[At-Large] ICANN oversight

parminder parminder at itforchange.net
Sun Oct 11 14:00:44 UTC 2015

On Sunday 11 October 2015 06:56 PM, McTim wrote:
> Hi Parminder,
> I would disagree that the GNSO is captured by the Domain Services
> entities.
Hi McTim

If you have read the responses to my initial mail on the subject, this
proposition appears  to be almost the official argument from ALAC for
being so lukewarm if not dismissive with regard to the membership model
of ICANN accountability/ oversight.

I merely pointed to the inconsistency in ALAC agreeing with GNSO being
'the' key policy making body in the ICANN but when the issue of an
accountability is being discussed raising the commercial capture issue.

So you need really to be talking to ALAC leaders on this, not me.


> here is the makeup of the GNSO Council;
> https://gnso.icann.org/en/about/gnso-council.htm
> While there are equal numbers of councilors from Contracted parties
> and non-commercial parties (and more biz/IP/ISP folks as well), this
> does not mean "capture".
> In my experience as a member of a Contracted Parties House, these
> folks are interested in the public interest as well as their own
> groups interests.
> In short, i don't see "capture" as being applicable.
> On Sun, Oct 11, 2015 at 3:57 AM, parminder <parminder at itforchange.net
> <mailto:parminder at itforchange.net>> wrote:
>     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 work.
>     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 community.
>     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.
>     parminder
>     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
>>>     _______________________________________________
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>>>     At-Large at atlarge-lists.icann.org
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>>>     At-Large Official Site: http://atlarge.icann.org
>     _______________________________________________
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> -- 
> Cheers,
> McTim
> "A name indicates what we seek. An address indicates where it is. A
> route indicates how we get there."  Jon Postel

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