Stephanie Borg Psaila   02 Apr 2012   Internet Governance

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The webinar podcast is available here.

The 43rd meeting of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), concluded recently in Costa Rica, was nothing short of controversial. Our March IG webinar, on ‘Outcomes of ICANN 43’, was a timely opportunity to discuss the controversies and the most important developments.

Virginia (Ginger) Paque addressing the audience
Sala Tamanikaiwaimaro addressing the audience

Our special host, Virginia (Ginger) Paque, and her guests Salanieta Tamanikaiwaimaro, from Fiji, Tracy Hackshaw from Trinidad and Tobago – all of whom were present at ICANN 43 – led the discussion.

One of the main controversies was ICANN’s decision to protect the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ name, as well as that of the International Olympic Committees. Such protection was afforded by way of exception to its new gTLD programme. (More info: Jovan Kurbalija discusses the basis for this decision, and the ensuing controversies, in his two blog posts: ‘Red Cross and Internet Governance with Cause’, and ‘ICANN and the Red Cross: An exceptional exception’.)

What was more worrying to our webinar hosts was the fact that the bottom-up process – which denotes the special status entities are intended to have in ICANN’s policy-making process – was losing ground. Another concern was the need for more involvement of Internet users and the IG community in the process.

One way to enhance the involvement is through ICANN’s At-Large Community, which participates in the policy development work of ICANN. Individuals can join the community by either joining an accredited At-Large Structure, or by registering their own group/organisation as an At-Large Structure. Our hosts explained how the At-Large Advisory Committee was very active during ICANN 43, by organising daily capacity-building sessions, as well as throughout the year, by facilitating community input that feed into policy statements, among other initiatives.

Another way of fostering community participation is by participating in ICANN’s survey. The hosts said the survey was aimed at gathering perspectives from around the globe on how people think ICANN is performing. They said that when a community participated in the discussion, the bottom-up process was being enforced: ‘ICANN has been facing criticism, including by those inside ICANN. This is everyone’s chance to get involved.’ The survey closes on 22 April.

The hosts also referred to the recent National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s statement that no proposals – including ICANN’s – met the requirements that satisfy the new IANA functions contract. ICANN’s IANA contract is set to expire on 30 September 2012. However, talks during ICANN 43 did not reveal more than was already made public.

One good news was LACNIC and ICANN’s agreement to deploy copies of one of the root servers in Latin American and the Caribbean. This would lead to an even stronger, resilient system, which is able to overcome technical challenges should a problem occur in any of the servers.

The hosts also referred to the Commonwealth Cybercrime Initiative (CCI) workshop, led by members of the Steering Group. The initiative, aimed at assisting developing Commonwealth countries to become more effective in combatting cybercrime, was developed by COMNET Foundation for ICT development, the organisation behind the Commonwealth Internet Governance Forum. The workshop was an opportunity to present the initiative to the ICANN community.

And the most noteworthy moment? The hosts agreed that it was the speech delivered by Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla. While describing her country’s achievements in democracy, environment protection, and ICT, the President voiced support for the multistakeholder model ‘so as to not repeat our past errors that led to the creation of international governance institutions that are vertical, closed and bureaucratic.’ She also reminded that legitimate concerns over privacy, security, and intellectual property rights should not be used to justify attempts to exercise restrictive controls on the Internet.

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