ICANN Ombudsman Blog Creating Dialogue Affirming Fairness

September 22, 2015

Accountibility and Designing Dispute Resolution Systems for ICANN

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chris LaHatte @ 8:55 pm

One of the features of the debate on accountability has been considerable discussion about how to resolve disputes within ICANN. As the ICANN ombudsman it is my role to look at issues of unfairness within the ICANN community and to apply alternative dispute resolution techniques to any issues which are brought to me. This is of course based specifically on my bylaw and on the ombudsman framework, and deals specifically with unfairness and delay issues.
The debate has centred on whether the present other accountability structures, of reconsideration by the ICANN board and of the Independent Review Panel provide appropriate methods for the community to resolve disputes with ICANN and within the community. Regrettably there has not been much debate about some of the more basic issues which need to be resolved in designing a dispute resolution systems based on the new accountability structure.
The first thing which needs to be done is to try to identify the sources of conflict within ICANN and the community, and to understand why those problems arise. It is important to look at the structures and systems and relationships and any “conflict cultures” within the organisation. In considering these issues I acknowledge the work of Kenneth Cloke and Joan Goldsmith, who have written extensively on workplace and organisational disputes, and on management of those disputes and designing systems to improve the capacity for conflict prevention management and resolution.
My thinking on this arose after attending training on dispute resolution management design with Kenneth Cloke and Joan Goldsmith.


The first matter to consider is how conflicts arise within ICANN, and how these are managed. ICANN of course has a highly skilled and experienced legal team, with extensive litigation experience. But the point that I want to emphasise is that we need to understand how conflict arises within the community, and how it is managed. We also need to consider the various stages of entry into any dispute management system including any escalation mechanisms and final resolution systems.
Perhaps more importantly, we need to think about what sort of disputes are going to be dealt with within ICANN. There are some obvious matters where this would not be appropriate, such as employment contract disputes, criminal issues and lawsuits from outside the community. This is not of course a complete list. The office of the ombudsman has had jurisdiction over numbers of matters which are set out both in the ombudsman bylaw and in the Ombudsman Framework. But in a wider sense, issues that need to go to reconsideration by the board or independent review panels have been discussed in general terms, but there is as yet no general description of the types of issues which will be considered suitable for the new accountability mechanisms. It is important to have a framework for the type of disputes which are to be dealt with within ICANN as opposed to litigation. Many of the submitters and participants in the discussions have expressed clear views that court litigation must be avoided if at all possible. Obviously there will still be some litigation because ICANN remains a body incorporated under the law of the state of California. For some purposes there will be always a submission to those courts and to the federal courts of the United States.
So a discussion needs to take place, framing and scoping the disputes to be dealt with by these new accountability methods.


Once the discussion as to the scope and range of disputes has reached some agreed description, then a procedure needs to be designed which will be readily accessible by the community without excessive procedural hurdles and the need for legal teams to prepare any case. The ombudsman level is informal in any event and does not have any particular procedure other than a complaint made to the office of the ombudsman, which can be oral, written, by telephone or email or using the case management system complaint form. So the entry level is simple and easy. The procedure for processing the complaint is also informal.
At the reconsideration and independent review panel level, there needs to be more sophisticated procedure. For example, will there ever be cases for reconsideration where parties can make oral applications and give oral evidence? Will those decisions be subject to appeal, and what are the boundaries of an appeal? Will appeals be limited to a rehearing or can new issues be raised? What are the limits on submissions? If this goes to the independent panel proposed, similar issues arise such as the use of oral evidence at hearings, whether this should be entirely based on papers filed or some other procedure?
The final objective as to procedure should be something that avoids “gaming” by use of unduly complex procedure. Time limits should be discussed, but also with the flexibility so that when human errors arise, these are not used to strike out otherwise meritorious claims. On the other hand, there should be times including times for the issue of a final IRP decision, that enable parties to resolve disputes within a reasonable time.


At the ombudsman level, mediation is emphasised as the principal dispute resolution tool. There is no reason why this cannot be used at the reconsideration and IRP levels however. It may not be appropriate for the ombudsman to act as the mediator for those systems, given that the ombudsman may have had previous involvement with the disputes. But there are many suitable mediators available who could be appointed when needed.


