FINAL VERSION SUBMITTED (IF RATIFIED)
The final version to be submitted, if the draft is ratified, will be placed here by upon completion of the vote.
FINAL DRAFT VERSION TO BE VOTED UPON BY THE ALAC
The final draft version to be voted upon by the ALAC will be placed here before the vote is to begin.
DRAFT SUBMITTED FOR DISCUSSION
The first draft submitted will be placed here before the call for comments begins. The Draft should be preceded by the name of the person submitting the draft and the date/time. If, during the discussion, the draft is revised, the older version(S) should be left in place and the new version along with a header line identifying the drafter and date/time should be placed above the older version(s), separated by a Horizontal Rule (available + Insert More Content control).
Google Doc for drafting (comment only) opened 22 May
First draft to be developed by next Monday (27 May), to refine and discuss on the CPWG call that Wednesday (29 May).
AT-LARGE ADVISORY COMMITTEE
ALAC Statement on Evolving ICANN’s Multistakeholder Model
Executive Summary of ALAC Responses
This ALAC contribution to the evolving multistakeholder model condenses the 21 issues developed through the community consultations into 4 more general categories -- structural, process, participation and intergroup relations. We have taken this route as we feel this is a more productive way of addressing some of these very inter-related issues.
The structural issues are, by their nature, overarching.We note that a multistakeholder model in which some parties are more equal than others will inevitably result in some of the issues listed such as silos, tribalism, lack of trust, timing, and others. Although it may be beyond the scope of this process, the need for a rebalance of roles and responsibilities should be acknowledged.
AT-LARGE ADVISORY COMMITTEE
ALAC Statement on Evolving ICANN’s Multistakeholder Model
ALAC appreciates the opportunity to contribute further to the evolution of the multistakeholder model. The At Large community has been, and will continue to be, active participants in this exercise as we are deeply committed to the multistakeholder bottom-up policy development model but realize that the exponential growth of the Internet and complexity of managing the DNS has stretched the current resources to their limits. In this comment, we have clustered the 21 issues derived from community discussions into 4 groups: structural issues, processes, participation and intergroup relations. We feel that this is a more productive way to proceed since many adjustments that might be made to address one issue within a cluster will likely also impact other issues within the same cluster.
- Structural issues
We realize that the current exercise is not designed as a “remake” of ICANN. However, in its deliberations to date, the community itself has put structural issues on the list. The following issues fall into the category of structural issues that will require some substantive changes to adjust to the current environment:
Holistic view (20)
The need to find equality and balance among various stakeholder groups is fundamental to the multistakeholder model. Power inequalities cannot not happily coexist with a decision making process built on consensus building. What we have currently is a very unequal multi-stakeholder model where some parties have far more power than others. For an example of how our community is affected, At Large represents the 4 billion end users on the Internet but has only one seat on the board. We have also been underrepresented in the current EPDP process. Power imbalances is one of the elements contributing to siloing and tribalism (18), trust (14) as well as protracted discussions described in timing (1) -- all issues which have been expressed during community discussions.
Roles and Responsibilities (15)
Addressing power inequalities that lead to feelings of underrepresentation will require adjustments to roles and responsibilities. The relationships between SOs and ACs will have to be reexamined as well as the role of the board vis-a- vis the community and ICANN org. We realize that entering into a discussion that would bring about these kinds of changes may be beyond the scope of the current process but this process could recommend that such discussions need to take place and suggest a way forward. At some point, the structure of ICANN itself and how that structure now stands in the way of a really effective and efficient multistakeholder model must be addressed.
- Process issues
We note that a cluster of the issues on the community developed list revolve around process -- how we do the work that we do. These include: precision in scoping (10), prioritization (4), efficient use of resources (16), work processes (19), costs (13) and timing (1). On these issues, comments from the community tell us that some of the processes take too long, consensus remains elusive, financial and personal costs are not sustainable, and volunteer burnout is rampant.
We suggest that more precision in scoping will lead to improvements in the other issues we have grouped in this category. Poor scoping causes unreasonable drifting of issues. Our members report that scoping has been too wide in the past leading to endless discussions but that there has been improvement in this area in the last few years, progress which needs to continue. One improvement would be to break up large projects into smaller pieces with very specific scoping and very specific expectations of the working group. As an example of expectation setting, the members of the EPDP were required to sign on to a set of expectations which included building toward consensus.
On the issue of work processes, some of our members have pointed out that some processes have benefited from external influences. The EPDP and the cross-community working group building an accountability framework for the transition benefited from external deadlines. The budget veto power for the empowered community had a default budget that was undesirable to all parties. Although conditions and contexts are not always amenable to the application of such measures, they could be among the tools to be considered when a PDP or other work group is constituted.
Another suggestion that could improve work processes is to ensure that key agreements and decisions along the way are well documented and easily accessible. This is not meant to inhibit the negotiating process in any way but merely to make it easy to revisit previous milestones. The complex discussions that take place over many months sometimes leave participants confused over how a process arrived at a certain point. Problems have arisen when some thought a position was agreed upon and there was some disagreement or confusion about that position and no easy way to revisit the process.
