ICANN Ombudsman Blog Creating Dialogue Affirming Fairness

January 29, 2012

Getting to know you

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chris LaHatte @ 2:22 pm

On Sunday 29th January I was invited to the 2012 Waitangi Rua Rautau Lecture at the Victoria University of Wellington Te Herenga Waka Marae. There were a number of distinguished speakers including Sir Edward Taihakurei Durie, Sir Paul Callaghan, Ian MckInnon and Luamanuvao Winnie Laban. The theme of the addresses was “he maunga teitei: achieving our ambitions”

For those not from New Zealand I should explain some of the terms and background. New Zealand has a unique constitutional structure based on the Treaty of Waitangi, which created a partnership between the indigenous people, the Maori, and the British settlers, represented by the then Queen Victoria. This partnership is celebrated by a day of reconciliation and remembrance called Waitangi Day (on February 6), a public holiday. The lectures are held annually as a part of the celebration and return to the themes of the Treaty. Sir Edward Durie http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Durie is a most distinguished retired judge, a kaumatua of both his iwi (tribe) and more widely recognised, as man of deep understanding and humanity, both as a judge and a person. He introduced the speakers and talked about looking forward to the 200th anniversary of the signing of the treaty in 2040 and the need for his generation to teach the upcoming leaders about the meaning of the partnership created by the treaty. This goes well beyond the scope of lawyers and judges, to affecting all Maori and subsequent settlers and the relationship in all aspects of our lives.

Sir Paul Callaghan http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Callaghan is a very well known New Zealand scientist. His theme, commencing with an adept opening spoken in Maori, was to emphasise the need for all New Zealanders to lift their aims in education, to enable New Zealand to grow beyond exports of agricultural produce to a knowledge based economy. This, together with attention to the growing gap in income, are the issues which the Treaty partners need to address.

Winnie Laban, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winnie_Laban well known in New Zealand as a former Cabinet Minister, was the next speaker. She is a New Zealand woman of Samoan descent, and spoke of the need to recognise the Polynesian migrants to New Zealand as kindred of the Maori, who migrated to New Zealand from Polynesia around 1000 CE. She spoke of the support given to the 3 official languages, English, Maori and New Zealand Sign Language but that there is no such support for Samoan, the second most commonly spoken language in New Zealand (ahead of Maori). She emphaised the need to move beyond the blame culture to a recognition of cultural diversity, in which all of the different cultures in New Zealand can proudly be both New Zealanders but still be part of their own cultures.

Sir Edward Durie concluded by observing that the welcoming ceremony was an important part of this and any other meeting held at a Marae (Maori meeting house). The powhiri or welcoming ceremony has many purposes, including letting the manuhiri (visitors) being made to feel welcome, and giving them an opportunity to reply to the speeches and songs. This formal opening of communication means that the Marae can be used as place where people feel free to communicate. Of course if you do speak, then there is always a right of reply, which Sir Eddie commented demonstrates that on the Marae especially, Maori have a firm grasp of open democracy!

What we as internet users can add, is that a blog can work like a marae speech with open and vigorous debate where needed. And we can at our ICANN meetings welcome the many cultures around the world, recognising the core values of and ambitions of ICANN,  but like the marae, opening what we do to any culture and language, and welcoming debate on all issues. The bottom up model can operate like the powhiri, by welcoming our supporters, giving speeches to welcome, and recognising them first as manuhiri (visitors) and then as colleagues and finally as friends.

January 19, 2012


Filed under: Uncategorized — Chris LaHatte @ 1:42 pm

Some of my ombuds colleagues have joined in the protest about legislation before the US Congress, expressing concerns about the effect of freedom in various ways.  I am not a resident of the United States and would be hesitant to make submissions or protest legislation before a foreign government. I respect the right to free speech and the right to protest but I am not going to make comment either for or against this legislation. An important part of the role of an Ombudsman is neutrality, and a political campaign is no exception. Who knows when a protest like this might undermine a decision on fairness, if one of the parties was affected by something which happened in relation to the protest or the legislation? So I decline to participate, not because I support or oppose the legislation, but because I must maintain neutrality.

January 11, 2012

Daily Life for an Ombudsman

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chris LaHatte @ 3:12 pm

One of the things which people must wonder about an ombudsman is what we do on a more routine daily basis. I thought it would be useful to share with the community a typical day in my office.I work primarily from home, with visits is needed to ICANN meetings throughout the year.