I have written this blog to raise awareness rather than to make submissions. I am concerned that much of the discussion about the proposed accountability mechanisms has not considered structures, systems and relationships, and issues such as accessibility and the scope of any such accountability mechanisms.

June 10, 2015

The Community Applications and the EIU-preliminary comments

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chris LaHatte @ 5:12 pm

This is an interim report to advise the community as to progress related to this investigation. At this point I have had a number of discussions with the EIU unit, ICANN staff who have been involved with the unit and assisting with their assessment, a number of discussions with community applicants and with parties opposing, and I have received some very helpful submissions. At this time I am still making enquiries about issues but thought it useful to indicate some of the matters which have arisen.

Because of the confidential nature of the EIU panel and process, there has been a certain amount of uncertainty and unease about how this worked. So I spent time talking to the EIU unit about the way the unit operated and how they obtained information and the way in which they worked with ICANN. It is apparent they take a proactive approach, and look more widely than just the bundle of information provided by the applicant. They also look at public comments and any correspondence on the ICANN website and more general research. They told me they are open to receiving all information, and gather it from many sources to provide background for the applications. There was a comment that the information came in a cloud rather than structured by applicant/objector, and this was then analysed. There is a panel which varied in size according to the workload with a number of levels of review. They have evaluators who work independently, and the result is then reviewed by a project coordinator, then a core team so that there are a number of lengthy discussions about the process. Once a result is drafted it then goes to ICANN for feedback. Their indication to me was that ICANN made comments on wording and did discuss whether the unit was happy with the scores. But they emphasised that ICANN was neutral about the results, and particularly careful to be neutral. There was a strong emphasis on the wording but also an anxiety that the community would be happy with the result.

I have also had some very thoughtful and useful comments from the applicants and from those who opposed community applications. There were a number of criticisms of the high cost of the application together with the legal and administrative costs. Several commented that a community would not have the same financial resources as a commercial applicant. Several commented on the very low number of successful applications, with a 75% rejection rate. A number commented on the ability to game the system by prolonging the application process without justification. Several criticised of the internal procedures within ICANN as permitting undue delay. There was criticism of the overall process stating it was too legalistic and that some of the processes changed while the applications were underway. Several felt they had been affected by delays in accepting change requests. Several of the applicants felt that the process was opaque compared to the earlier legal objection and string similarity processes. They felt that keeping the identity of the panellists a secret lacked transparency. A number of submitters objected to the failure to communicate the process, and the failure to object to what several described as spurious objections. There was also concern about the delay in the procedure compared with the general applications. One submitter commented that implementation was about four times greater than expected. This was attributed to periods being extended, which submitters felt was unnecessary. I am providing these as comments, without having published my analysis on the information provided and the accuracy. Certainly the most common theme is lack of transparency and delay. So these will certainly be issues on which I will pay some attention.

I am providing this is a summary of comments, and I have not yet reached the stage of making recommendations or conclusions as a result of the information which I have gathered to date. But I consider it is important that the community knows something of what has been investigated. I should add that I have had full cooperation from the EIU, staff at ICANN and the community. I hope to have further discussions with parties at ICANN 53 in Buenos Aires and move towards a preliminary report for comment shortly thereafter.

May 28, 2015

New Ombudsman Report on Dot Amazon

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chris LaHatte @ 4:41 pm

Office of the Ombudsman
Case 14-00333
In a matter of a Complaint by Amazon EU S.a.r.l.
Report dated 28th May 2015


This investigation is about an application for a new generic top level domain string for .amazon, by Amazon EU Sa.r.l, a subsidiary of the well known Amazon company known for on line sales of a wide range of products, throughout the world. They sought the use of this string as a natural flow on from the use of the corporate name and trademark in the word Amazon. The application for this string attracted considerable opposition from several South American countries, who channeled this though the Government Advisory Committee (GAC), an advisory committee to ICANN. The GAC then provided advice to the New gTLD Program Committee (NGPC), a committee of the ICANN Board, objecting to the delegation. This advice and objection procedure was enabled by the Applicant Guidebook, created by ICANN and the ICANN Community for the purpose of stating the necessary procedure for applicants for the new strings.
The NGPC accepted the GAC advice and as a result the application for the string came to a halt. Amazon then sought a reconsideration request, as provided in the ICANN Bylaws for such decisions, numbered 14 – 27 in the ICANN system. The resulting decision from the ICANN Board Governance Committee (BGC) who have the delegated power to decide reconsideration requests, declined to do so. As is the current practice, the BGC suggested that if Amazon was unhappy with the result, then they could ask the Ombudsman to review the decision, and Amazon have chosen to do so.


