ICANN Ombudsman Blog Creating Dialogue Affirming Fairness

December 10, 2010

Ombudsman presentation at the ICANN Meeting Public Forum – Cartagena

Filed under: icann meetings — Frank Fowlie @ 7:11 am

PETER DENGATE THRUSH:  Thank you very much.  Okay.  Thank you. Next we come to thank the ombudsman, and I invite Frank to come and present the report from the ombudsman.  Where’s Frank?  Can we get the ombudsman’s slides up?  Thank you, Frank.  I think the way Wolfgang did it worked very well in the absence of a —

 >>FRANK FOWLIE:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I will be excessively brief to try to get you back on track, as always.  The ombudsman report has been on the Web site since Monday, and I’m pleased to take any questions from the table or the floor in connection to that.  I guess everybody read it and really, really liked it.

 [ Laughter ]

 Amadeu said he read it twice.

 >>PETER DENGATE THRUSH:  Frank, you know one thing about this community, if they don’t like something, they are not shy about standing up and saying so.

 >>FRANK FOWLIE:  I didn’t notice that.

 >>ROD BECKSTROM:  It must have been perfect.

 >>PETER DENGATE THRUSH:  They always do so in civil tones and respect for each other.

 >>BRUCE TONKIN:  I have a quick question, if I might, Peter.

 >>PETER DENGATE THRUSH:  Yes, Bruce.

 >>BRUCE TONKIN:  Frank, in the ATRT report, it mentioned that they are looking at the review of various, I guess, appeals processes, for want of a better word.  And there was mention they thought the ombudsman office should meet the various international standards that might relate to that.

 Wonder if you could comment very briefly on whether you think the ombudsman office today does meet those.  And if not, what are some of the things that would need to be changed, in very summary form?

 >>FRANK FOWLIE:  Thank you, Bruce.  Actually, I had the opportunity to provide a briefing to Brian Cute on this matter, and I shared it with you yesterday.

 The office of the ombudsman is probably — this office of the ombudsman is probably the most scrutinized and evaluated ombudsman’s office in the world, not only against international standards but also against standards that were developed within this office as I did my doctoral dissertation. 

 The difficulty in putting this particular office uniquely into a cache of one of the various ombudsman associations that exists is that it is an executive ombudsman office.  It is created by a legislative body, being the table, and performs a specific function of answering questions about fair treatment within the community.

 There is no specific ombudsman association in the world that caters exclusively to executive ombudsmen.

 The United States Ombudsman Association and the International Ombudsman Association reflect either end of the spectrum.  The United States Ombudsman being the classical or governmental ombudsman and the International Ombudsman Association being organizational ombudsmen who have very different characteristics of dealing usually
with staff issues, client issues and who do not formally report.  So there are elements of both.

 In the work that we’ve done in the evaluation of this office of the ombudsman, we have developed a checklist of the 50 top characteristics found across all ombudsman associations and have classified where this office fits in those.  That has been reviewed by an independent third -party evaluator who has provided a commentary and who’s put — that’s available on the Web site.

 Very early in the development of the office, I contracted with an evaluator from the International Standards Association, ISO — our organization, excuse me.  They have two standards that deal with complaint handling:  One for complaints internal to an organization and one complaints external.  ISO 10,002 and 10,003.  The evaluator
went through our framework and our process and confirmed that the ICANN office of the ombudsman met all international standards with respect to complaint handling.

 My advice is that the office in and of itself is meeting all international standards, meeting all national standards and is a leader across the globe in the evaluation of standards for ombudsman offices. 

 I think there are weaknesses, and those were addressed in the commentary.  I think one of the weaknesses that does need to be addressed in terms of how international bodies look — or state bodies or national bodies look at the use of having an ombudsman as a structure in their organization or government is the linkage between the board and the ombudsman.

 I think one of the weaknesses that needs to be explored is the recommendation process.  The Bylaw 5 is very, very clear, that the ombudsman is to make a report to the board and provide recommendations on how the ombudsman thinks matters should be dealt with.

 A weakness in this organization is the reply back or the follow-up action.  Normally where there is a statement legislature who has an ombudsman, the ombudsman will be authorized by law to demand or reply and report on the implementation of recommendations within 30 days.  Obviously, in an executive ombudsman framework where the legislature and the ombudsman are much more closely attached, that becomes more difficult. 

 But I think part of the ATRT review and the review being taken up at this point should include an evaluation not just of the ombudsman but the relationship between the ombudsman and the board of directors.  And that will provide for a much more healthy and curative result to complaints that come through the office of the ombudsman.

 >>PETER DENGATE THRUSH:  Very fulsome reply.  Any other questions for the ombudsman?  Any questions from the floor?  In which case, let me move to another part of this, which, of course, is to note that Frank is leaving us at the end of January next year. 

 And Frank, of course, was our first ombudsman, was instrumental in setting up the ICANN ombudsman framework and the online presence. 

 So, Frank, could you come and join us on the stage.  We have a little gift to note that.  Frank also, as he said, earned his doctorate in online dispute resolution and the assessment of ombudsman offices while he was at ICANN.  I understand his doctoral dissertation on that won the prize for dissertation of LaTrobe University for doctoral theses that year. 

 So, Frank, thank you for setting up our office and thank you for holding it to the high standard you have always aspired to.  Thank you very much.

 [ Applause ]

December 7, 2010

Final Communique of the ODR and Consumers Forum available

Filed under: ODR — Frank Fowlie @ 10:52 am

The Final Communique for the 2010 International Forum on Online Dispute Resolution and Consumer Issues is available here.

December 6, 2010

Cartagena Public Forum Comments Posted

Filed under: Uncategorized — Frank Fowlie @ 5:14 am

The Ombudsman’s report for the Cartagena Public Forum is posted here.

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