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    WSIS The Forum MAG: Who Are These People?
    posted by Mueller on Thursday May 18 2006, @01:05PM

    United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan established an Advisory Group to manage the new Internet Governance Forum Tuesday. If anyone was still worried about a "UN takeover" of ICANN or the Internet, they can rest easy. If the composition of the Advisory Group is any guide to the politics of the Forum, ICANN and the traditional internet community are doing just fine in global governance debates, thank you. Indeed, they are on the march. Let's take a look at the composition of the multistakeholder advisory group (MAG) that meets in Geneva this weekend.



    The MAG's size was set at 40 people. Of those, 20 positions were set aside for governments, and 20 more for a combination of private business, civil society, academic and technical "stakeholder" groups.

    Surprise number 1 is that of the 20 non-governmental positions, all but a handful are directly associated with the ICANN regime. Two (Alejandro Pisanty and Veni Markovski) are sitting ICANN Board members; one (Theresa Swineheart) is an ICANN staff member; two more (Nii Quaynor and Masanobu Katoh) are former ICANN Board members; two (Chris Disspain and Emily Taylor) represent ccTLD operators; two (Raul Echeberria and Adiel Akplogan) represent Regional Internet Address Registries (RIRs). Even the public interest or "civil society" representatives are long time players in the ICANN sandbox: Adam Peake of Glocom, Robin Gross of IP Justice, Jeanette Hofmann of WZ Berlin, and Erick Iriarte of Alfa-Redi are all associated with either ICANN's At Large Advisory Committee or its Noncommercial Users Constituency (or both). To that one can add an IETF representative, Patrik Faltstrom, often utilized by ICANN as a consultant, and the Internet Society's public policy advocate (ISOC is the corporate parent of the IETF and the owner of the .org registry).

    What are we to make of this? Obviously the views and perspectives of these ICANN-related actors are far from homogeneous. ccTLD operators, especially Nominet UK and Australia's Disspain, are known for their independence of ICANN central. RIRs are also wary of ICANN itself and relatively autonomous. And the ALAC and NCUC participants are known as much for their opposition to ICANN's policies as for their participation in the regime. I am particularly happy that Gross, Hofmann are Peake are on there; all three have public interest-oriented policy positions and a wider view of the role of civil society in the global governance debate. Of course, I have to issue the disclaimer and note that Hofmann is a partner with me in the Internet Governance Project.

    But the over-representation of direct ICANN agents, via Board members and staff, is troublesome. Three people from the same organization is too many. Indeed, no other international organization or organization of any type has three representatives on the MAG. And that's not counting the ISOC and IETF guys, or the former Board members. It's clear that if the results of WSIS did not signal overall acceptance of ICANN's legitimacy and current structure by the intergovernmental system, the initial results of the Forum's MAG selection do. One cannot avoid mentioning in this context the $200,000 contribution ICANN made to the Forum. That probably didn't hurt.

    Surprise number two: Michael D. Gallagher, currently working for a Washington law firm but just a few months ago head of the US Commerce Department's NTIA, which supervises ICANN and protects us against Internet porn er....instability, is on the MAG too. Now in some ways this is a good sign. It shows that the powers that be in the United States are not ignoring the Forum. Indeed, Gallagher has to be considered a semi-official appointee. It was Gallagher, after all, who issued the two most notorious documents in recent Internet governance history: 1) the June 30 statement by the US government that it owns the DNS root and has no intention of giving it up; and 2) the August 11 letter to ICANN regarding the .xxx top level domain, which constituted the first overt political intervention in ICANN by the US government. In some ways it is great that Gallagher is going to be sitting around deliberating in an unofficial capacity with some real techies from Europe and Africa, government ministers from Africa and the middle East, and civil society advocates. If he is a flexible and intelligent man he will learn a lot. And his presence signals buy-in from "Important" people.

    Surprise number three was much less pleasant. The MAG names were not announced until Tuesday, only a few days before it was supposed to meet. The delay, we hear from the grapevine, came from political wrangling among governments, especially the G77 governments. Indeed, it was mainly the G77 that insisted on such a large and unwieldy MAG, as it wanted a large enough number to accommodate all the political and regional differences among its members. As one of my colleagues has remarked, that too is a sign that the governments are taking this seriously, and thus could be interpreted as a positive. But that kind of wrangling can also be crippling, and may signal that governments view the MAG as a source of power rather than as a purely advisory group meant to faciliate -- not control -- the Forum. But then, the same criticism could be made of the ICANN/ISOC crowd, which obviously went out of its way to gain positions.

    In general, the large size of the MAG empowers the Secretariat of the Forum, run by Markus Kummer and Nitin Desai; this group will be too large and diverse to do much on its own and will rely quite heavily on the Secretariat for organization, agenda-setting, and results. But it will be able to veto and block people, ideas or notions that are offensive to a given faction. Not the recipe for innovative governance.

    Longer term, let's hope the Forum comes up with a better mechanism for selecting people for its positions, one not completely dependent on patronage and lobbying.

     
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      Related Links  
    · IETF
    · Nominet, the .uk registry
    · US Nat'l Telecom & Info Admin.
    · At Large Advisory Committee
    · NCUC
    · ICANN
    · Internet Governance Project
    · established an Advisory Group
    · More WSIS stories
    · Also by Mueller
     
    This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.
    The Forum MAG: Who Are These People? | Log in/Create an Account | Top | 11 comments | Search Discussion
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    You missed one sitting ICANN director
    by KarlAuerbach on Thursday May 18 2006, @04:45PM (#16781)
    User #3243 Info | http://www.cavebear.com/
    Your count of ICANN directors named to the advisory group is short by one: Daniel Dardailler

    By-the-way, my name was in the pot, and from examination of the results, apparently I lost out to Gallagher. One thing about nominating committees - they act in secret so we will never know why Gallagher was chosen.

    By-the-way, when at NTIA Gallagher locked himself behind protective clerks so that he could refrain from talking about matters that actually pertain to the technical stability of the net - I know, I tried to raise his attention to a risk when the root zone was modified to include IPv6 name server records without any actual experiments to verify whether it was safe.
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    not just internet
    by joppenheimer on Sunday May 21 2006, @09:27PM (#16794)
    User #5 Info | http://JudithOppenheimer.com
    FWIW, Patrik Fältström is also ENUM WG co-chair along with Neustar's Richard Shockey.
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
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    who's narrow-minded?
    by Mueller ({mueller} {at} {syr.edu}) on Thursday May 18 2006, @06:10PM (#16782)
    User #2901 Info | http://istweb.syr.edu/~mueller/
    Sure, it's quite normal. For one or maybe two.... But five? And an ICANN staff member? Sorry, buddy, but aside from the credibility deficit that comes from your anonymous post I wonder who you think you're persuading with such a prima facie poor argument coupled with name calling.
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
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