The essence of the complaint is that Amazon have complained that they have been treated unfairly because there is a conflict of interest by the members of the two ICANN committees who have considered the issues and made a number of decisions. Both the NGPC and BGC committees are made up of ICANN Board members, and have some but not all members in common.
The first decision was made by the NGPC to accept GAC advice that the string for .amazon should not proceed. Amazon then used the reconsideration process to ask the ICANN Board to review that decision. The BGC then made a recommendation which was referred back to the NGPC for final action. The effect is that the application for the string was not able to proceed. Amazon however assert that there is a conflict of interest created by the fact that the NGPC and BGC committees of the board have the same ICANN board members. They say that this made the process fundamentally and inherently unfair, and submit that the process precluded any meaningful and objective review of the reconsideration request.


To undertake this investigation I have read the application for reconsideration request and related papers sent to ICANN by Amazon, the minutes of the two ICANN committees and the final reconsideration decision. I have discussed the matter with ICANN and with representatives of Amazon. I have sought comment on specific aspects including a specific request from me, to comment on the knowledge of the Applicant Guidebook. I was concerned that community, and specifically Amazon, as part of the community would have been aware of the terms of the AGB and the procedure. The AGB was issued in a number of iterations, and developed in a policy development process by the community, and the version relevant to the Amazon application, was January 2012. Subsequent to the guidebook being developed and published, the ICANN board specifically created a new committee to deal with the new generic names, which was the NGPC committee. This was created by a resolution on 10 April 2012. This committee then proceeded to deal with various aspects of the program, and in due course the decision from the GAC, which effectively halted the Amazon application.
Amazon note in their submissions to me, that by the time this committee had been created they had already filed their application for the .Amazon string.


The issue which I am required to investigate is whether there is a conflict of interest of such a nature which made the decisions unfair. The issue which flows from this is whether the members of the ICANN committees can reach their decisions having regard to their dual capacity as members of both committees. In other words does membership of the NGPC taint any decisions made subsequently as a member of the BGC? Do the openly disclosed declarations of conflict made by the members of the committees make the decision acceptable?
This is a matter where I clearly have jurisdiction. If there is a conflict of interest in a decision made by the board or committees of the board, then I have jurisdiction to make a recommendation about the procedure and the result. I do not have the power to set aside the result but only to suggest that the matter be reviewed, if the process was tainted by a conflict of interest, if one existed.


