Fadi's Resignation, Sepp Blatter's Resignation - Others Should Consider Resigning as Well…

"Only proper regulation by an independent agency with full Congressional mandate will ensure that a 'FIFA-Mafia type' organization of systematic corruption does not emerge. ICANN should not be trusted by Congress to regulate itself." (Excerpted from March 9, 2015, CircleID)

A Review of Fadi Chehade's Incomplete Legacy at ICANN
Fadi Chehade, the incumbent President and CEO of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), on 21 May 2015 announced his intention to leave ICANN by March 2016. No actual reasons were given for his summary and unexpected decision to stop being the head of an organization that he has led since 2012 — against the background that Fadi Chehade had recently received an ICANN Board-approved contract extension up till 30 June 2017; together with a slate that has a long list of things to do with many uncompleted assignments. Apart from mentioning that Fadi Chehade would be moving after March 2016 to a career in the private sector, outside the domain name industry, no other helpful detail was contained in the ICANN announcement.
By the time Fadi finally departs from ICANN sometime in the spring of 2016, he would be leaving a mixed leadership record and legacy at ICANN. The following summarizes what he inherited and/or did at ICANN:
  • The ICANN new generic Top-Level Domain Name Internet Expansion program which he has been shepherding as a work-in-progress during the past three years.
  • He also inherited an ICANN Strategic Planning process which he cancelled and started another 5-year ICANN Strategy afresh. Under this charter, he commenced plans to internationalize ICANN by establishing overseas offices in different regions, and also appointed Vice-Presidents for Multi-stakeholder Engagement for different ICANN regions.
  • Following the National Technology and Information Administration (NTIA) announcement to Transition the IANA Technical Functions to a Global Multi-Stakeholder Group, it was Fadi's ICANN that took the responsibility of facilitating and coordinating the IANA Transition process.
  • As part of Fadi's internationalization strategy and his close engagement with countries such as Brazil, the announcement of the IANA Transition plan in March 2014 was quickly followed by the establishment of the NETMundial Initiative (NMI) which came out of the 'Global Multi-Stakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance' that took place in Sao Paulo, Brazil in April 2014.
In a nutshell, Fadi Chehade attempted to consolidate his professional legacy at ICANN based on achieving internationalization, completing the IANA Transition, and causing a paradigm shift in Global Internet Governance by introducing the NMI as 'a new kid on the block' that would help strengthen the structures of Internet Governance.
The non-completion of some of these programs and initiatives that Fadi Chehade started before deciding to step aside as ICANN CEO would cause his leadership achievements and professional legacy at ICANN to remain mixed and incomplete.
The concerns and anxieties engendered by this premature departure of the ICANN helmsman caused the NTIA's Larry Strickling to issue a statement which tried to reassure the community that: "a successful transition does not depend on the leadership of a single individual" and urged the community to remain focused on developing the IANA Transition Proposal.

NETMundial's Birthing Problems and the IANA Transition
The NMI was not thoroughly embraced because its roles, organization, and activities were ill-defined, for which reason it attracted the frantic attentions of different polemicists who argued strenuously against it.

The truth behind the NETMundial idea, namely, preparing it as a possible vehicle to handle the IANA Transition, has not been mentioned at anytime. It was obvious to any interested analyst that there was a link between the NTIA's intention in March 2014 to devolve the IANA Technical Functions to a Global Multi-Stakeholder Group, and a Global Multi-Stakeholder Conference that was convened in April 2014 to discuss the future of Internet Governance. Even so, efforts were made to carefully distance the NMI from the IANA Transition; for instance, by ensuring that Hon. Larry Strickling, Assistant Secretary and Head of the U.S. NTIA, who announced the IANA Transition Plan, was not on the NMI Inaugural Coordination Council; and instead, indicating that the US Government was supposed to be represented on the NMI — Inaugural Coordination Council by the Hon. Penny Pritzker, US Secretary of Commerce. In other words, a very senior cabinet-level official in the US Administration would be involved in the NMI that is still under-formation whilst the head of an executive agency under the same U.S. Department of Commerce would oversee the IANA Transition.

Post Transition IANA (PTI)a wholly-owned ICANN subsidiary
Notwithstanding, those people within the Internet Governance Community that were suspicious, fought against the NETMundial Initiative, with the result that the NMI continued to falter, because of lack of cross-cutting stakeholder support since its clear mission and purpose has not been clearly articulated apart from the general concepts contained in the Terms of Reference that was issued after the Stanford Meeting Communiqué.

