NOTE: The basis text for the comments below is not in sync with the current document being considered by the Finance and Budget Subcommittee. Please review the current text at AL.ALAC-BUD.SC-0308-1-2. Comments may be made at that page location.

Wendy Seltzer text begins immediately below.

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End of Introduction
At-Large Advisory Committee Statement to the ICANN Board on the Draft Operating Plan for FY 2008/2009

We welcome the opportunity to make our comments on the Draft Operating Plan and Budget Framerwork for FY 2008/2009.

Firstly, we endorse the change to the budgeting and operational planning process introduced this year. It seems to us that the combination of the consultation on these obviously closely-related issues is eminently sensible. We also welcome the longer public consultation timelines that this allows.
Since this is the first stage of this process, our comments are introductory. We provide them at this early stage so that they may be taken into account as the Staff prepare the Budget and Operating Plan for its first iteration consultation.
Our comments, therefore, are primarily related to the various “Activites/Outcomes by Initiative”. We do not propose to comment on each of these, but on those most important to the At-Large Community.

IDN Activities
This is a very important area of work for At-Large – and also for all of ICANN. The extra funding and greatly increased ICANN activity in this area is therefore welcomed. We would like to emphasise the element of communications related to IDNs.
Fundamental choices that will affect the many communities that do not rely upon the latin character set will be made in the next few years. For that reason, we believe ICANN, in partnership with other stakeholders of course, needs to make a substantial, sustained, greatly increased effort to communicate with these communities –to ensure that the message about the choices to be made related to IDNs in the forthcoming period reaches a far larger pool of potential contributors to the process than is currently aware and participating. This should not simply take the form of translated press releases but really a well-thought-out media campaign which ‘reaches out’ to the public. We know that efforts to do this work exist – we wish to emphasise that this is extremely important.

Implement Policy for New gTLDs
We urge the board to act quickly to approve a simple, straightforward procedure for addition of new gTLDs in IDNs and ASCII character sets.

Compliance Activities
We note the increase in staffing and staff work related to compliance. We are pleased to see that the budget framerwork proposes further considerable investment in this area. However we wish to note what we see as gaps:

The public relies on ICANN to enforce its contracts with registries and registrars, since ICANN has apparently preempted the public's ability to sue on those contracts to enforce its rights. ICANN should both return some of these rights to the public beneficiaries of its contracts /and/ ensure that contractual promises to ICANN are being honored.

Complaints Processing. We note that there is now some information on how registrants can complain on the website, which is a welcome improvement. We also note that there is a provision as a headline activity in the Operational Plan Framework to “Implement Compaints Process System to address complaints and forward them to correct parties as approved”. This is a start but is not nearly enough – such a system needs to also verify whether or not the forwarded complaints were addressed, and provide options so that the complainant can easily report whether or not they are satisfied with the result. The underlying philosophy should be that, as the contractor, ICANN should ensure that the contractees are living up to their side of the ‘deal’ and completely offloading complaints to the contractee – or anyone else – is the wrong approach.

Global Outreach
This is a particularly important area to us. The various communities in ICANN are not nearly representative enough of the worldwide Internet-using community. We note the initial provision of a substantial increase in funds allocated to Global Outreach – we will look forward to seeing more detail about precisely what this consists of when the draft budget is posted. However, we note that on page 23 of the Draft Framework, under Global Outreach, there is a major area of work listed as ‘Implement business engagement outreach’. If this is intended to be outreach only to business communities, this is far too narrow – outreach efforts and recruitment efforts need to be even-handed, global – and to all communities and potential participant communities, not just business. We draw the attention of the board to the many comments about the importance of dramatically increasing the outreach and recruitment of stakeholders that was such a common theme of the respondents to the JPA review recently held; clearly, there is broad support for greatly increased work by ICANN in these respects.
Of course we welcome the continued support for participation by our community from ICANN. Without it the Internet end-user’s voice will simply not be adequately represented. We draw your attention to our statement to you in relation to the development of a volunteer travel and expense support policy, in document AL.ALAC/BUD.SC/0308/2 accessible at <insert url here> for elaboration on our views on this subject.

Policy Development Support
We welcome the major theme associated with this area of work on page 25, that ICANN will “provide additional secretariat support to SOs, constituencies and ACs to make volunteer efforts more effective.” We are beneficiaries of this, in the addition of two members of staff on the At-Large team. The filling of these long-open positions is already beginning to increase our capacity for working effectively. We hope that the kind of support our community receives of this kind will become generally available across the constituencies and communities and look forward to seeing the detailed plans for how the objective listed in this area is to be achieved.

Registrant Protections
Whilst we welcome the increased activity in this area, we wish the board to be seized of the fact that the RAA review process appears to have ceased operation. We hear anecdotally that there is current work in this area inside ICANN, but it is not visible to us (or anyone else from what we can tell). This is a very important area of work for ICANN and to our community. We believe that there should be deadlines set for concluding work on the RAA.

Transcription and Translation
Our community has been calling for ICANN to become a truly multilingual organisation for years now. We are glad to see the increased budget commitment, draft translation framework, and other moves in this direction but we wish to remind you that ICANN has a very, very long way to go to reach the mission that the translation programme proposes.
In our opinion, this area of work is of absolutely central importance to the organisation’s credibility, as we do not believe that any consultation or policy development process conducted entirely in English is globally legitimate. This is especially true with subjects like IDNs that – incredibly –continue to be largely english-only, with multiligual documents provided only in some cases, often far later than the original English versions, and only as an afterthought.
Ensuring that the work of ICANN becomes truly multilingual is a core, critical objective. It must not be sidelined, or de-emphasised by other objectives like new gTLDs.

Broaden Participation

This area is of great importance – not just to our community but to all communities. In particular, whilst the provisions for teleconferences for our community have improved marginally by changing vendors, we do not believe that it makes sense to continue to outsource this core communications function and so we welcome the news that ICANN proposes to purchase a truly fit-for-purpose system to facilitate telephonic interactions. We hope that in doing so choices will be made which truly facilitate equal access and quality for all participants, regardless of where they might be.
In particular, the new system must provide for the technical operation of simultaneous interpretation on teleconferences. This is an absolutely essential function, not something that is “nice to have”.
We would also like to emphasise to broadening participation of effective remote participation in meetings, of which telephonic two-way participation is only one element. We believe that the current remote participation modalities for ICANN meetings are not fit for purpose. We draw your attention to our statement to you in relation to the development of a volunteer travel and expense support policy, in document AL.ALAC/BUD.SC/0308/2 accessible at <insert url here> for elaboration on our views on the subject of remote participation, and meetings.
In closing, we thank the board in advance for its consideration of our views. We look forward to a response to our concerns and recommendations in due course.

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