ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade told members of its GNSO Council in Buenos Aires this morning that his recent initiatives resulting in the recent Montevideo Statement on Internet governance and the spring 2014 meeting on this subject to be held in Brazil were sanctioned by a September 15th ICANN Board resolution that has been withheld from the public, but will published shortly.
Declaring, “I’m tired of being defensive.” Chehade also stated that Brazil will announce tomorrow that “the first global multi-stakeholder meeting on the future of Internet governance” will be held in Sao Paulo on April 23-24, 2014. Chehade described the Board’s directive to him as one to “energize” the debate on Internet governance – and then, after saying “I’m done. I have de-calcified and energized the process and will no longer be in the center”, he called on the ICANN community to “mobilize” and weigh in on the Brazil agenda and format.
Council members – already feeling that recent moves under Chehade constituted top-down decision-making that were marginalizing the Council’s role, and concerned that the Brazil meeting would distract ICANN management from critical responsibilities including the ongoing rollout of new gTLDs — raised a variety of questions about the meeting, including whether Brazil understood the multistakeholder model in the same way as ICANN participants and what was meant by the call of the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee (CGI – http://www.cgi.br/english/) for equitable redistribution of Internet resources? They also asked what would happen to the meeting’s aims when other governments, many of which support a multilateral, government-centric approach, weighed in?
Chehade also revealed that the meeting was being planned by Brazil in conjunction with 1Net (http://www.1net.org/content/en), a coalition of the technical “I organizations” that signed the Montevideo Statement calling for the globalization of ICANN and IANA, a phrase interpreted as meaning the cessation of all residual US control. [Note: More information about 1Net can be found in this Internet Society posting http://www.internetsociety.org/blog/2013/11/internet-governance-update and this Centr.org briefing paper https://exchange.sierracorporation.com/owa/redir.aspx?C=nv8b4cfef0SaBSqmAn_nySP7GXJnt9AI31EzsaA5qNaPZ2080UjYmJdA0bJhBzsKEupdHrbUbGY.&URL=http%3a%2f%2fcentr.org%2fsystem%2ffiles%2fagenda%2fattachment%2fcentr-ig_update-20131107.pdf.]
Chehade stressed in his remarks that the Brazil meeting was meant to supplement the Internet Governance Forum but would not produce decisions and would eschew “topics” (including, emphatically, surveillance issues raised by the Snowden NSA revelations), and be limited to discussing “frameworks and principles”. This seems somewhat at odds with the fact that any meeting likely to attract more than a thousand attendees will surely have a detailed agenda and may be called upon by them to produce at least some final declarations – as well as Chehade’s noting in a recent blog post (http://blog.icann.org/2013/11/internet-governance-update/) that a major shortcoming of the IGF was that “it is not a decision making forum”. This raises the question of what added value is the Brazil meeting if it has the same limitation?
The dialogue continued at an afternoon session between the Council and the ICANN Board. Chairman Steve Crocker stated that the Board was convinced of the need to create a broad-based community beyond ICANN and the “I organizations” to support the multi-stakeholder model, but had withheld disclosure of their directive to Chehade to downplay ICANN’s role as he conducted outreach. Board member Olga Madruga-Forti told Council members that the Board decision should be seen as one that maintained confidentiality, and not being secretive or conspiratorial. Council members did not question this explanation but did ask, now that the Brazil meeting was on the 2014 schedule, what ICANN was doing to ensure that it was successful?
The general response was that it was now up to the community to mobilize and engage via 1Net. Yet our discussions with many Buenos Aires attendees indicate a great deal of concern about negative results coming out of the Brazil meeting, and some considerable unhappiness that the community was being asked to mobilize for a meeting it had neither requested or been consulted about.
The stakes are high for domain investors and all business users of the Internet, and ICA will continue to monitor developments closely. Clearly, multiple questions persist about the process so far and where this is heading.
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