These factors have caused the process of the IANA Transition Proposal to move faster than the NMI; and when it became obvious that the NMI will not be realized in the near future, a quick decision was made to ensure that the IANA Transition Proposals would be centered on a model that is entirely 'internal to ICANN' — whereby a Post-Transition IANA (PTI) will be based on a wholly-owned ICANN subsidiary. This implies that the 'IANA Transition' in essence will simply replace the NTIA's current role with ICANN, whilst ICANN's present role as the IANA Functions Operator will be transferred to an ICANN-owned subsidiary. The PTI ICANN Subsidiary will be accountable to ICANN but not to the Global Multi-Stakeholder Group that was originally given responsibility for the IANA Transition.

The Brazilian Connection & NTIA's Stamp of Approval
Fadi's connections to the Government of Brazil — as a spirited high-level outreach and engagement effort that was meant to give a more substantive voice to the 'Global South' in Internet Governance affairs — was the impetus that created the nexus of 'ICANN and Brazil' that was used to drive the NETMundial Initiative. The NTIA's Larry Strickling has tacitly approved of this relationship by mentioning China, Iran and Russia as countries that oppose the multi-stakeholder model by seeking to increase governmental/inter-governmental control of the Internet using bodies like the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and United Nations; whilst singling out Brazil for special commendation as a country that promotes the multi-stakeholder model of Internet Governance on account of Brazil's successful hosting of the NETMundial Conference.

It is easy to speculate that Fadi's absence from the scene would cause NMI to rapidly lose traction and become orphaned in the coming months. Even so, Fadi Chehade's tenure would be remembered within the ICANN Global Community for the high number of Independent Review Panel (IRP) juridical proceedings that were instituted to challenge ICANN Board and Staff actions; unsettling issues of accountability improvements that were inextricably tied to the IANA Transition; and increased Congressional focus on the IANA Transition.

Why FIFA is reminding us of ICANN!
About three (3) months ago, Fadi Chehade was a Panel Witness at the United States Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing on 'Preserving the Multistakeholder Model of Internet Governance' that was convened on February 25, 2015 to look into aspects of the IANA Transition, and assess the level of preparedness of the NTIA and ICANN regarding the Transition. At that hearing, the Honorable Senator John Thune, Committee Chairman, had been more concerned about ICANN's accountability and continuing government oversight in a Post-IANA Transition regime when he commented that:
"Some worry that, in the absence of U.S. involvement in the IANA functions, ICANN may be subject to capture by authoritarian regimes, and these are valid concerns."
"But I also worry that, in the absence of the contract with the U.S government, ICANN could become an organization like FIFA — the international soccer organization that is flush with cash, unresponsive to those it supposedly serves, and accountable to no one." (See Chairman Thune's Majority Statement)
These statements unmistakably convey the notion that senior members of the United States Government have been seriously concerned about FIFA's ('Fédération Internationale de Football Association') lack of accountability.

They didn't get it!
Whilst some of the Panel Witnesses at the Senate Hearing like Fadi Chehade and Larry Strickling were busy trying to demonstrate that the focus of the IANA Transition Proposal that was being developed by the IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination Group (ICG) would ensure that no government-led or inter-governmental solution will commandeer the IANA functions in the absence of the U.S. NTIA's direct oversight, these officials failed to address this other very important concern: that without any robust accountability and legal safeguards, including governmental oversight, the IANA Transition could be hijacked by an unaccountable and corrupt system, similar to the type that FIFA had unwittingly created to govern the sport of global football (soccer).

This is where both Mr. Fadi Chehade and Hon. Larry Strickling failed to convince the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation that they have thoroughly addressed the most important concerns regarding the 'IANA Transition' — which like they say in the US 'we got this'. In a nutshell, what Senator Thune actually alluded to was that some governmental involvement or control was necessary in addition to ICANN accountability improvements that would be attendant to the IANA Transition. This is what the NTIA and ICANN leaders failed to grasp or 'did not get'.
It was this clear understanding that led me to posit in my Post-Mortem Analysis of the Senate Committee Hearing that:
"Only proper regulation by an independent agency with full Congressional mandate will ensure that a 'FIFA-Mafia type' organization of systematic corruption does not emerge. ICANN should not be trusted by Congress to regulate itself."
This partly explains why increased oversight of the NTIA-ICANN framework relationship with respect to the IANA Transition has now become a more regular Congressional activity in recent weeks.

