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The GNSO Review

The London School of Economics review [warning: large PDF] of the GNSO was recently released by ICANN.

ICANN’s comment about the review said that the “report will be used to inform ICANN’s effort to develop detailed proposals for improving the GNSO’s structures and processes. ICANN’s Board will work with the GNSO and the ICANN community to consider this report, along with previous reviews and public input, in a collaborative process to strengthen this key policy-making body.”

The review is refreshing. But first, a pause:

Do you know what the GNSO is or what it does? Do ICANN’s processes seem difficult to understand?

I bet (unless you’ve been going to ICANN meetings) you don’t know much about this. And the focus of the report on the impenetrability of ICANN’s work is refreshing and very useful.

It’s as if the LSE team went on a trip into a tangled terrain full of oral history and oddly-shaped reports. The civil and learned voice of the review expresses amazement at what they found in this strange land. 39,000 hours of work on whois, for example. Wildly varying approaches to intake, representativeness, and scope of work.

They’re also amazed at what they didn’t find. Coherence? Standardization? Metrics? Accessible information? Outside expertise? Listing of who’s involved? Rational web sites?

I hope that everyone who’s interested will participate in the processes that are coming up that will consider this review. My first, personal, take on this is that there is much to applaud in the report—particularly the recommendations that outsiders be heavily involved in task forces and the relationship of new “members” in the process be with ICANN first and a broad constituency second. Both of these recommendations will help professionalize ICANN enormously.

There is also much to applaud in the current GNSO. The Council Chair is terrific, many people work very hard as volunteers on policy issues, there is a real effort to do good work, and none of this is easy. But change is surely needed.

By Susan Crawford, Professor, Cardozo Law School in New York City

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Kieren McCarthy  –  Sep 19, 2006 5:56 PM

I think it’s worth reading the whole report. And I have to say, I am slightly surprised and impressed that the LSE team got such a quick understanding of the issues that everyone has been privately complaining about for so long.

I also think, however, that the question has to be asked how much vetting ICANN itself had of the report (something for a Board member to discover?). If this was put through a long approval process, what are we to make of the suggestion that a fundamental way to fix the issue is to give ICANN staff more power?

If ICANN the organisation has had the right to pull out paragraphs, how do we know that the LSE didn’t hit a few more targets that may be politically comfortable?

What this report does - importantly - is say all the things that people have been too scared to say for so long. And that is, in a nutshell, that a small group of very active, very hard-working, inidividuals have created a micro-culture around themselves that has had the net effect of damaging debate and ruining proper interaction.

No one is evil, no one is to blame, but that is what has happened and this report puts it down on paper, in diplomatic terms, for the first time.

The really big question, the really important debate, is over which of the countless recommendations - 24 of them - are introduced. Are they all good? Should they all be included? If one shouldn’t, let’s have a debate over why not. If they should, we should ask if the same recommendation could and should be applied elsewhere in the ICANN organisation.

I think the report is a good one. And I really think that it is a situation where only well-argued opposition should prevent its recommendations from being implemented in full.

Kieren McCarthy

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