Enhancing ICANN Accountability: User Prospective

ATLAS II Thematic Group on ICANN Transparency and Accountability

Prof. Hong Xue is the co-leader of the thematic group on ICANN Accountability and Transparency at At-Large Summit II to be held at ICANN London Meeting in June 2014. The following is the write-up by theme leaders on the topics. Prof. Xue completely the first draft and made the primarily updates that is shown in the current version.



ATRT Final Recommendation #9 generally reflects the community feedback on existing appeals mechanisms and includes a set of necessary improvements. Rec.9.2 is particularly important for accountability of decision-making process and reform of appeal mechanism. It’s suggested to form a Stakeholder Group Committee to examine the options to restructure the current Board reconsideration process and the Independent Review Process (IRP).

However, it is unclear whether Board reconsideration process and the IRP  will remain the only or the  “final” appeal channel available for reviewing other appeals decisions, either from internal bodies or outside service providers, especially in the various gTLDs and ccTLDs processes. For example, will improved appeals mechanisms take into account  the processing of reconsideration requests and objections on decisions made in the new gTLD program by ICANN or its dispute resolution providers,  or will it apply to a review procedure for decisions made in IDN ccTLD program, for issues such as string similarity.

In the long run, enhancement of accountability depends on the improvement and development of mechanisms in three correlated areas, namely (1) institutional transparency, particularly in the decision-making process; (2) check and balance through duly separation of powers, especially after the transition of stewardship of IANA function; and (3) effective and efficient appeal system, within or outside ICANN, including the external final appeal system to “judicially” supervise the decision of ICANN Board and its members, like the constitutional court.

As we have not seen what the Board intends to do about recommendation 9.2  it is good to be cautious.  But if the Board and ICANN staff do honor the suggestion for a community wide discussion of ICANN accountability and appeals, then At-large needs a strategy for contributing to that and needs to begin substantive work on identifying the features required in a well formed ICANN appeals process.  In developing accountability and transparency mechanisms, from a At-Large perspective,  discussion needs to extend to all of the At-Large Structures (ALS) so that they can contribute from the diversity of global user experience on accountability and transparency and access to appeals mechanisms, that only At-Large can bring to ICANN.

Questions raised by the community:

  1. What sort of appeals mechanisms does ICANN need? Does ICANN need to a final appeal mechanism to supervise the Board and its (paid) members?
  2. Is the soft bottom-up oversight offered by the AOC adequate or does ICANN need some other form of oversight, especially in this time of IANA stewardship transition?
  3. How can the AOC process and current Accountability and Transparency measures be improved?
  4. Do you agree with Transparency by default for an organization like ICANN?  Should all issues that are not treated with full transparency be logged as such with a description of why Transparency was not appropriate treatment for the issue?  Should there be a time limit on items that are deemed secret?
  5. Does ICANN need a yearly Transparency audit? Why or why not?

Questions raised by ICANN for enhancement of accountability:

  1.  What issues does the community identify as being core to strengthening ICANN’s overall accountability in the absence of its historical contractual relationship to the U.S. Government?
  2.  What should be the guiding principles to ensure that the notion of accountability is understood and accepted globally? What are the consequences if the ICANN Board is not being accountable to the community?
  3.  Do the Affirmation of Commitments and the values expressed therein need to evolve to support global acceptance of ICANN’s accountability and so, how?
  4.  What are the means by which the Community is assured that ICANN is  meeting its accountability commitments?
  5.  Are there other mechanisms that would better ensure that ICANN lives up to its commitments?

Comments are closed.