The FIFA Global Corruption Scandal — "World Cup of Fraud"
It was therefore not surprising to me when many executive committee members of FIFA and some sports marketing executives were indicted and arrested last week in Switzerland and the Americas following a spirited investigation that was led by the United States Department of Justice's Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); in collaboration with the United States Federal Internal Revenue Service and the Swiss Federal Police. Many high-ranking executive committee members of FIFA were arrested in Zurich as they congregated there to attend a FIFA Congress.

In announcing the indictment, the Head of the US Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen, called FIFA a "World Cup of Fraud” and was quoted as saying: "today, we are issuing FIFA a red card”. After the scandal broke, this became CNN TV's leading headline on 28th May 2015. The Hon. Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney General and Secretary of Justice, accused FIFA operatives of "corrupting the business of world-wide soccer to benefit themselves” through profiting about US$150 million from awarding media and marketing rights; and charged them with many serious crimes including bribery, money laundering, racketeering, wire fraud, violation of United States banking laws, income tax evasion, obstruction of justice, structuring of financial transactions, etc. — the sort of conspiracy crimes that would be typically mentioned in an indictment of Mafia mob bosses by the FBI and a prosecuting US District Attorney.

From the events of the past week, it is obvious that if the United States of America can go after FIFA which is based in an extra-territorial jurisdiction as part of leading a determined global effort to clampdown on FIFA's corruption. An organization that is resident in the United States like ICANN can be readily pursued at any time, if lack of accountability leads to an official investigation for corruption.

FIFA Scandal Implications for the ICANN-led IANA Transition
Taking the FIFA as a good example of an unaccountable institution, the present FIFA global scandal and corruption probe by the US Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Investigations is an important lesson applicable to the need for sound corporate governance for any institution tasked with global responsibility. Thus, this imperative now requires that the entire IANA Transition Framework should be re-evaluated immediately.

FIFA's corruption was propelled by massive revenues of about US$5.7 billion and cash reserves of US$1.5 billion. Since the first new gTLD Program was launched, ICANN has also garnered significant revenues of about US$400 million or more from new gTLD application fees and extra revenues generated from the auctioning of some new gTLD domain names. ICANN also takes a 'cut' from all domain name registration fees, and its cash balances would be further bolstered with increased uptake of more new gTLD domain names. Huge cash balances should not be left in the hands of an organization that is widely perceived as unaccountable and which also habitually pays very large financial claims, hefty travel allowances and per diems to its Board Members.

Need for Fresh Thinking and New Beginnings at ICANN and NTIA
Fadi's departure from ICANN, and the FIFA global corruption scandal that has caused Sepp Blatter's resignation as FIFA Chief less than four days after being elected to a fifth term as FIFA President, should now compel a rethink of what has been happening at ICANN and the NTIA regarding the IANA Transition — against the backdrop that US leaders like Senator John Thune have already expressed their concerns about this important matter.
  • Need to Investigate the Conflicts of Interests of ICANN Board Members: Fadi's resignation as CEO should also cause ICANN to be re-evaluated and its Board Members numerous Conflicts of Interest to be thoroughly investigated by the US Department of Justice and the pertinent Congressional Judiciary Committees.
  • We need not remind ourselves once again that there is still no governing legal framework for the IANA Transition.
  • ICANN should first of all be given a clean bill of health before the IANA Transition is allowed. A US-centered organization like ICANN must not become like FIFA.
  • Only the establishment of a proper regulatory environment would help avoid any potential criminal mismanagement of funds generated from the governance and technical administration of the Internet.
FIFA mistakes should not be repeated at ICANN — without anyone to oversight, it will!
The entire world became scandalized by the misconduct of FIFA executives simply because FIFA was not regulated by any over-sighting authority in the first place. The same mistake should not be allowed in the case of ICANN that is now being given the responsibility for the Post-IANA Transition regime by the U.S. NTIA. As Attorney-General Loretta E. Lynch said when announcing the FIFA indictment, "FIFA was too powerful to go unchecked”. Similarly, I believe that a Post-Transition IANA regime that will create an all-powerful ICANN will be too dominant to go absolutely unchecked.