Better workflow management through staff/community led priority setting would be welcomed. There are always more tasks than people to complete them. Volunteers within At Large are engaged in many different activities including local outreach activities, pdp working groups, responding to comments, liaising with other ICANN constituencies, improving our own processes as well as preparing for various meetings. Although we are trying hard to onboard new members, there are a limited number of people comfortable taking the lead on some of these activities. During holiday periods, which differ in every part of the world, the workload continues to build.
These are not problems unique to ICANN. These are common management problems in large organizations. Project management tools exist that can help managers of large organizations track progress. It is possible that such tools could be of assistance to ICANN in addressing some of these issues.
In the process of implementing any improvements in the way in which we do our work, standards of accountability and transparency must be maintained. But, within this proviso, any improvements in this category would help stem volunteer burnout.
- Participation (who and how)
A number of issues relate specifically to participants -- the make up of our community and concerns that the current system is not meeting the necessary benchmarks as well as the way in which engagement impacts them. These issues are: demographics (5), recruitment (6), representativeness (7), inclusiveness (8); terms (21), volunteer burnout (17). When we look closely at what is expected of engaged volunteers, it is easy to see how volunteers can quickly burnout.
With respect to the issues of representativeness and demographics, we note that the heavy demands of work inside the ICANN multistakeholder system, places certain restraints on the kinds of people who can take on that work. As a result, many volunteers come from a small pool of people who are either retired and no longer having to meet the demands of day to day work or who are working inside DNS related industries. In addition, regions and stakeholder groups where these categories of people are not available sometimes feel inadequately represented. It is very difficult to be deeply involved and hold down a job and keep up family and social responsibilities. Time demands are heavy and it often feels like full-time volunteering.
Another important element that is rarely recognized is that volunteers, whether retired, employed or self-employed usually require considerable support from their personal networks – families, employers, etc. Conference calls after midnight are not unusual and meeting ICANN deadlines for comments, etc. can cut deeply into personal and family time. The nature of the work disadvantages younger people. And it is extremely challenging for volunteers from regions with poor telecommunications services.
It is clear that inclusiveness, representativeness, demographics and recruitment are all tied to this issue of volunteer time demands and they will play out differently in different parts of the world. For example, in parts of the world where household and childcare demands fall more heavily on women, chances that women will be able to take on active volunteer roles at ICANN can be diminished. To have more women involved within ICANN, they may need support at different levels such as mentoring or twinning.
Bringing this back to the concerns expressed under structural issues, volunteers who give up major chunks of time to do ICANN work will want to feel that their work is equally valued by being equally represented in the decision making processes. They also need to feel that they are being adequately supported with financial and human resources.
- Intergroup relations
The issues we have grouped as relating to intergroup relations are: cultural issues (13); trust (14); silos/tribalism (18); consensus (9)
The multistakeholder model in ICANN needs to foster a positive intergroup culture. When there are negative intergroup relations the system stalls, there are barriers to working together to solve problems and the system loses credibility
The ALAC offers the following suggestions towards a more positive culture:
- a definition of multistakeholder processes should be developed and it should be front and center in any on-boarding activities
- consensus should be clearly defined and all parties to a policy process should commit to the the goal of achieving consensus.**
- a culture of trust should be supported by consequences for publicly disparaging other groups. Such incidents should be referred to the ombuds office
- education and mentoring programs are always needed to make sure volunteer’s time is well used
- power inequities need to be addressed (see structural issues)
- ICANN must fully address resource needs (both financial and human resources) of volunteer groups working in the SO/AC communities
**On the issue of consensus, we point out that, since working groups are open, when important decisions are being made, we don’t distinguish between members and observers. As a result, when decisions are made, it is possible for groups who stand to benefit from certain decisions, to boost the numbers to ensure that consensus goes in their direction. Consensus should be consensus among constituencies, not consensus among the people attending the decision.
Throughout these four categories, the need for accountable (11) and transparent (12) processes is overarching in that it touches all aspects of a multistakeholder model.
We believe that the need to fully address the challenges facing the multistakeholder system is urgent and critical. We hope the ideas and suggestions contained herein will help improve the system.
Staff should please submit this to ICANN org as well:
Quite frankly, the interests of end users and other groups are being short changed and in the end, this will be detrimental to ICANN's pursuit of its mission. The use of the DNS which ICANN acts as steward for has always been a consensual arrangement. Should any group feel that this arrangement is not working out, they will cast about for other arrangements be they organizational or technical.
ICANN needs constituents to feel that they are being listened to, be they governments (e.g. ACTO), businesses (e.g. domainers), civil society (pick one), the technical community (SSAC & RSSAC) or end users. At present, many of these constituents fail to understand that the ICANN Board, after years of being attacked for ostensibly making policy has adopted a completely hands off approach and constituents find themselves saddled with making hard decisions with a clock not of their own making (ePDP). ICANN and others warned the community about this eventuality as did some elements of the community, nonetheless parts of the community chose for a variety of reasons to ignore this advice until it was no longer feasible. Moreover, ICANN's institutional challenges to bring it into compliance with national law is placing new stresses on an organization that under the aegis of the US, it could likely have largely ignored. This is no longer the case, for better or for worse. Constituents do not like to be told anything by ICANN but unfortunately this is the formers' problem. The empowered community (and I among them) argued forcefully in the IANA transition for strong community enforcement powers over the board to insure that it took it's responsibilities with due seriousness and gravity. We of course failed to look in the mirror and apply the same standard to ourselves. Rather than putting the interests of the global Internet first, all too many of us have instead elevated power, sovereignty, economics, or personal agendas/aggrandizement over the Greater Good. This must not be allowed to continue.