It must be assumed that the applicants for all of the new generic top level domains would have spent some time familiarising themselves with the AGB and the process. The procedure for reviewing board decisions by the reconsideration procedure is also well established, although perhaps not as well known at the start of the programme, as the present, after so many new gTLD applicants have used the procedure. The point is that when the applicants made their applications for the new names, they should have also considered the process and the procedure which would be needed, particularly when dealing with adverse decisions.
It would be well known to applicants that any decisions made by the ICANN board were subject to the accountability functions of the ombudsman, reconsideration request and independent review panel. So in terms of fairness, all of the applicants would be aware that the process for dealing with issues of procedural fairness would need to be undertaken using those accountability functions. They have signed up to the process in other words.
Amazon has however been concerned that the NGPC committee was only formed after the applications had been filed. They raise the issue that they did not know that such a committee would be formed, and therefore could not have waived any right to object to this committee and the BGC making decisions on the reconsideration process. The NGPC committee was of course set up to deal specifically with the process, but it is important to note that it is a committee of the ICANN board, which has the power to delegate decision-making in this fashion. The alternative way of dealing with the issues arising out of the new gTLD program would have been to place these before the board as a whole, but obviously this would be cumbersome. So the creation of this subcommittee is not of itself unfair or using an unfair process. So in my view there is nothing problematic in the creation of this committee after the various applications for the new names were made. It was a predictable and appropriate use of the board’s resources.
Amazon state that they could not have consented to any process that did not even exist when they filed the application and therefore could not waive any potential conflict of interest. They submit that there was never any consent, and that they specifically objected to the conflict of interest in the Request for Reconsideration with a specific reference in a letter of 3 June 2014 to the BGC, raising the issues of conflict. They sought specific comment from the BGC, but assert they do not ever receive a response from ICANN. This appears to be one of their principal concerns.
The real difficulty arises because the board is relatively small, and the committees required a minimum number to be able to properly consider the issues. If the decisions had been made by the entire board that would not have resolved any potential conflict of course. But it is also important to note the procedure for identifying potential conflicts and the requirement by board members to complete forms relating to any potential conflict. In addition, they are expected to identify any new conflicts which arise during any discussion and decision making.
It is also important to note that there is a different issue with conflict which arises during a judicial process and decisions made by a corporate board. A difficulty does arise when the board is acting in a quasi-judicial capacity, as with the reconsideration. Then the issue is whether a higher standard of conflict of interest should apply?
The key issue with any conflict of interest is disclosure of the conflict. Some conflicts will require recusal from decision making but others will just require disclosure, but the board member can still vote on the issue. As long as the parties are aware of the decision makers, and their role, and importantly, do not object at the appropriate time to the decisions being made by the board committees. The membership of the committees is an open matter, and available on the ICANN website. So by opting to use the reconsideration process, Amazon were on notice that the membership was common to both. But although they did raise this when making the application for reconsideration, nothing was done by ICANN. If they had asked for a BGC committee to be constituted of non NGPC members to reconsider, then this would have resolved any conflict. In terms of the standard test has this created a perception of bias on the part of the BGC?
I have been troubled by this issue. On one hand the members of the ICANN board are both required to be, and have been transparent in disclosing any potential conflicts of interest. But because Amazon raised the issue of the perception of conflict, without this being addressed, should this affect the fairness of the process? My jurisdiction is to examine the fairness of the process. This is not an abstract exercise, and for me to make a recommendation about the reconsideration decision, I must be able to identify something about the process which is caused a disadvantage to Amazon.
It is important to note that the scope for the BGC to reopen the decision is in very narrow focus in any event. The jurisdiction to set aside a reconsideration decision can only focus on quite specific issues which are set out in the bylaw as follows:-
Section 2. Any person or entity may submit a request for reconsideration or review of an ICANN action or inaction (“Reconsideration Request”) to the extent that he, she, or it have been adversely affected by:
a. one or more staff actions or inactions that contradict established ICANN policy(ies); or
b. one or more actions or inactions of the ICANN Board that have been taken or refused to be taken without consideration of material information, except where the party submitting the request could have submitted, but did not submit, the information for the Board’s consideration at the time of action or refusal to act; or
c. one or more actions or inactions of the ICANN Board that are taken as a result of the Board’s reliance on false or inaccurate material information.
Of course, in the course of a review of fairness, I cannot address the reasons for the decision. But it is important to note in practical terms, that the BGC simply does not have much room to move on setting aside the NGPC decision. This includes the power to reject the application. Provided the BGC adheres to the limits of its jurisdiction, and makes a decision consistent with the specific power, then issues of unfairness will be limited in scope.
It is also important to note that these are decisions of a corporate entity rather than a formally constituted tribunal or court. The ICANN board is made up of volunteers, and relies upon advice from counsel within ICANN, and with some exceptions, they are not qualified or practising lawyers. The necessary standard of conflict of interest and disclosure appears to be of a high standard compared to many other corporate entities. From considering the decisions made from time to time, and reading the minutes of the board it is apparent that the possibility of conflict of interest is frequently examined, and board members do recuse themselves on a regular basis when making decisions.
In this situation, what should the ICANN BGC committee have done when Amazon raised the issue of the perception of bias? The best way to resolve an issue of perception of bias, is to answer this with a robust response, with transparency and openness. In this case, the issue has not been addressed by ICANN. My discussions with ICANN staff have certainly made it clear that they do not regard this as an issue which affects the result. The appropriate way to resolve such a perception of bias would be to recommend a rehearing. I have considered this matter at some length because of the importance of the issue. There are two factors which need to be considered, the first being the issue of proportionality. I have already discussed the different standard for a corporate board of directors from a judicial tribunal. When this is placed in proportion, it seems to me the standard, in proportion, may not require a rehearing. The second factor in combination with proportionality, is that if there was a rehearing, could the BGC, with the constraints on its ability to examine the decision, reach a different result? I am not sure that they would be able to do so, because there is no change in the factual matrix and other issues.
As I have been considering this report, there has been a contemporaneous debate about the accountability functions within ICANN, including considerable criticism of the reconsideration process. It appears to be accepted that there are limitations with reconsideration because of the very specific jurisdiction, which only provides a narrow scope for setting aside a decision. It may be useful to consider some protections to avoid assertions of conflict of interest, if the reconsideration model is to be re-examined and modified.