The last U.S. House Sub-Committee on Communications and Technology hearing on 'Stakeholder Perspectives on the IANA Transition' that was convened on May 13, 2015 did not invite the ICANN and NTIA leaders to attend as Panel Witnesses. Does this in any way suggest that the NTIA and ICANN no longer enjoy the complete trust of the U.S. Congress who now wanted to hear only from other stakeholders?

Who else should resign?
I personally think that in addition to Fadi Chehade, the ICANN Board Chairman Dr. Stephen Crocker should also probably resign; and the NTIA's Hon. Larry Stickling too — so that both ICANN and NTIA will benefit from fresh thinking regarding the IANA Transition. Only new people that can inspire and win the full confidence of the U.S. Congress should now take responsibility for the IANA Transition at ICANN and the NTIA; and at the same time ensure that the mandatory ICANN Accountability Improvements that are now being sought will not just be a pro-forma effort.
The IANA Transition will be held up for some time at Congress, and only those who can work properly with Congress will be trusted to deliver this effort based on far-reaching accountability safeguards.

Accountability structures on their own are not sufficient to stop corruption — after all, FIFA has an Audit and Compliance Committee
But this did not stop a pervasive organizational culture of corruption to develop. Governmental oversight is a very essential preventative measure that is also used correctively whenever infractions occur.

Therefore, the time to act is now and the re-evaluation of ICANN and the IANA Transition should not be put off until ICANN's reputation is seriously damaged like FIFA's before doing that which should have been done at the beginning. A future scandal of global proportions that will cause widespread angst and hand-wringing within the Global Internet Community must be avoided.

By Sophia Bekele, CEO of DotConnectAfrica. Ms. Bekele is a former ICANN generic Names Supporting Organization (gNSO) Council policy advisor & contributed to policy over the new gTLD programme & IDNs. She was also policy advisor to various UN Agencies on ICTs. Founder and spearhead of the Yes2DotAfrica campaign. Bekele is a business and corporate executive, an international entrepreneur, a thought leader in Corporate and ICT Governance, international policy, Business Strategy, Internet, ICT & development. Her Profiles on sophiabekele.com / wikipedia.

"No Legal Basis for IANA Transition": A Post-Mortem Analysis of Senate Committee Hearing

Only proper regulation by an independent agency with full Congressional mandate will ensure that a 'FIFA-Mafia type' organization of systematic corruption does not emerge. ICANN should not be trusted by Congress to regulate itself.
Introduction – The cure is closer, and not arms-length, Internet supervision
The recent hearing conducted by the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation on 'Preserving the Multi-stakeholder Model of Internet Governance' which took place during the last week of February 2015, again showed that the Republican-controlled US Congress needs to act decisively to protect the status quo.

The Senator Thune-led Committee convened the hearing on 25th February to look into the 'IANA Transition' and assess the level of preparedness of the non-governmental agencies that are handling the Internet Technical Management functions and assess threats regarding the possible take-over of Internet governance by foreign governments that might be antagonistic to US National Security, International Public Diplomacy and Internet Policy.

If general fear supposes the US Government giving up control of some parts of the IANA functions, would lead to a situation where some unfriendly foreign governments would now exercise control of critical Internet technical functions, then a correct medicine must be taken to cure a particular ailment that has been diagnosed. It is only closer, and not arms length, US government supervision that will control or mitigate any fears and anxieties of foreign take-over of the Internet. Therefore, Congress has to plug any existing legal loopholes, and tighten its administrative, technical, financial, public policy, and political oversight over the entire process no matter whose ox is gored.

The US Senate Committee heard from three (3) Panel witnesses, namely: the Honorable Larry Strickling, Assistant Secretary of the National Technology & Information Administration (NTIA), an agency of the US Department of Commerce; Ambassador David A. Gross, the former United States Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy (2001 to 2009) within the US State Department, who presently leads the non-governmental Internet Governance Coalition (IGA); and Mr. Fadi Chehadé, President & CEO of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

Most of the witnesses made lengthy presentations that were, at times, heavy on historical content but glossed over the purpose of the Senate Hearing. Only Ambassador Gross stressed that the IANA Transition Process should not be rushed which was in line with the thinking of Senator John Thune; whilst the witnesses from the NTIA and ICANN are inclined to proceed full steam ahead, so as to submit a proposal and allow the 'IANA Transition' to occur at the expiration of the current IANA Contract by 30th September 2015.