Failure to address this will lead to not a fragmentation of the Internet but an unbounded abandonment of the DNS as we know it for some other, as of yet undefined and uncontrolled technology. While this may be an improvement, there is no guarantee that it will be and good reason to suspect that it will be a step backwards given the variety of selfish interests that even now argue over the state and fate of the DNS. There is no shortage of technical capacity to execute this either has even a casual perusal of the talent present within RSSAC, SSAC, IAB, and IETF remind us. ICANN's authority is, like currency, a shared illusion of sorts.
If ICANN and the community are to advance our common mission and cause than the issues addressed in the At Large draft statement on process, participation, inter group relations, and accountability/transparency must all be addressed. Every stakeholder's first and perhaps hardest challenge is to honestly acknowledge their own interest, see how it aligns with the Greater Good of the Internet, and communicate that to others regardless of SO/AC. To be sure, there are stakeholders who have vastly different views of what the Greater Good looks like.
For At Large and end users around the world, the Greater Good means making the Internet a doorway to a place where people can represent themselves as who they want to be without fear. To the degree that the DNS makes this easy, safe, reliable and inexpensive, end users embrace ICANN. From this articulation of values, it is clear that At Large has significant disagreements with those in other SO/ACs who seek to diminish or hinder this effort.
I get that companies want to make a profit.
I get that countries want to retain and enhance power.
I get that organizations want to advance their missions.
I get that end users want to be themselves.
I've signed up with At Large and so my loyalty is to end users.
This is an adequate Statement that I can support. Congratulations to penholders. In terms of "Structural Issues", I agree that "addressing power inequities" will require adjustments to the relationships between ACs and SOs at some point. This is fundamental for the credibility and legitimacy of the whole system and the whole multistakeholder worldview and narrative.
The world of internet governance and multistakeholderism is ideally horizontal; where any state, entity, NGO, corporation or individual can coexist and participate on "equal" footing. But still, some stakeholders are "more equal than others": great national powers or blocks of nations, multinational mega-corporations, public and private global organizations. At ICANN: SOs over ACs, and worse, even ACs over other ACs.
No doubt that the credibility of multistakeholderism and its measure of success, will primarily be borne of the usefulness of the policies and decisions that its several global institutions and their components, propose and adopt. In this sense, I think ICANN, as a global entity, has generally lived up to its purpose. The Internet did not break with the root zone KSK rollover (surely some wished otherwise), and all soon after severing the umbilical ties to the US Dept. of Commerce.
But as in all institutional contexts, confidence, trust, and legitimacy are, to a great extent, also tied to the reality or widely accepted perception that fair and balanced consideration is truly given to the plethora of governmental, commercial and private and individual interests involved, and without being captured by them, as per the expectations created by the model itself. We have progressed, but we are structurally not there yet.
Still, in my view, our current imperfect system is by leaps and bounds superior to IG and multistakeholdersim being exiled to some sub-bureau of a sclerotic, pompous and genetically state-centric treaty based organization. That is why, whilst we strongly and rightfully critique ourselves as stakeholders and as ICANN, we must simultaneously always be ready to defend our ideals and worldview from its true adversaries, without and sometimes within.
Aware of the real-world complexities and tensions, the Statement is a pragmatic effort towards strengthening and enhancing the actual model.
Thanks for these 2 comments. Javier, thanks for your support on the direction of the statement. John, I love what you are saying, but I not sure you want me to change something in the comment paper. Does the paper address, somewhat, your concerns? Remember, this is not the end of the process. We will have other opportunities to contribute. What we are trying to do in this paper is to be somewhat pragmatic. I love vision statements, but in this case, they are likely to be ignored as they don't fit in check boxes. We already put in a link to our previous vision paper.
I was thinking about this on the way into work today. In terms of commitment to the multistakeholder model it strikes me that everyone participating needs to commit to some level of Altuism and this should be a (the) foundation upon everything is built whether we're discussing structure, process, participation, relations or transparency/accountability. The first principle that ICANN works off of is altruism. For some constituencies, this may take a back seat and for some actors it may not have a seat. Everyone needs to set a place at the table for altruism when we're talking about the Internet and the DNS.
Absolutely John. But is altruism not a built in concept when we use the word volunteers. We are working many hours for no compensation other than our own hope that it is time well spent on a project of major importance. Mass communications systems must retain some form of public interest/control or our democratic systems are at risk. It is essential to keep in touch with how when major communications systems evolve nationally and now, with the internet, internationally. We are a nuisance to efficiency – but we are essential to freedom.
Yes. However, not all community members are volunteers. Altruism should always be on the table...a watchword of sorts.