ICANN Ombudsman Blog Creating Dialogue Affirming Fairness

October 30, 2011

Dakar-Final Day

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chris LaHatte @ 12:49 am

I am now packing after concluding the meeting. My presentation to the Board and ICANN community can be found here-http://dakar42.icann.org/node/27031 under Ombudsman and the transcript is there too.

Here is my final address

Address to ICANN Public Forum

Tena koe,  tena koe tena koutou katoa

Haere mai ki te Kaitiaki Mana Tangata

Greetings to all from the Ombudsman

I open by addressing you in the language of the indigenous people of New Zealand, the Maori. In New Zealand our Constitution has developed as a partnership, if you like, a dual stakeholder model with the Maori and European settlers. A partnership is like a multi-stakeholder model because it involves a relationship between the parties which goes deeper than something like a contract or an ordinary company constitution. This is because at the end it involves the people. In Maori we would say that

He aha te mea nui o te ao?

He tangata! He tangata! He tangata!

What is the most important thing in the world?

It is people! It is people! It is people!,

So my role as the ombudsman is to help preserve those relationships, because the very nature of my job is to look at damaged or broken relationships. In some respects the role is therapeutic rather than policing, which is consistent with my approach to be inclusive and welcoming. A partnership still requires nurturing and care. The ICANN staff provide the nurturing and care to the multi-stakeholder model and the ombudsman is there when the family has an argument.


I should tell you something about what has happened since I was appointed. In the following slides you will see the complaints in the period from when Dr Frank Fowlie finished his term until I was appointed. You can then see a very substantial increase since I began. It is entirely possible that the introduction of the new GTLDs will add to this workload, although the care which has been spent on the application process may avoid this.


This meeting in Dakar Senegal is my first ICANN meeting, and I have tried to meet as many of you as ICANN. Quite a few have found me in my office and called in just to say hello. Some issues have also risen, which is not surprising with so many people all anxious to have their voice heard and with the consequence something like the family reunion where old family disputes are raised.


I was fortunate in achieving a handover with Dr Fowlie, who has of course deep experience of both ICANN and the profession of ombudsmanship. However I intend setting my own mark on this office and you will have seen some changes in the appearance of my site, my publicity literature and the banners outside my office. The curved green signals are a koru, which is developed from the Maori word for the New Zealand tree fern, an important symbol in New Zealand. A fern is an important part of the forest ecosystem, and I hope that this acts as a symbol for the important part of the ombudsman plays in the ICANN ecosystem.

Another analogy for the office of the ombudsman is that of a referee. This of course gives me an opportunity to mention that the All Blacks, the New Zealand rugby team, have just won the Rugby World Cup. I am sure my French colleagues will not mind if I bring this up. But it is important to remember that the referee is not always popular when he has to make a decision which affects the result of the game. Sometimes an ombudsman will also have to make a recommendation which is unpopular, but like the sports referee, someone has to do this. We all hope that on reflection and passage of time that the decisions are seen for what they are.

This meeting at Dakar has been incredibly important for me. It is meeting the people, mostly unpaid volunteers who have an awesome commitment to the goal of ICANN, one world one Internet. I have been overwhelmed by the passion, the deep knowledge and the constant re-evaluation of what we do. I am learning that many in the community know that the office of the ombudsman exists, but perhaps what I can do for you is not as well known as it should be. I intend reaching out however, by all possible means, to ensure that my office is better known and available to everyone and that you feel free to contact me at any time.

I will conclude by giving my thanks to the ICANN staff who have been patient with my ignorance, and to the ICANN community who have welcomed me without reservation. I also acknowledge the friendly staff and our conference centre and hotel, who had provided delicious food, superior pillows for my bed and professional service to all of us.




October 26, 2011

Dakar Day 5

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chris LaHatte @ 9:26 am

It has been an interesting few days. I have been warmly welcomed by so many people, and met so many diverse cultures. I was able to share tea with the CNNIC team and practice my French (which is sorely in need of this), and meet even a few New Zealanders. I have had my caricature drawn and alas, enjoyed too many French pastries.

What is important is that the ICANN community have realised that I am here and that I can help with their issues, and I have had many callers to my office, some social and some with problems to discuss. I hope those who see my blog will know that I am on board and ready to talk to anyone here at Dakar.

October 25, 2011


Filed under: Uncategorized — Chris LaHatte @ 1:43 am

An article from the Economist

Who should run the internet?

A plaything of powerful nations


The author unfortunately is seemingly unaware of the dispute resolution structure in ICANN, which starts with the office of the Ombudsman, and has further levels of Reconsideration and of Independent Review. The office of the Ombudsman was established to look at the very issues criticised by the author, of unfairness to any member of the ICANN community. This extends in fact to any user of the Internet who inter reacts with ICANN and the supporting structures. So there are mechanisms available but the author may not have looked at the ICANN bylaws in preparing this article, which is a pity.