ICANN Oversight to become a Mainstream Congressional Role
One important take-away for me from reading the Congressional documents, and watching a recorded video of the event, is that regular oversight of the NTIA and ICANN will become a more mainstream activity for the pertinent US Congressional Committees that are keeping this matter within their purview. This is what I have always advocated (See for example, Congress will Oversight ICANN – CircleID).

The Senators have already sent an oversight letter to the NTIA to state their support for the present bottom-up multi-stakeholder process. Whilst voicing their concerns, the Senators also signaled the direction that they would like this to go: that is, any resulting proposal on the IANA Transition must not replace the NTIA's current role by a governmental or inter-governmental solution. Again, a similar condition is also stipulated in the NTIA's directive to the ICANN-led Multi-Stakeholder Group regarding any resultant proposal on the IANA Transition.

Therefore, even though the Senators might accept a process-led by a non-governmental Global Multi-stakeholder Group, tighter US government supervision would be required. Only the US Congress can provide this level of process oversight that would ensure that the 'Multi-Stakeholder Group' remains accountable to the global public interest that it is supposed to serve, and does not become a law onto itself.
A Legal Loophole that needs to be closed
"NTIA has fulfilled this temporary role not because of any statutory or legal responsibility, but as a temporary measure at the request of the President. Indeed, Congress never designated NTIA or any other specific agency responsibility for managing the Internet DNS. Thus, NTIA has no legal or statutory responsibility to manage the DNS."
That a legal void currently exists was revealed by the above excerpt taken from Assistant Secretary Strickling's written presentation to the US Senate Committee hearing. It is obvious that the NTIA has so far acted out of political expediency to enable it to play an important role; even though, within a nebulous legal framework. However, this must no longer be so, if the IANA Transition must take place.
As part of ensuring an enduring oversight mechanism, the Congress must now put a permanent legal structure in place to designate a specific agency for this role — with legal/statutory responsibility for managing (or regulating) the Internet DNS. The NTIA believes that it did not have the legal responsibility to act, and that its role was temporary; so on what basis is the NTIA driving the current IANA Transition process without the requisite legal authority or Congressional mandate?
I believe that the IANA Transition should be indefinitely postponed until such a time that a proper governing legal framework for it is established by the US Congress. Proper oversight has to be anchored on appropriate legal and statutory mechanisms that would guide the entire process. The IANA Transition and resulting devolution to a Global Multi-stakeholder Group cannot be operated as long as this patent legal lacuna continues to exist. Congress must first be allowed to close any existing legal loopholes, before those who are rushing the IANA Transition may be allowed to proceed.

Avoiding the 'sorry Example' of FIFA
Senator Thune in his opening statement was perspicacious enough to cite FIFA as the type of non-governmental example that must be avoided in the absence of proper US governmental control over the IANA Technical functions.

The International Federation of Football Associations (officially known as 'Fédération Internationale de Football Association' – 'FIFA') is the global body that governs the administration of 'Soccer' (which is the sport of Football outside the United States). The whole world is always busy enjoying the world's 'beautiful game', without paying any attention to FIFA's accountability or the transparency of FIFA's actions and processes. In recent years, FIFA has been bedeviled by many controversies and unresolved scandals.

During the last few years, numerous allegations of administrative high-handedness, bribery, vote-rigging, vote-buying, corruption and graft relating to the award of World Cup hosting privileges, marketing rights and payments to FIFA Executive Committee members by special interest groups have been rife. Many of these accusations have been investigated by committees affiliated to FIFA but no one has ever been found culpable and properly punished, yet the allegations refuse to go away (See for example, "Fifa 'like mafia family', says former FA boss Triesman”. Many books have been written, and TV documentaries have been produced on this issue. If the oversight of FIFA had been within the purview of the US Congress, the organization would have been thoroughly investigated and 'hammered' like other sports governance associations in the United States, but since FIFA remains only accountable to itself and operating out of Zurich in Europe, the world soccer governing body has continued with 'business as usual'.

It is therefore the responsibility of Congress to ensure that the IANA Technical functions are not transitioned to a Global Multi-Stakeholder Community that will become like FIFA. FIFA has refused to demonstrate any accountability to the global public interest that it serves or to the international coalition of quasi-nongovernmental organizations ('quangos' – Country Football Federations and Associations) that comprise its membership.

