First Ombudsman Dispute Ends Well....possibly
Date: Tuesday March 08 2005, @02:16PM
Topic: ICANN Staff and Structure

Friction between ICANN's GNSO constituencies and ICANN's management over how to handle the WHOIS issue has led to the first invocation of ICANN's Ombudsman (as far as this writer knows). The results are not bad, although the denoument has not been reached yet.

A complaint to ICANN's Ombudsman was initiated when Paul Verhoef, Vice President for Policy Development Support, and John Jeffries, ICANN's General Counsel, refused to meet with GNSO task force members after intervening in the policy formulation process in a way that imposed top-down constraints on what is supposed to be a bottom up process. The origins of this dispute were covered in ICANNWatch back in December. The dispute is important for both process reasons and because of the substantive policy issues involved.

After months of discussion, the GNSO's Whois Task Force came to an agreement about a process for creating limited, authorized exceptions to ICANN's registrar accreditation contract for registrars in countries where national law conflicts with the privacy-destroying requirements of the Whois database. The agreement was highly significant, in that it involved some statesmanlike compromises from some of the most militant constituencies in an effort to resolve the tension between ICANN's global contracts and variations in national law.

Discussions of this issue had been going on for months, and ICANN's management had no reason to be surprised by the output of the task force. Yet on December 20, Verhoef sent this message to the Task Force, which in essence flatly rejected the policy formulated by the Task Force, inserted his own opinions as to what policy should be, and in some cases, indicated that he had either not read or not understood the policy proposed or the rationales behind it.

Verhoef's intervention proved objectionable to virtually everyone on the task force, reghardless of their constituency. Consternation was expressed by both Steve Metalitz of the intellectual property constituency and Milton Mueller of the noncommercial constituency, indicating the spectrum of opinion. The GNSO task force members decided that rather than voicing those objections publicly, they would invite the involved staff members to discuss the problem directly with the task force. An invitation was conveyed in late December.

But ICANN staff basically stonewalled the invitation for two months. No direct meeting was ever held. No commitment to hold a meeting was conveyed. Ultimately, the task force was forced to involve the Ombudsman.

Although this writer does not have any documentation of the decision, his understanding, based on task force discussions, is that Frank Fowlie has prevailed upon Verhoef and Jeffries to discuss the issue with the Task Force members, subject to the task force submitting to them their questions in written form first.

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Ooooh. I'm impressed.
by michael ( on Tuesday March 08 2005, @06:50PM (#14669)
User #4 Info |
The fearsome ombudsman is invoked, and now the ICANN staff will deign to discuss its diktats...but only if the questions are submitted in writing first.

Yes! A Glorious Victory! A triumph of the bottom-up processes over the forces of democratic centralism! An historic move towards the democratization of the Central Committee!

Give me a break guys. April First isn't for another few weeks.
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