On 23-24 April 2014, the Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance (NETmundial 2014) will meet in Brazil to discuss a roadmap for the further evolution of the governance ecosystem. This policy document deals with the place of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) in this ecosystem.
Whilst ICANN has indicated on several occasions that it solely focuses on the technical administration of the Domain Name System (DNS) and the coordination of the IP address space, it is simply impossible to ignore the broader public policy dimensions of its work. This includes, among other things, intellectual property, competition and taxation policy. In particular, ICANN defines and enforces intellectual property rules regarding rights in domain names, which inevitably has a highly significant impact on the ability of internet users to access information and therefore, the meaningful exercise of the right to freedom of expression.
Over the years, however, several concerns have been raised about ICANN’s legitimacy in taking policy decisions in certain areas due to its corporate governance arrangements, in particular:
- The lack of independence from the US government as regards the IANA function;
- The lack of representation of developing countries within ICANN;
- The disproportionate influence of the Government Advisory Committee (GAC);
- The lack of accountability of the Board.In this policy document, ARTICLE 19 in consultation with civil society organisation and other stakeholders involved in internet governance discussions offers some recommendations with a view to improving ICANN’s current governance structure and accountability, as well strengthening the protection of human rights within ICANN.
We believe that reform of ICANN is inevitable if it is to fulfil its promise as a truly global multi-stakeholder organisation. In order to succeed, we believe that any reform of ICANN should be guided by the following principles:
- Multi-stakeholder, not multilateral
- Human Rights, in particular the rights to free expression, privacy and due process.
- Transparency & Accountability
- Inclusiveness & Diversity
We support globalization of ICANN and the IANA functions. However this process must take place in a way that guarantees ICANN’s independence from undue government interference. In this policy document, we also make specific recommendations to ensure that the Government Advisory Committee becomes a more inclusive, transparent and accountable body. We further propose mechanisms to strengthen the accountability of ICANN’s Board of Directors.
We hope that this proposal will prove valuable for the safeguard of the multi-stakeholder model of Internet Governance and will inform discussions at Net Mundial and beyond.