As a result of this investigation, I consider that the existing structure has some issues, but that this is a matter for perhaps the current examination of accountability structures and the review of the New GTLD programme in the future. Although this comes close to the need for a recommendation for a rehearing, on the balance I cannot therefore recommend this.

Chris LaHatte

March 3, 2015

Ombudsman Own Motion Investigation into EIU Community Evaluation

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chris LaHatte @ 7:50 pm

On the 20th January 2015 the Board Governance Committee of the ICANN board passed a resolution as follows:-

“Ombudsman’s “Own Motion” Investigation – The BGC discussed and considered the ICANN Ombudsman’s request for authorization to undertake his “own motion” investigation on the New gTLD Program’s Community Priority Evaluation (“CPE”) process. Consideration of, and authorization for, Ombudsman’s “own motion” investigations is within the BGC’s scope of responsibilities under its Charter. The Ombudsman has advised that he has received a number of different complaints about the CPE process. Because the filing of an Ombudsman complaint triggers a stay on the status of other applications in the same contention set, the Ombudsman has suggested that it would be appropriate for him to undertake his “own motion” investigation into the issues raised in these complaints as well as the overall CPE process, rather than continue investigations on individual complaints, so as to limit interference with individual applications. The BGC voted to authorize the Ombudsman to proceed with the “own motion” investigation he has proposed on the New gTLD Program’s CPE process.”

So at first instance I want to make the community aware that I am commencing the investigation. I want to hear from all of those affected by the Community Priority Evaluation process, including those who are satisfied with the process and those who were unhappy with what happened. I have already talked to the ICANN team involved with this, who have been very helpful. I also intend discussing this with the EIU team to ensure that their perspective is considered. I would be happy to receive submissions from anyone who has an opinion about the process. At present I am in an information gathering phase and want to absorb as much detail. Please contact me at ombudsman@ICANN.org. If you want to make an anonymous contribution, your details will be protected by me. Ombudsman confidentiality will apply to all discussions unless you are happy for them to be made public.
I will make a preliminary report by the end of April, provided I have sufficient information by then of course.

January 14, 2015

NamesCon 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chris LaHatte @ 12:15 pm

First-timer perspective from NamesCon 2015

NamesCon 2015 is nothing like the thrice-yearly ICANN meetings I am accustomed to, but that is partly why I chose to go this January. Outreach is an important part of my job as ombudsman for the ICANN community, and being available to members outside of the ICANN meetings is one way I try to build trust and credibility.

Where ICANN meetings were filled with discussions of processes and policies, NamesCon was very market-driven and sales-oriented. The action at this Las Vegas-based domain industry conference was in the corridors and one-on-one meetings, where deals were being made hourly. Quite the striking difference from ICANN, where you find most of the action within the different working group sessions and meetings, and the outcomes are policy recommendations not sales. The NamesCon auction of domain names on the second-to-last day was downright exciting, bringing such impressive prices for names like carauctions.com ($95,000).

Networking is a huge part of the NamesCon draw. Organizers said the conference was designed primarily to educate and connect website developers, online marketing and search professionals, and small to medium business owners with industry players. For me, it was an opportunity to talk to those involved in the domain industry about my role as an independent, impartial and neutral party who can help resolve issues or complaints about unfair treatment or a particular Board, community or staff decision, action or inaction. Part of my communication was to stress what I cannot do as well. For example, I do not investigate complaints between domain holders and registrars, although I do provide self-help information to those in disputes not related to ICANN.

