Building on Accountability & Transparency at ICANN

by Rod Beckstrom on February 10, 2011

In order for ICANN’s international, bottom-up, multi-stakeholder model to operate effectively, frameworks and mechanisms for accountability and transparency were built into ICANN and have been improved upon over time. The Board of Directors, community and staff have an impressive record of accountability and transparency. Equally impressive is our shared commitment to build on these achievements and set a new standard for transparency and accountability.

This commitment is demonstrated in a multitude of ways throughout our organization. To advance the Board’s transparency and accountability, for example, a public wiki was launched in December to track and document action on every Board resolution, and briefing materials for Board meetings have been publicly posted for nearly a year, along with their meeting minutes and resolutions. The rationale for each new resolution was recently added to this public archive.

In many ways, the ICANN community has been at the forefront of increasing transparency and accountability in its operations. The detailed information and resources available through the Supporting Organizations’ and Advisory Committees’ websites, for example, are continually enhanced to encourage participation and publicly document their activities and decisions.

Since joining ICANN a year and a half ago, I’ve raised the bar for public reporting of staff activities and information. For example, our metrics “dashboard” provides the public with detailed information on internal operations, including performance indicators in areas such as Registrant Protection, Global Participation, Finance and IDNs, to name but a few.

Our accountability to the global community was permanently reinforced in September 2009 when I signed, on behalf of ICANN, the Affirmation of Commitments with the U.S. Department of Commerce. It affirms ICANN’s independence and commitment to making decisions in the public interest that are accountable and transparent. The Affirmation also commits ICANN to reviews performed by the community — including the recently completed Accountability and Transparency review. A more exhaustive list of ICANN activities that contribute to accountability and transparency and support the Affirmation’s objectives can be found on our website. We intend to fulfill, and where possible exceed, our obligations under the Affirmation.

The Accountability and Transparency Review Team (ATRT) was charged with assessing ICANN’s execution of its transparency and accountability commitments and examining its ability to continually assess and improve specific aspects that support these objectives. After a nine-month consultative process, the ATRT issued for public input and Board consideration 27 recommendations to improve ICANN (PDF, 2.54 MB). The recommendations focus on four areas — the Board (including the Nominating Committee’s selection processes), the Governmental Advisory Committee, public input and policy development, and review mechanisms for Board decisions — but have broad implications for ICANN and its organizations and stakeholders. Some recommendations relate to operations that staff is in the process of changing (and the ATRT has provided useful guidance for this work). Some recommendations require allocation of new resources, and several involve decisions and actions by the Board and/or other groups.

Although several of these recommendations have proposed implementation deadlines in March and June 2011, the ATRT report is still out for public comment. The Affirmation requires Board action on the recommendations within six months of the report’s release (the end of June 2011). At its meeting last month, the Board passed a resolution thanking the ATRT members for their hard work, and encouraging the public, Supporting Organizations and Advisory Committees, and the Nominating Committee to comment on the recommendations. They also asked staff to provide the Board with a proposal for Board action on each recommendation and where practicable, initial work plans and budgets for the recommendations. This is being prepared for the Board’s March meeting, along with a status report on ATRT implementation work.

In keeping with the Board’s directive and our commitment under the Affirmation to assess the impact of ICANN’s actions on the public interest (including financial and DNS impacts), staff is conducting financial analysis, analysis of the skills and resources needed and a general assessment of our ability to implement the recommendations. Although acting upon most of the draft recommendations is the responsibility of the Board, the Nominating Committee, the Governmental Advisory Committee and Supporting Organizations and Advisory Committees, staff resources and budget will be required. ICANN’s draft fiscal year 2012 budget is under consideration and, ultimately, the Board will determine which ATRT recommendations to incorporate in the operating plan and budget.

We look forward to receiving community input on the ATRT recommendations (due 14 February) and hope that it will assist our staff and Board to perform the required analyses within the timescale provided under the Affirmation.

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