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The ICANN 55 fellowship in Marrakesh, 5-10 March 2016 represented the perfect opportunity to showcase the engagement of the IGMENA community of fellows from across the MENA region. They came to the ICANN fellowship program to explore what it means to be an active member of the ICANN fellowship community. They discovered the ICANN multi-stakeholder policy process through their knowledge, skills, attitudes, and support from their coaches and the wider ICANN community.
IGMENA participants discovered how policies are being shaped in the ICANN’s Multi-Stakeholder Model in which individuals, non-commercial stakeholder groups, industry, and governments play important roles in its community-based, consensus-driven policy-making approach. The 20 IGMENA community members and 8 from the fellowship program actively participated in ICANN constituencies to improve their fellowship experience and performance. They were all engaged in learning how to embrace and understand the ICANN constituency policy-making process that comes at such an interesting time of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) Stewardship transition, from the U.S. government to ICANN.
The ICANN fellowship program paved the way for participants to better understand how the Internet is run and shaped. The IGMENA participants engaged in ICANN 55 in Marrakesh with a desire to make their voice heard from the MENA region to the global Internet community on the issues that matter to them most, including gtld management, DNS security, Commercial Business Users, Intellectual Property, Internet Service Providers, Non-Commercial Stakeholder Group, Non-Commercial Users, Not-for-Profit Operational Concerns,Registrars Stakeholder Group, Registries Stakeholder Group, and more. . . . The ICANN fellows from the MENA region represented the “next generation” of fellows who are interested in becoming more actively engaged in their own regional communities as well as taking part in the future growth of global Internet policy.
Welcome to the ICANN Global Community!
ICANN fellows coming from the MENA region were exposed to the multi-stakeholder model of ICANN as a not-for-profit public-benefit corporation, with participants from all over the world who are dedicated to keeping the Internet secure, stable, and interoperable. These participants were actively engaged and keen to learn the work of ICANN on the promotion of competition and policy development on the Internet’s protocol parameters and unique identifiers, through ICANN’s coordinating role of the Internet’s naming system, which has an important impact on the expansion and evolution of the Internet.
The MENA region fellows explored new engagement opportunities across the globe, by region and function, through what is called the “multi-stakeholder model,” where they engaged in the community-based consensus-driven approach to policy-making to understand that Internet governance should mimic the structure of the Internet itself: borderless and open to all.
The Need to Involve More Grassroots Communities
Many of the groups working on policy issues are seeking public input to achieve a more inclusive engagement with the wider MENA region communities of bloggers, journalists, academics, Internet policy analysts, and advocates. It is hoped that representatives of these groups will come to the ICANN world to share perspectives and give more representation. A number of ICANN fellows from the MENA region showed the testimony of the hard work the IGMENA community to give intellectual incentives for people that understand Internet governance and policies in the Arab world.
They met with the public sector, the private sector, and technical experts as peers. In the ICANN community, you’ll find registries, registrars, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), and representation from more than 100 governments, and a global array of individual Internet users. All points of view receive consideration on their own merits. ICANN fellows from the Mena region came with a belief is that all users of the Internet deserve a say in how it is run. To be committed to creating a broader and more regionally diverse base of knowledgeable constituents, IGMENA took the lead on bringing MENA region voices to the development and the shaping of future Internet governance policies and procedures.
For me, to try to visualize the Internet and understand its policy framework in the ICANN world is something hazy, complex, and somewhere above our heads as we gaze at our screens. It’s composed of tiny, moving fragments of information and simultaneous conversations on DNS industry and complex acronyms and it has no defined edges: it is limitless.This vision of the Internet as something infinite, open to be freely explored and the unprecedented ability to communicate and access information in the ICANN world are all promises woven into the big sell of the Internet complex technical connection. But how different is your experience if you come from a non-technical background or a legal background?
One of the excellent ideas is to develop a guideline for newcomers in the fellowship program. This will be highly useful, as well as a separate guidebook that mentors/coaches can use to make sure they are not missing anything while coaching for the first time new fellows coming from the MENA region or any other region in the world.Previous coaches in this regard will be an asset. However, I believe the guidelines should be flexible and should allow newcomers and coaches to facilitate and experiment with new ideas and then share them with everyone. That experience can then be used to update the guidelines and help mentor new fellows in their integration into the sometimes complex policy work in the ICANN respective constituencies.