A typical day for me starts around 6:30 a.m. like many in the ICANN world, time zones become irrelevant, and so I keep my phone close at all times so I can check on incoming e-mail and messages. This now includes messages via Facebook, because of my new Facebook page. So my routine is to then come downstairs to where my laptop is plugged in. I work from an antique Korean writing desk so I can just unfold the lid and get to work. As I am a typical New Zealander, this also involves making a cup of tea. I then settle in and clear e-mails, check my tasks for the day and my diary. By this time my family are in the kitchen preparing breakfast, and for those at school, the school lunches. This can involve a certain amount of dispute resolution based on the difference between what a parent thinks is suitable food, and what teenagers want.

With the children safely on their buses, I often then go for a run. Where I live has many challenging hills, and the ombudsman can be seen wondering whether it is fair to have such a steep climb for the first kilometer! But there is a balance, because I come back in a loop and it is nicer returning home downhill.

Then it is back to the screen. There is a lot of reading to keep up to date, and I look at the ICANN blogs, other relevant industry blogs and on line news. As well as my local newspaper, I also look at the New York Times and the Guardian, as well as Der Speigel. I also get New Zealand Law Society Lawtalk each week as well as the Lexis-Nexis New Zealand Lawyer, brilliantly edited by my friend Darise Bennington. I often put asidde the detail to read in the evenings.

By this time I will often catch up with a colleague and share a coffee. I try to keep in touch with my legal and dispute resolution colleagues, and it is just a ten minute drive to the centre of Wellington-Wellington is pretty small compared with many capitals and traffic problems are more than 4 cars in a queue..

Then it is back to base. I have been averaging about a new complaint every 1-2 days, although sadly many are matters where I cannot help due to the complaint being out of my jurisdiction. So I need to carefully consider the merits and the jurisdiction, and reply. Mostly the complainants have genuine problems, and so I try to suggest where they should go for resolution, even if I cannot help. There are also some ongoing matters where I need to investigate, and this involves contacting those who can help with information and documents, and considering what needs to be organised. I also spend time on matters like writing articles and research.

Some time on most days is spent on mundane tasks like ensuring my computer gear is working, updating and organising paperwork, or the electronic equivilent. Accounts and tax get a look in as well.

Although I am independent from ICANN I am still part of the company and like to participate in training so that I can keep in touch. Some days this can mean a really early start-but fortunately not as early as my Sydney colleagues!

By the later afternoon, my family are returning home and encouraged in homework (and sometimes they do it), then our family dinner.

In the evenings I will often spend time reading, sometimes the material I put aside, and sometimes lighter books. I love my kindle and take this with me.

The day is punctuated by regular emails and contact, and so I always check in regularly, again helped by my phone alerts.

So that is a day in the life of the Ombudsman, except for the others where i am travelling or at ICANN meetings! I will post on this after Costa Rica.

January 5, 2012


Filed under: Uncategorized — Chris LaHatte @ 1:30 pm

An essential part of the role of an ombudsman is to investigate fairness. The promotion of fairness is fundamental to good practice as an ombudsman and the need to ensure fairness was one of the major reasons for creating the role back in the early days in Scandinavia. If therefore there is one theme in the way in which any ombudsman operates, it is this element of introducing a balance of fairness between people in a huge variety of situations. For an ombudsman like me with a legal background fairness sometimes comes with a loaded reference to fairness as a matter of law. But often, it is a practical application of a balance between the needs of different people. An example of this came to my attention recently. A person complained to me that the application process for the new gTLDs was not sufficiently promoted in the country where he lived. His concern was that the failure to properly publicise the program in his country meant that people needed more time to consider making an application for a new gTLD. I was able to point out to him that ICANN has consulted very extensively with GAC, the Governmental Advisory Committee to ICANN, and that his country had a representative on the GAC. So the issue became different from unfairness by ICANN, because of the existence of a sophisticated process of consultation. Because ICANN is driven by the supporting organisations, including GAC, a balance has been reached, and a reasonable degree of fairness results. I have suggested he discuss this with his country representative.

January 2, 2012

New gTLDs

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chris LaHatte @ 5:23 pm

As the date for new gTLD applications approaches there has been a lot of public comment in the media about the process and ideas. ICANN has developed a very detailed process for handling the applications, with considerable thought given to a balanced and fair approach. And the office of the Ombudsman is here in case anyone takes issue with any delay or fairness issues. I remind the community that I am available if anyone wants me to examone any issue relating to my jurisdiction.

  • Decisions, actions, or inactions by one or more members of ICANN staff;
  • Decisions, actions, or inactions by the Board of Directors that may be inconsistent with the Articles of Incorporation or the Bylaws.
  • Decisions, actions, or inactions by constituent bodies.

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