October 23, 2011

Dakar Day 2

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chris LaHatte @ 7:30 am

Today is my second day at Dakar, Senegal for ICANN 42. Yesterday I gave a presentation to the board about my induction and the way the office of the ombudsman is developing. It is intended that there be a review of the office in terms of the Accountancy and Transparency Review Team Final Report from June 2011, and we discussed the way in which this would commence. It is important that the structure and function of any organisation is reviewed at regular intervals, and the ombudsman is no exception. So I will be engaging with the board on the review process.

Today I gave a presentation to the newcomers called Ombudsman 101 which went down fairly well with some quite searching questions from the floor. This was followed by an interview with Momodou Jaiteh from Pan African Press which will be broadcast on Monday. Their site is http://www.panapress.com/ and a copy of the interview will be there tomorrow.

In addition there are some issues which I am investigating, which is giving me an interesting insight into the different views held by members of the ICANN community, which I am sure are in fact a strength of the organisation. The fact of vigorous debate is healthy. Of course once this becomes too divided, then the problem turns up on my desk! I continue to encourage people to come to my office (which is at room B9) where they can have a confidential discussion.


October 21, 2011

Dakar First day

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chris LaHatte @ 8:43 pm

I am posting from Dakar in Senegal where I am attending ICANN 42. I intend meeting as many people in the ICANN community as I can, and will have an office here where people can find me. I will post the location of the office once I have this, but in the meantime if you want to come and see me, then send an e-mail. It may cost you too much to text me with local charges but this would work too.

October 12, 2011

Cultural Diversity

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chris LaHatte @ 4:15 pm

On Wednesday morning, I attended a breakfast seminar on mediation and alternative dispute resolution in the Maori Land Court and Waitangi Tribunal, delivered by Judge Caren Fox, one of the judges of the Maori Land Court.I should explain for international readers, that in New Zealand the indigenous peoples, the Maori, have a central constitutional role because of the way in which New Zealand was settled. In 1840 the British government negotiated a treaty, the Treaty of Waitangi, with representatives of the leading Maori tribes (Iwi), which establishes a partnership between the Maori and European settlers. The Maori Land Court has jurisdiction to deal with land owned by the indigenous people and the Tribunal is a statutory body set up to deal with claims made by Maori about breaches of the Treaty. The significance of this is that both the court and tribunal do not approach legal decision-making using the British legal system otherwise used in New Zealand. There is a well-established body of law which relies heavily on Maori custom (tikanga). Parties who appear in the court and the tribunal do not often have lawyers acting for them, and the approach to dispute resolution can be very different from what we may expect for a European legal system.

The use of alternative dispute resolution in courts and tribunals has been a tremendous change throughout the world. However, we should be aware that the vast majority of academic and legal writing is based on English common law and the North American variations to common law. Virtually all the literature is based on European norms and culture and a significant amount of mediation is centred on such European cultural norms.

The seminar presented by Judge Fox was therefore a timely reminder that we must approach all dispute resolution with people from different cultures without making assumptions based on our cultural background. She discussed some of these issues including the concept of mana, and the effect on the ability to achieve a result at mediation. The sort of compromises which we readily accept at a European mediation cannot be achieved in a Maori context, because this would often result in a loss of mana and lead to a decision not acceptable to the members of the group involved in the mediation. The Maori cultural norm has a collective approach to problem-solving, and problems must be properly discussed with the wider family (whanau) sub tribe (hapu) and tribe (iwi), for any solution to have any credibility. The conventional model of mediation is often structured around a particular time to be taken for the mediation. The need for consultation makes this model inappropriate in a Maori context, because the mediator would lose all credibility if he or she announced that time was up, which would be regarded as extremely rude and offensive. The mediator must also build up a level of trust with the parties to a level well beyond what is needed for a European mediation. In a European context for something like a family mediation, the mediator may never have met the parties before and only deal with them at the mediation. In a Maori mediation the mediator would have no credibility unless he or she had built up a level of trust and respect, over a period of time. In addition, the mediator would need to have strong language skills, or a translator, so that the negotiations and position taking could be understood.

Although this seminar was in the context of a New Zealand indigenous approach to dispute resolution, it reminds us that we cannot accept that our culture is necessarily the appropriate lens to view the problem. As a dispute resolution practitioner, I must be aware that the parties will have different ideas and approaches, which are not right or wrong but just different. Awareness of these issues is critical for ICANN, with the goal of one Internet.




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