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ICANN Chairman’s Durban Roundup

Respected ICANN Chairman of the Board Steve Crocker has wrapped up his organisation’s 47th International Meeting, held in Durban last week, with a message to the community.

This message, reproduced here in its entirety, provides both a useful and concise summary of the Durban meeting and insights into the Chairman’s view of where ICANN stands at the moment, the successes it has notched up and the challenges it faces.

This is Steve Crocker’s message:

* * *

ICANN Board, ICANN staff and chairs of the ICANN Supporting Organizations and Advisory Committees,

ICANN 47 was great! ICANN meetings are complicated productions with multiple “story lines” unfolding in parallel, each with its own challenges. In no particular order and at the risk of omitting important events, these highlights come quickly to mind:

  • Well organized and well executed logistics. The local arrangements were quite good and all of the events took place smoothly. This is no mean feat. As best I could tell, the only issues that affected a significant number of people were the disruption of Heathrow and the South African customs’ insistent on a full blank page in everyone’s passport. Congratulations to the meetings team and everyone involved.
  • Excellent support from our sponsors, ZADNA and ZACR, and from the African Union. This was a positive experience all around and came as the result of extended and vigorous communication and cooperation. Congratulations to management.
  • Uplifting and positive engagement with the African community with multiple events. The Africa DNS Forum on Friday and Saturday, a joint effort of ISOC, AFTLD and ICANN, kicked off the extended week. The implementation of ICANN’s strategy for Africa and AFRALO Showcase and Reception on Monday kicked off the official week, followed by the AFRALO/ARICANN Joint Meeting and Africa Untethered: The Era of Digital Africa on Wednesday afternoon. (We also continued with the development of regional engagement strategies for Latin America and the Middle East.)
  • The spirit that Nelson Mandela holds over the entire continent and the very special occurrence of his 95th birthday during our time there. Nii Quaynor gave a moving tribute to him and a number of ICANN people participated in painting a school on Thursday morning to observe Mandela Day.
  • The signing of the new agreements with the registries and registrars. This culminated years of discussion and negotiation and is a big step forward. Congratulations to the negotiating teams from the registries and registrars and to the ICANN staff.
  • A flowering of activity across all of the SOs and ACs. The GNSO and ALAC continue to have so many events and activities I can’t begin to catalog them. SSAC is providing advice on multiple fronts and is engaging with the entire community. ccNSO marked its tenth anniversary and smooth transition from the strong leadership of Lesley Cowley to the equally strong leadership of Byron Holland. RSSAC is completing its reorganization and revitalization, and the ASO was active with an IPv6 session on Wednesday afternoon and increasing its plans for future engagements.
  • Extensive meetings of both the Expert Working Group on Next Generation Directory Services lead by Jean-Francois Baril and the second Accountability and Transparency Review Team (ATRT2) under the leadership of Brian Cute, Avri Doria, Lise Fuhr and Alan Greenberg. These are strategically important activities that will provide guidance on improvements in critical areas over the coming years.
  • The announcement of five presidential strategy panels on long term critical topics. I’ll not add details here; much more will be coming forth over the next few months.
  • The approval of the budget for the Singapore hub to continue the transition from a single headquarters to “tri-quarters” operation.
  • The resolution related to metrics for competition, consumer trust and consumer choice to initiate the fourth of the Affirmation of Commitments reviews.
  • And certainly not least are the changes in structure and management within ICANN, particularly the creating of the new Generic Domains Division with Akram Atallah as the divisional president, and the arrival of Susanna Bennett as the new Chief Operating Officer.

I last wrote to everyone at the beginning of 2012, about a year and a half ago, reflecting on 2011 and looking ahead into 2012. The progress since then is remarkable.

I noted the opening of the window for gTLD applications, the forthcoming selection of a new CEO, and the renewal of the IANA contract. I emphasized the need for us to be effective and for us to concentrate on cooperation and rapport in our interactions with our partners in the Internet ecosystem. During the time since then:

  • The gTLD program is well underway, with large numbers of applications through the evaluation process and delegations into the root likely to begin before the end of this year.
  • The IANA contract renewal is well behind us.
  • Fadi is now a familiar and effective voice across the landscape.

I did not comment then on the upcoming interactions in the Internet governance area, a definite oversight on my part. Since then we have been heavily involved with the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Baku in November, the ITU’s World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12) in Dubai in December, and the Fifth World Telecommunications/ICT Policy Forum (WTPF) in Geneva in May. The result was a historic change in our relationship with the ITU and a qualitative improvement in discussions regarding Internet governance. This will be a major theme in the coming year.

Finally, my own thinking about ICANN’s principles and posture has continued to evolve. I had spoken repeatedly about the need for both effectiveness and efficiency, and these indeed remain key tenets for me. We need to get our job done, we need to do it well and we need to be efficient in our use of money and time. I had also mentioned the need for rapport and communication with our partners in the Internet ecosystem, ISOC, the IETF and IAB, the RIRs, W3C, et al. This point has grown in my mind to include our interactions with *everyone*, and is part of a broader theme, empathy. Empathy is key to effectiveness and efficiency, and, indeed to trust as well. Do we understand the needs and desires of the people we interact with, and do we make it clear that we not only understand them but also appreciate them? Do they feel appreciated and well served, even when our answers may not be the ones they’re looking for?

If we’re able to achieve effectiveness, efficiency AND empathy, we will have truly arrived.

I look forward to continued progress through the rest of 2013 and beyond. I know most of us are tired this weekend and are either recovering or taking some well deserved time off. Rest, recuperate and reconnect with your families, and then plunge in again!


Steve Crocker
Chair, ICANN Board of Directors

By Stéphane Van Gelder, Consultant

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