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Cybersecurity & Standards

ICANN 55: The Winding and Sometimes Bumpy Road to Marrakech

After a final month of debate, drafting and re-drafting, the Cross Community Working Group (CCWG) on enhancing ICANN’s accountability has reached a consensus on the accountability enhancements that must be in place before the IANA transition occurs in September 2016.  The final text of the recommendations has been forwarded to ICANN’s Supporting Organizations (SOs) and Advisory Committees (ACs) for approval during the ICANN 55 meeting in Marrakech this week.   Once approved, this set of recommendations will be considered by the ICANN Board, and then, along with the IANA transition proposal that was finalized last year, presented to NTIA. This is anticipated to occur on the last day of the Marrakech meeting.

All stakeholders – including civil society, industry, government, and the technical community – have been empowered through this process.

The “Supplemental Final Proposal on Work Stream 1 Recommendations” is a lengthy document, including 15 annexes that review the proposal’s recommendations in detail and highlight how the final text differs from earlier versions.  The final proposal allows for the ICANN community to exercise a limited but significant set of new powers, from the power to reject ICANN budgets and strategic/operating plans, to the power to recall the entire ICANN Board.  The proposal also strengthens existing powers such as the Independent Review Process.  All stakeholders – including civil society, industry, government, and the technical community – have been empowered through this process.  As Annex 13 describes, this accountability proposal addresses all of the criteria (or “dependencies”) set out in the IANA transition proposal, which are necessary to ensure ICANN’s accountability to the broader community once the United States Government steps back from its current role in the DNS.

The 15-month-long task of drawing up recommendations for enhancing ICANN’s accountability has been significantly more complex than anticipated.  The CCWG’s work has been a fascinating example of a multistakeholder process in action, rich with difficult debate and multiple compromises, in which all stakeholders were represented and their perspectives heard and acted on.  This is the model that stakeholders signed up to when the CCWG Accountability started down this winding and sometimes bumpy road to Marrakech – and it has confounded, thrilled, frustrated, and ultimately mostly satisfied the participants.  The CCWG’s recommendations to enhance ICANN’s accountability are a significant achievement and CDT encourages the SOs and ACs to approve this final proposal.

The work is not done, of course.  There remains the crucial matter of implementing key elements of the proposal prior to the IANA transition later this year.  And then there is a set of work items that are important to ICANN’s accountability but were not considered critical to be in place prior to the transition.  These issues – including jurisdiction, accountability of the Supporting Organizations and Advisory Committees, and human rights among others – are outlined in the Supplemental Proposal.  Significant time is dedicated to getting these work items underway in Marrakech.  The CCWG will, fingers crossed, have a moment of respite on March 10th when the ICANN Board presents the transition package to NTIA, but realistically there will be little let-up in its work going forward.