[At-Large] Multistakeholderism Explained (was Re: ICANN75: Mandatory Funded Traveler Registration for Roberto Gaetano)

Evan Leibovitch evan at telly.org
Mon Aug 1 20:21:29 UTC 2022

Hi Antony,

I have little issue with your comments, and I certainly agree with their
conclusion that the reality of MSM is the opposite of what it promises in
theory. The main difference I see between your generalism of MSM and
ICANN's particular implementation -- which makes ICANN's even worse -- is
the ability for one group of stakeholders (the compact of domain sellers
and buyers that is the GNSO) to compel the Board on policy, regardless of
objections from all other inputs.

I must admit that I had a laugh at the description of ALAC as a power bloc.

Thanks for the contribution.

- Evan

On Wed, Jul 27, 2022 at 2:09 PM Antony Van Couvering via At-Large <
at-large at atlarge-lists.icann.org> wrote:

> [Renaming the thread…]
> "Multi-stakeholder” is a euphemism for a form of governance otherwise
> known as functional constituency politics. As practiced at ICANN, it is a
> plan, articulated to me by ICANN staffers in the very early days when it
> was all being put together, to put each group into a “sandbox” so that they
> could argue among themselves while ICANN the organization does what it
> wants while maintaining the appearance of inclusiveness and fairness.
> Functional constituency politics has an inglorious history. Its main
> contribution over time has been to convince observers that existing rulers
> with vested interests are never going to implement fair rules on their own.
> That it why they are hardly ever used today except in settings where the
> ruled are too ignorant / naive / corrupted to complain effectively and
> there is no supervisory authority to restrain abuses.
> The most recent well-known example of constituency politics is Hong Kong
> under the British. (I’m not saying rule by the CCP I better, it’s just that
> the previous system also really sucked.) Earlier examples include the
> Republic of Venice, where “The republic was ruled by the doge, who was
> elected by members of the Great Council of Venice, the city-state's
> parliament, and ruled for life. The ruling class was an oligarchy of
> merchants and aristocrats.” (
> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republic_of_Venice).
> In Hong Kong under the Empire, constituency politics was liked by no-one
> except the apparatchiks who managed it, the ruling class that made money
> under it, and the British Government’s Executive Council, which ignored it
> but liked the democratic optics.  It was neither responsive, democratic, or
> workable. Effectively it meant that the power in Hong Kong, to the extent
> that it was devolved at all from the Executive Council, was highly
> centralized in the hands of the bankers and industrial magnates.
> See if you can recognize the similarities:
> "The Executive Council determined administrative policy changes and
> considered primary legislation before passing it to the Legislative Council
> for approval. This advisory body also itself issued secondary legislation
> under a limited set of colonial ordinances. The Legislative Council debated
> proposed legislation…. Indirectly elected functional constituency seats
> were introduced in 1985.
> (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Hong_Kong#Government)
> These functional constituencies were completely undemocratic, as well as
> being largely powerless:
> (1) 12 geographical constituencies were based on population, with 500,000
> people for each geographical constituency. Note that even these “normal”
> democratic seats were given out by “indirect” election.  (Can anyone say
> NomCom?)
> (2) 12 functional constituencies were based on… well… established power,
> and were balanced so that the wrong sort of people who might threaten the
> status quo were never given any positions of power.  They were:
> - First commercial seat (Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce)
> - Second commercial seat (Chinese General Chamber of Commerce)
> - First industrial seat (Federation of Hong Kong Industries)
> - Second industrial seat (Chinese Manufacturers’ Association of Hong Kong)
> - Financial seat (Hong Kong Association of Banks)
> - Labour (2 seats) - recognized trade unions of Hong Kong
> - Social Services - Hong Kong Council of Social Services
> - Medical - Hong Kong Medical Association
> - Teaching
> - Legal
> - Engineering, Architectural, Surveying, Planning
> (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1985_Hong_Kong_legislative_election)
> ICANN Board = Executive Council
> Functional Constituencies = the acronym salad of all the powerless groups
> within ICANN
> Geographical Constituencies by indirect election = NomCom
> Vested-interest power blocs, such as exist in ICANN today — the advisory
> committees, the supporting organization, and the subgroups within them —
> were not created to come up with solutions, even if they are convinced that
> they do.  Functionally, they exist to prevent people with a common agenda
> from coming together as a single bloc to challenge ICANN the corporation.
> The tell-tale characteristics of such systems are readily apparent within
> - Low turnover of officials within the groups (just look around to see
> this at ICANN)
> - Decline, obsolescense, and fossilization of certain constituencies,
> which nonetheless retain their status (see: ISP grouping within GNSO)
> - Turf wars and takeover plots to “own” certain constituencies (e.g., the
> attempt by not-for-profit intellectual property interests (e.g., Red Cross)
> to take over the NCUC)
> - A large bureaucracy dedicated to preserving the power of the executive
> (the Board), while tying all other groups in knots with arcane and
> time-consuming rules and procedures.
> - Hostility to democratic reforms, typically justified by concerns about
> “fraud” (rejection of direct elections to the Board).
> I support diversity of opinion, which is what the multi-stakeholder model
> promises.  In fact, however, it delivers the opposite, because that’s the
> way it’s set up to operate.
> Antony
> P.S. To those that note that the GAC is not powerless, this is true only
> because it has external levers to make ICANN pay attention. If it were
> limited to its delineated powers within ICANN, it would be as powerless as
> the other groups.
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