It is often mentioned that 'the love of money is the root of all evil', and a global body suffused with cash but not accountable to anybody, will fall into many evils of corruption. ICANN's coffers are beginning to bulge with cash that it has no idea how to spend: monies that it has garnered from new gTLD application fees, and auctioning of some new gTLD names plus cash generated from regular industry-sponsors of its events. ICANN has so far not shown how it intends to spend these enormous surpluses for the global public interest. Rather, it regularly pays millions of dollars in per diems and hefty allowances to Board members and those within the ICANN Community that it sponsors to its events. Those who continue to benefit from these sinecures have no interest in fiscal accountability and would not welcome any oversight from any external body.
Again, the US Congress must be steadfast in ensuring that ICANN or anybody that takes eventual responsibility of the Internet DNS functions does not become like FIFA but must remain fiscally responsible and accountable to a regulatory structure that will be set-up by Congress. Accumulated surpluses in billions of United States Dollars that are held by organizations like FIFA and ICANN should be properly escrowed with an International Financial Pool or given to global charities such as UNICEF (the United Nations Children's Emergency Fund) and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent societies so that excess funds in the hands of unaccountable officials does not engender a culture of unbridled financial recklessness and runaway international corruption.

ICANN Remains Unaccountable
The issue of ICANN's accountability remains unresolved. All those who are involved in the ICANN Global Community have continued to complain about ICANN's accountability or lack thereof. The existing ICANN accountability mechanisms remain at best unsatisfactory.

Senator Thune has made it clear that reforming ICANN's accountability processes must precede any IANA Transition deal. It would be foolhardy to completely devolve the Internet Technical Management functions to a Global Multi-Stakeholder Community that pivotally rests on an ICANN that is widely perceived as largely unaccountable. As a matter of fact, without the required accountability process improvements, it would not be long before ICANN becomes just like FIFA. This must be prevented at all cost.

ICANN's respect within the community that it represents continues to decline at a rapid pace. The administration of the ICANN new gTLD program led to the institution of eleven (11) Independent Review Panel (IRP) legal proceedings that have been lodged against ICANN by different bodies that have disagreed with ICANN decisions. These IRPs are usually invoked after internal mechanisms such as 'Requests for Reconsiderations' and 'Cooperative Engagement Processes' (CEPs) have been completely exhausted. Everyone knows that the ICANN Board Governance Committee (BGC) regularly refuses any submitted re-consideration requests. The organization would rather go to an expensive legal proceeding, instead of re-considering its internal decisions. This demonstrates that there is urgent need to re-evaluate ICANN's decision-making, if those within the community continue to question ICANN's decisions, which are already seen as not unimpeachable.

Again, it needs not be over-emphasized that an unaccountable ICANN cannot take responsibility for a completely devolved IANA Technical function. Therefore, it must be re-emphasized once again, that the IANA Transition should not be rushed, and should be indefinitely delayed by the US Congress until ICANN's accountability mechanisms have been fully reformed to make those processes more reliable and trustworthy.

The Need to Continue Defunding the IANA Transition
The US$1.1 trillion Omnibus Spending bill expressly defunds the IANA Transition until September 30, 2015. The current term of the IANA contract implementation that is presently in force between the NTIA and ICANN runs until 30th September 2015. Thus, as I have previously reported, the IANA Transition cannot take place in violation of US Federal Law that has defunded it within a stipulated time-window; neither would the IANA Transition happen without the express approval of the proposal by Congress. This peculiar proviso in the Omnibus spending bill actually implies that Congress believes that the IANA Transition should be delayed with proper deliberation, and not be rushed as ICANN and NTIA are inclined to.