Needless to say, attending a domainers’ event is new territory to this ombudsman, but the people I met were open and interested in what I do. I encouraged everyone I encountered to get more involved in ICANN policy discussions, as these have a direct impact on their businesses and livelihoods. This idea was echoed by several speakers as well, including Akram Atallah, ICANN’s President of its Global Domains Division, and Fiona Alexander, associate administrator of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration. (The NTIA is the agency that holds the IANA contract with ICANN.)

With just a few weeks until ICANN 52 in Singapore on 8-12 February, I am looking forward to seeing many of you in the meeting rooms and in the hallways. Please drop by my office at any time for a confidential discussion.

November 2, 2014

Association for Conflict Resolution annual conference Cincinnati October 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chris LaHatte @ 3:19 pm

I received a lovely thank you letter for my presentation


Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR) – www.acrnet.org
ACR International Section – http://acrinternational.polisci.txstate.edu/
October 31, 2014
Chris LaHatte
Dear Chris,
On behalf of the International Section of the Association for Conflict Resolution, we wish to thank you
for your invaluable contributions to the success of International Day at the Association for Conflict
Resolution’s 2014 annual conference in Cincinnati on October 10, 2014.
We are fortunate to have had someone of your professional expertise and credentials address our
group and deliver such an outstanding presentation. We received great feedback about your
presentation, peppered with Maori and the inspiring egalitarian ideals of ICANN. We learned so much
about ICANN and your unique role as ombudsman there. It was fascinating to learn more about an
organization so central to deciding the structure of the World Wide Web.
Mary Damianakis
Chair, ACR International Section

Lee Paulson
Chair Elect, ACR International Section

October 30, 2014

ICANN: Allow individuals who have their personal names as part of a domain name to have signing authority for its resale.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chris LaHatte @ 7:14 pm

I have recently received a petition through change.org with the above description. I do get complaints from time to time from individuals who find that their own names, sometimes unique to them, have been used by someone for cybersquatting. When the person seeks to use the name the registrant will often offer to sell at a substantial amount. Most individuals then use a variant or walk away. But I have had a number of complaints where individuals have been stalked by people who registered a domain name in their name. Of course the market for domain names is wide open, and individuals are free to register whatever names they want. That is the choice of the community, and I need to explain to the affected people, that if they want to change this, they would need to start a policy development process.

Of course of the individual has been prudent enough to register a trademark in their name, then the UDRP process is available, although of course at some cost. But often when someone becomes well-known because of their subsequent achievements, this will not occur to them. It can be frustrating as the ombudsman to see exploitation like this, which is unfair. It is regrettably out of my jurisdiction, and can only be changed through a proper policy development process.


September 22, 2014

Sexist Behaviour at Meetings

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chris LaHatte @ 8:59 pm

One of my responsibilities as the ombudsman is to be a contact point for diversity issues. This is particularly important now that ICANN has become a global organisation. Respect for diversity does extend beyond different cultures, races and other difference. It includes respect for gender in the wider sense now used. Internet organisations and indeed anything to do with computer hardware and software has been a male dominated culture for many years. This has gradually changed, although ICANN itself still has to achieve equality of women and men on its board. The executive positions are also improving in terms of equality. And with only anecdotal evidence, in my 3 years attending ICANN meetings, there do seem to be more women actively involved within the community.

I do get complaints about sexist behaviour from time to time. To date I have not had to deal with these in a formal way, because often discussion and explanation can achieve more. Consensus building is a fundamental part of ICANN culture, and so when problems arise I try to approach these from the perspective of increasing awareness and sharing of the difficulties which may have been caused, so the parties understand why there may have been offence caused.

I have had a more recent complaint about a remark best described as flippant in connection with a discussion list about a new project. The initial comments were regarded as harmless, but as often happens when something witty or frivolous is dropped into a discussion, sometimes the comments are then taken too far, as happened in the example, which arrived in my office. I do not want to be seen as a policeman for the politically correct positions on such an exchange. But we do need to be aware that some are more sensitive than others and can take offence. Of course the rules of polite discourse published by ICANN apply to all our community. My predecessor Dr Frank Fowlie wrote about this here- https://www.icann.org/resources/pages/respectful-communication-2012-02-25-en, and also refers to the ICANN Expected Standards Of Behavior, which are also set out on that site. As we approach the Los Angeles meeting, it may be useful to reflect on this. I have heard this may be our largest meeting ever, and hopefully our most diverse in every sense. And with the broadening of the community, tolerance and understanding will grow.

