Policy Brief: ICANN’s Corporate Responsibility to respect Human Rights

Policy Brief: ICANN’s Corporate Responsibility to respect Human Rights - Digital

The Cross Community Working Party on ICANN’s Corporate and Social Responsibility to Respect Human Rights (CCWP-HR) prepared this paper for presentation and discussion at ICANN54 in Dublin in October 2015. This paper is intended to build on and complement the previous reports published by the Council of Europe and ARTICLE 19 on ICANN’s responsibility to respect human rights.

The CCWP-HR recognises the on-going discussion within ICANN on the best way to develop and implement policies relating to ICANN and human rights, and prefers to adopt a measured approach, working in incremental stages.

The paper sets out the reasons that the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) are the most appropriate framework for ICANN to follow in its mission to develop human rights policies and processes, and then presents options as to how ICANN can begin to implement them.  One of the initial aims of this paper was to develop a template for human rights impact assessments (HRIA) and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reporting.

Given the current state of ICANN’s discussions on human rights, this paper proposes implementation in stages, applying a human rights-based approach to a specific part of its operation (i.e. the policy development process), and creating a report on its process, rather than tackling the whole issue of HRIAs and CSR concurrently. A human rights review process, and human rights reporting, will contribute to the goal of carrying out HRIAs and a full CSR strategy/reporting. Human rights debates and decisions by ICANN’s board, management, and the global Internet community should take place within the overall policy debate and decision framework, not separately.

This approach ensures that human rights are considered as an integral part of the ICANN organisational values, and that human rights risks are managed as part of the overall ICANN’s enterprise risk management.


  • As a first step, ICANN should undertake a review of human rights impacts in the policy development process. This approach is more streamlined than an HRIA and can be completed by ICANN staff, and/or the CCWP-HR with a community review (see Section 4, Annex A and Annex B for more detailed steps).
    • ICANN should focus on the core rights, which are freedom of expression and privacy, while keeping in mind other applicable rights from international human rights conventions (see Annex A).
    • ICANN should develop a human rights report (see Section 5), initially based on the results of the review process.
    • Before reporting, ICANN should take stock of available data, including an analysis of which elements from the annual report would be relevant to include in a human rights report, and any other of ICANN’s activities that touches on human rights such as the WHOIS reform. This stock-taking will highlight gaps in data collection that ICANN can work towards improving.
    • As an extension of the human rights report, as well as building on the internal momentum, ICANN should develop an approach towards transparency reports detailing law enforcement requests (see Section 6).
    • In the longer term, ICANN should consider an organisation-wide human rights policy, based on a comprehensive HRIA, as well as CSR strategy that could lead to a full CSR reporting.

Read the full Policy Brief here.

Read ARTICLE 19’s February 2015 Report on ICANN’s Responsibility to respect Human Rights here.

Read ARTICLE 19’s June 2015 Practical Recommendations for ICANN on the Responsibility to respect Human Rights.