Therefore until certain things happen, it would be prudent for the US Congress to continue defunding the IANA Transition process beyond September 30, 2015. As already mentioned, any existing legal loopholes have to be closed, first of all to ensure that a proper legal regulatory framework is put in place to govern the IANA Transition. This is an important duty for Congress to perform — that is, its primary law-making role in addition to executive oversight that happens after the fact. Second, ICANN's accountability processes must be completely reformed and improved upon. Third, any complete proposals on the IANA Transition that are developed and submitted by the ICANN-led Global Multi-stakeholder Community (working as the 'IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination Group') must be thoroughly evaluated and scrutinized by the US Congress to ensure that it satisfies the most rigorous standards of probity and policy expectations regarding an accountable governance structure; and enduring US Government oversight of a non-governmental body that might be saddled with an important global responsibility. At the same time, those that are preparing and submitting the IANA Transition proposals under the aegis of ICANN should also not be evaluating the proposals that they have developed, and further 'awarding' the devolution process to themselves — as ICANN that always draws expertise from the same small gathering field of people that it feels comfortable to work with. Only the US Congress can ensure that there are proper 'checks and balances'.
Working Methods from Contemporary US Public Experience
Contemporary US public policy and administration experience suggests that a trusted method that works is the devolution of functions to a quasi- public-private model that is properly over-sighted by the US government and regulated by a body that is fully empowered by law. One only needs to look at the current US Federal Environmental Management and Protection Regime to see how this sector is managed and regulated; and also the US Banking, Financial, and Securities sector to see how these important economic pedestals are governed. The environmental and natural resources policy sectors have been protected because of robust legal provisions and oversight by the US Congress and close governmental regulation by the US Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Similarly, those who violate US Financial and Securities laws and policies have been made to face huge financial penalties and other legal risks. It is only close government supervision that protects the public from institutions that may become neglectful of their responsibilities or who chose to remain unaccountable. Multi-stakeholder Internet Governance should be similarly handled based on normative governmental regulation and oversight.

I believe that such proven methods from contemporary US Public Policy experience must be applied in administrating any Internet Governance structure that would result from the IANA Transition proposals. This further underscores the need for Congress to establish a US Internet Regulatory Authority (USIRA) which I had called for in my December 2014 article (See Congress will Oversight ICANN – CircleID). The proposed USIRA should be set-up by Congress to exercise direct supervisory responsibilities over the working relationship between the NTIA and ICANN; and the governance of any regime that results from the IANA Transition process. Such a body will also take responsibility for Internet policy-setting and governance, whilst the NTIA and the ICANN-led Global Multi-stakeholder Community take responsibility for technical program implementation. The present situation, where the same body sets policy and also implements, is highly flawed in terms of its conceptual design.
Dissimulation: NetMundial and the Dissatisfaction of Brazil, ICANN GAC and Other Issues
It is often argued by those who have been strenuously pushing for the IANA Transition that the NetMundial Initiative (NMI) ("Global Multi-Stakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance") was devised to address the evident dissatisfaction of countries like Brazil with the current Global Internet Governance structure. Nothing could be further from the truth. With respect to Internet Governance, the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China plus South Africa) have, in recent years, pushed for a UN/ITU-led model of Global Internet Governance and not the present 'US-centric' ICANN-led Multi-Stakeholder Model. The main reason for Brazil's 'apparent dissatisfaction' is due to the Snowden revelations of NSA's surveillance activities on foreign government leaders and not because of the structure of Global Internet Governance. Any claims to the contrary are meant to dissimulate and mislead.

The same way that Brazil has been won over to the 'Multi-Stakeholder Camp' through involvement, consultations, reassurance and cooperative outreach is the same way that other countries (that is, those who are not opposing just on account of perceived US-Internet hegemony) may also be won over; but not because the NTIA has agreed to an 'IANA Transition' to a Global Multi-Stakeholder Community. One argument that is now being presented by ICANN to accelerate the IANA Transition process is that devolution of the IANA technical functions will curb the agitation by certain countries to push for the UN/ ITU-led model of Global Internet Governance. My view is that those countries that oppose 'US-centricity' will always favour a UN/ITU-led model irrespective of whether an IANA Transition occurs or not.

Before concluding, it is important to also comment on the issue of ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC). It is a well-known fact that ICANN decision making is often 'grid-locked' on account of GAC Policy Advice. This has often given the ICANN GAC body an extraordinary amount of influence within ICANN which typically undermined the 'Multi-Stakeholder' principle as governments at ICANN inadvertently assumed an exaggerated role.

It was ICANN's intention to give more power to governments and inter-governmental organizations represented on the ICANN GAC body, by setting a voting threshold of 2/3rd of ICANN Board Members that can overturn a GAC Advice/Decision. During the recent Senate Committee Hearing, the ICANN CEO has signaled that the ICANN Board will not accept decisions from the GAC, presumably to bring ICANN Board thinking to be more in line with the IANA Transition expediency (benchmark) of ensuring that any final Transition Proposal does not replace the NTIA's current role with a government-led or inter-governmental organization. It seems that this admission was actually forced from Mr. Fadi Chehade because of a probing question from Senator Debra Fischer (Republican-Nebraska), member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, who pointed out the inconsistency of the 2/3rd threshold of rejecting GAC Advice with limiting governmental influence in a Post-IANA Transition regime. This reversal of intention remains to be seen in practice, since there could be an ICANN Board-ICANN GAC confrontation.

