NCSG Statement on ICANN Staff’s Accountability Plan,  11 Aug 2014

The NCSG appreciates this opportunity to provide feedback regarding the
ICANN Staff’s non-stakeholder led proposal for further work on
“Enhancing Accountability” at ICANN.

A number of public comments and discussions in London focused on the
inherent conflict of interest behind staff developing its own
accountability and transparency mechanisms, so it was surprising to see
that input had not been taken into account in the development of this
proposal. NCSG notes its disappointment with the staff having skipped
the step of providing a synthesis of the community feedback received
from the ICANN public comments forum and the London accountability
discussions. Over a month ago, staff assured it was working on this
during GNSO Council and SO/AC leadership calls since the London meeting;
normally, staff can produce a synthesis of a comment period within a
week, so we are at a loss to explain this delay.

NCSG reiterates its request to see the synthesis of public input upon
which staff relied in the formulation of its accountability proposal.
It is impossible to know where the components of staff’s proposal come
from and on what basis they are called for, without being privy to
staff’s assessment of the public input on the subject. It is difficult
to find those elements in the written comments to effectively evaluate
the proposal.

At a time when the world is indeed watching ICANN to discern if it can
be trusted without NTIA oversight of its global governance functions,
and is particularly interested in the formulation of a proposal for
resolving ICANN’s accountability crisis; to skip the step of providing
the rationale for staff’s proposal, including its basis in the
community’s stakeholder comments, seems imprudent at best.  From its
inception, the community should have been engaged in the formulation of
the proposal, not pressured into signing-off on a staff proposal at the
11th hour.  This is an example of top-down policymaking, which runs
counter to ICANN’s bottom-up methodology and may inspire mistrust on the
part of the stakeholders.

Regarding the substance of the staff proposal, the NCSG does not support
it as currently drafted.  Of particular concern is the proposed
Community Coordination Group (CCG), which would prioritize issues
identified by the community and build solutions for those issues.  As
proposed by staff, this group is too heavily controlled by the ICANN
board and staff and as such it replicates the problem of ICANN’s
accountability structures being circular and lacking independence.

We reiterate that given the overwhelming number of public comments
submitted supporting the need for an independent accountability
mechanisms, it is unclear on what basis ICANN staff proposed a solution
in which the ICANN board and staff would fill a large number of the
seats on the CCG.  It is also unclear on what basis staff thinks
board-picked advisors should have an equal voice as representatives of
community members.  Outside experts are welcome and can provide valuable
input, but they should be selected by and report to the community not
the board or staff, for independent accountability to be achieved.

An advisor's role must be clarified as an informational role, as only
representatives of stakeholder interests in a bottom-up process hold
decision making roles.  It is also necessary that the role of any ICANN
board or staff on this CCG serve in a non-decision making, support or
liaison function.   For the CCG to have legitimacy as a participatory
form of democracy, the decision-making members must consist of
stakeholders, not the ICANN board and staff.  The make-up, roles and
responsibilities of the members of the proposed CCG must be reformulated
in a more bottom-up fashion by the community for this proposal to be

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