulative
handling of those who exercise power, and repeatedly keep expressing
powerlessness... And if not upto this challenge, vacate the space, say
ALAC is structurally not working - ALAC cannot keep giving the ICANN
system the legitimacy that it professes vis a vis the global Internet

This already brings me to my reply to the other kind of responses that
my provocation evoked - of helplessness, desperation and dis-interest.
But dear sirs, you are ocuppying the ALAC space and providing the ICANN
system its most important source of legitimacy. You have the power, you
just do not exercise it. Do you think civil society groups fighting
climate injustice, trade and intellectual property injustice, disability
and gender injustice, and so on, have a less challanging job than yours.
But I never hear them say things that I hear from you - we have given
up, and even, now mostly see it all as a some kind of entertainment.
This last is almost blasphemous to say - you are in this on the behalf
of the most powerless in the world, and the work that you are abdicating
involves power dis-balances and the opportunity to correct them. 

Lastly, those who most surprisingly claim that these issues are simply
not important enough should then tell others why do they spend time on
this area at all... By default they are legitimising a system, why then
they are doing it. Let people do work they think is important, and they
can usefully contribute to, and leave the space of representation of the
interests of ordinary Internet users in global Internet governance
regimes to those who consider work in this area as important from a
public interest point of view, and are ready to take up the needed struggle.

No personal offence to anyone please, I am making an entirely general
political argument, for reasons that I consider important enough to
devote some of my time to pursing them.


On Sunday 11 October 2015 04:17 AM, Alan Greenberg wrote:
> Parminder,
> I have been otherwise occupied most of today, and so others have
> already replied and given a number of perspectives.
> Although I am the ALAC Chair, what follows is being said purely on my
> own behalf.
> At-Large has been far from aloof in this debate. You are correct that
> we have not contributed hundreds of posts to the mailing list over the
> last few days, but I think that speaks more to our self-control than
> anything else. We have been very clear in our formal comments, and we
> have been very active in the sub-groups refining the CCWG proposal.
> You are also correct that we have not been among the "firebrands" who
> have been advocating more radical community control over the ICANN
> Board. This is not accidental, and there are several reasons for this.
> 1. The position we have taken is not that of a single person. There
> has been a large and active At-Large community involved. The positions
> we have arrived at have been hotly debated and refined over the
> months. This does not necessarily make them better than some other
> position, but I feel strongly that they do represent the vast majority
> of those in our community who have chosen to be involved in this process.
> 2. It is easy to identify specific cases where ICANN Boards have made
> what I believe to be poor decisions. In at lease some cases, they have
> later agreed that perhaps some other path should have been followed,
> so this is clearly a learning process. The Board can also be cited for
> being less diverse and representative of the entire world or Internet
> users than it might be. But from my perspective, thanks partly to the
> good work of recent Nominating Committees, it is far more diverse that
> some of the constituent bodies of ICANN. And it is the ONLY body in
> ICANN that is charged with protecting the core mission and values of
> ICANN as documented in its Bylaws. As such many of us in At-Large feel
> that it SHOULD have the ultimate decision on many issues, weighing the
> perspectives of the various other stakeholders within ICANN. It is an
> essential component that adds balance to the multistakeholder model.
> 3. If you look at the people and groups that have been advocating for
> complete community control over the Board, it is illuminating. The
> vast majority of those voices are from the US and, in one form or
> another, represent powerful commercial stakeholders who have much at
> stake related in the Internet Domain Name System. Is it any surprise
> that they want power and control. That does not make them evil, and
> many of these people are colleagues and friends. But it is natural
> that they will strive to do what is best for their own communities.
> Within At-Large, we have regularly taken the position that, to
> paraphrase an old (mis)quote, what is best for General Motors is not
> necessarily best for Internet users.
> Alan
> At 10/10/2015 07:13 AM, parminder wrote:
>> I cannot but note with considerable surprise and disappoinment that when
>> everyone with any thing ever to do with ICANN is currently hotly
>> debating the issue of the stand off between the ICANN board and CCWG on
>> ICANN accountability, ALAC remains so aloof from the issue.... When this
>> should prima facie be the one part of the ICANN structure, as
>> representing the peripheries, that should be most bothered by efforts at
>> concentration of power, or of holding on it,  vis a vis the rights of
>> the public.
>> I have not been able to follow the process closely, but if I am right
>> -and please correct me if I am not - even in the earlier discussions
>> ALAC has been most lukewarm to any kind of structural changes that could
>> indeed place an effective oversight of the 'community' over the ICANN
>> board, when as said ALAC is the one group that should be most keen on
>> institutionalising such checks over centralisation of power with the
>> ICANN board. Can anyone explain me why it is so. It really intrigues me,
>> and I am sure I am missing something here.
>> Thanks, parminder
>> _______________________________________________
>> At-Large mailing list
>> At-Large at atlarge-lists.icann.org
>> https://atlarge-lists.icann.org/mailman/listinfo/at-large
>> At-Large Official Site: http://atlarge.icann.org

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://atlarge-lists.icann.org/pipermail/at-large/attachments/20151011/5385218f/attachment.html>

More information about the At-Large mailing list