Attend a Constituency Meeting! Learn about ICANN’s Work
IGMENA had the unique opportunity to connect with the community on issues the fellows care about. This included meeting regional and global leaders, as well as individuals working on issues that impact the future of the Internet. Usually comprised of more than 200 different sessions, the week-long meeting is a focal point for individuals and representatives of the different ICANN stakeholders (either attending in-person or participating remotely) to introduce and discuss issues related to ICANN policy.
At each ICANN meeting, there is a Public Forum session that is specifically set aside for anyone that wishes to raise a point by walking up to the microphone and talking directly to Board members and the rest of the ICANN community. The vast majority of the other meetings are also open, and often welcome new and interested members.
The IANA Stewardship Transition
The ICANN Board received the package from the community during its 55th public meeting in Morocco, and transmitted it to the U.S. National Telecommunication and Information Administration (NTIA). On March 14, 2014, NTIA announced its desire to transition its stewardship of the IANA functions to the global multi-stakeholder community. The package is the result of an inclusive global discussion amongst representatives from government, large and small businesses, technical experts, civil society, researchers, academics, and end users.
Participants in the fellowship program have exhibited remarkable dedication to the IANA stewardship transition because we know just how important it is to complete,” said Alissa Cooper, Chair of the IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination Group that coordinated the development of the transition proposal. “Internet users the world over stand to benefit from its stability, security, and accountability enhancements to Internet governance once the proposal takes effect.” The global Internet community has worked tirelessly to develop a plan that meets NTIA’s criteria, including more than 600 meetings and calls, more than 32,000 mailing list exchanges, and more than 800 working hours.
The package combines the technical requirements of a transition coordinated by the IANA Stewardship Transition Group and enhancements to ICANN’s accountability identified by the Cross-Community Working Group on Enhancing ICANN Accountability (CCWG-Accountability). The two groups were composed of volunteers representing a broad range of interests from the wider multi-stakeholder Internet community. This plan will give more Internet governance grassroots players to enjoy the broadest possible support from this very diverse community, and I'm confident it will meet the global ICANN community's criteria.
The CCWG-Accountability Proposal Approval
The most discussed topic floating around the surprisingly chilly and cold winds of Marrakesh during the conference was the CCWG-Accountability proposal which traced the evolution of each recommendation of this Final Report, which was sent to all the chartering organizations for their approval. GNSO and ccNSO passed the report, completing the process of approval from Chartering Organizations. The report is being sent to the ICANN Board, to be transmitted to the NTIA for the final steps of the IANA transition. The Board has confirmed that it will do so immediately, without making any changes.
The Internet is a public space, where we think we have certain rights and freedoms for the benefit of the global community to ensure that local, regional, and international stakeholders strengthen the Internet. The IGMENA community needs to make sure these values are respected by the organizations that govern it.
Some people may be confused about how ICANN can continue with its arguably narrow mission on the application of global technical standards while taking on board human rights concerns, a feature usually associated with content governance issues. The CCWG Accountability proposal will expand the scope of ICANN to include human rights considerations within its existing scope.
Incorporating human rights implications in ICANN’s technical deliberations serves to engage more ordinary users in technical Internet governance issues that have broader implications. Such engagement and increased awareness efforts are essential for the legitimacy of ICANN’s multi-stakeholder community.
The Layered Complexity of ICANN’s Multi-Stakeholder Governance Model
ICANN has a very specific mandate, and it takes time to understand how these human rights goals can be incorporated. But much of what ICANN does is equally complex. It is only a matter of bringing the issue to the table. The IGMENA community is optimistic as it seems that there is now a growing consensus about a human rights commitment that should be added to ICANN bylaws, which for us is a great achievement and a first step in what will doubtlessly be a long and difficult road.
Transitioning of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) out of the United States government brings up some more controversial topics that are attracting a wider set of stakeholders: the unresolved issues of privacy, free flow of data, surveillance and encryption, as well as the security or rather insecurity of a space of networked machines for end users remain open questions to be answered to guarantee online freedoms and the grassroots communities’ representation in the global Internet governance ecosystem.
Mr Hamza Ben Mehrez Policy Analyst Lead, IGMENA