September 17, 2014

Regional Internet Registries

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chris LaHatte @ 9:22 pm

The ICANN supporting organisations are a rich and complex mixture. The Address Supporting Organisation (ASO) and the five regional Internet registries are an important part of this picture. Probably the best-known part of the current work is the allocation of the IVP4 numbers although this is of course only a part of the work. They have a memorandum of understanding with ICANN, which describes their responsibilities including global policy development, becoming involved in selection of individuals to serve on other I can bodies including the board, and selecting ICANN board seats 9 and 10. In addition they provide advice to the ICANN board on number resource allocation policy, in conjunction with the regional Internet registries.

Historically the ASO and the regional registries have not been frequent visitors of the office of the ICANN ombudsman. I am unsure whether this is because they achieve a good level of consensus decision-making and policy development, which is likely, but possibly affected by the ombudsman not visiting the Council and the regional registry meetings to work on outreach. It has been suggested that I should attend the regional meetings, so that the community does become aware of the role of the ombudsman. Issues such as allocation of number resources, particularly when these are coming to an end for IVP4, do have the potential for disagreement and dispute. As part of the accountability function, my office would need to be available if such issues arose. I would be interested to hear from the community as to the input which I could give to the regional Internet registries. You can comment on the usual way to this blog or email me direct at ombudsman@ICANN.org.

September 15, 2014

IGF at Istanbul-Extract from session

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chris LaHatte @ 4:11 pm

This is what I said at the IGF

ROBIN GROSS: Thank you. Our next speaker is Chris LaHatte the ICANN Ombudsman.

CHRIS LAHATTE: Thank you Robin. I am really meant to be the first place you go to if you have a difficulty with the organisation. The role is structured within the ICANN organisation. So in terms of governance and accountability I’m here for the community making recommendations to the board and as Avri pointed out that can sometimes have the impact of a wet bus ticket. However, and the few times that I have had to make a recommendation they see ‑‑ the board has accepted what I have suggested.

The Ombudsman office has been looked at rather carefully and more recently in the ATRT, too, and it is proposed that the scope of the office be increased somewhat because of a need for further accountability structures. I’m not sure it is entirely appropriate for me is the present holder of the office to advocate for changes which could conceivably be seen as some form of empire building but I would be very interested to hear from the community as to specific ways in which the use of my office can enhance accountability.
Now there are a number of different aspects which have been suggested in ATRT, too. There have been some comments about it but not a great deal of debate. It is not the sort of issue where I really want to tell people what I think. I’m very interested in a bottom‑up movement for these are the sorts of things that I should be doing or doing in addition to what I’m already doing.
So while my principal role is expressed as dealing with issues of fairness and of delay, that is gradually come to encompass issues such as diversity, challenges, and that sort of thing as well. Increasingly issues such as privacy, the lack of it, or the protections around privacy have also started to be raised. Issues like access to documentation are also important and that’s a mechanism, of course, for ensuring transparency and accountability within ICANN itself. As it happens under my bylaw I have access to everything. My bylaw says that if I request a document from any member of the community they should give it to me.
If they say no, I’m not quite sure what I would do then, but I would certainly make something of a fuss if I regarded that as critical. So my role really depends on the ability to persuade people. It has been described as moral persuasion rather than the ability to say ICANN, you should be doing this or you must do this.
And that’s pretty typical for an Ombudsman. An Ombudsman has the power to tell people to do things. Even the national Ombudsman don’t actually have the power to do much except generally the same sort of power that I have which is to order that information be provided. The rest of it is all recommendations.
So the range of what I do in the new era is something that I’d like the community to think about is what I am doing a wide enough scope, should it be more narrow. And I’d like to hear from people because as Avri said accountability wasn’t really discussed terribly much when I first started doing this and it is really only in the last year and particularly more focused with the IANA contract issue that people have started to say well, how else do we ensure that there is somebody to answer to. So we are in a brave new world and with that I welcome contributions.

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