I believe that the argument made that the US Congress can, and would oversight ICANN is already won. I think that I have also won the argument that Congress will be deliberative, and aware of its arduous responsibilities regarding Internet Governance; remain focused and due-process oriented, and not allow itself to be steamrollered by both the NTIA and ICANN regarding the IANA Transition.

The case for 'Transition' has NOT been properly made, since nobody has said that "Global Internet Governance is broken and now needs to be fixed". ICANN accountability and transparency process improvements should be more of priority concern instead of exerting inordinate and very ambitious efforts to 'fast-track' the IANA Transition.
* * *
1) Congressional oversight of the 'IANA Transition' should be deepened to ensure that any proposals developed and submitted by the ICANN-led Global Multi-Stakeholder Community are independently evaluated, but not by the same group of people that prepared the proposal in the first place.
2) The legal loopholes that have been identified need to be properly closed by the US Congress.
3) It must be reinforced that the duties of Internet Policy-Setting should be separated from Internet Technical Program Management, so that the same organization does not handle policy governance and technical implementation like ICANN is currently doing, i.e. there should be a formal separation of duties.
4) An Internet Regulatory Agency that reports directly to Congress is now required more than ever to help shepherd this complex process. Only proper regulation by an independent agency with full Congressional mandate will ensure that a 'FIFA-Mafia type' organization of systematic corruption does not emerge. ICANN should not be trusted by Congress to regulate itself.
5) and finally, Congress must act as soon as possible to ensure that there are no process irregularities, so as to help mitigate identified risks. The process should be driven by critical-thinking and considered consultations with Congressional leaders and not based on scare-mongering and other tactics of dissimulation.

By Sophia Bekele, CEO of DotConnectAfrica. Ms. Bekele is a former ICANN generic Names Supporting Organization (gNSO) Council policy advisor & contributed to policy over the new gTLD programme & IDNs. She was also policy advisor to various UN Agencies on ICTs. Founder and spearhead of the Yes2DotAfrica campaign. Bekele is a business and corporate executive, an international entrepreneur, a thought leader in Corporate and ICT Governance, international policy, Business Strategy, Internet, ICT & development. Her Profiles on sophiabekele.com / wikipedia.

ICANN Should Not Ululate Over "Booking.com" IRP Outcome: Decision Exposes Failure of Accountability

The IRP Panel that was tasked with deciding the Booking.com vs. ICANN IRP that was filed regarding the application for the .hotels new gTLD name has made a decision that seems favorable to ICANN as the Defendant. However, this is not a victory for ICANN but an indictment of the ICANN procedures and accountability systems which are widely viewed as detrimental to new gTLD applicants. The result mirrors a negotiated dispute resolution outcome that is costly and only returns the applicant to an auction with its competitor — Despegar Online's who applied for .hoteis — that is in contention for the same (or similar) string name.

Reading between the lines, perhaps, the IRP was wrongly filed and lost based on a technicality, but this does not mean that ICANN has been victorious. It is possible to assume that this middle-ground ruling was also 'negotiated' to enable Booking.com win via an auction, since the issue was string similarity, and an auction process could be also be used to settle a string similarity/contention set.

Board Member's Reactions:
Technical details that have been raised in the ruling include the Panel's reiteration of the ICANN Board members' hesitations over the string similarity panel findings saying:
"There is no question but that process lacks certain elements of transparency and certain practices that are widely associated with requirements of fairness."
They also stated that:
"We can — and we do — acknowledge certain legitimate concerns regarding the string similarity review process raised by Booking.com, discussed above, which are evidently shared by a number of prominent and experienced ICANN NGPC members."
Some of the statements quoted by the ICANN NGPC members at a September 10th 2013 meeting where four board members abstained from the vote, with five voting in favor including —
George Sadowsky who stated that: "they understood that the BGC did the right thing, but thought the end result was contrary to ICANN's and the user's best interests. George noted he intended to abstain from voting as a result." He concluded in his statement that "I cannot and will not vote in favor of a motion that reflects, directly or indirectly, an unwillingness to depart from what I see as such a flawed position and which does not reflect in my opinion an understanding of the current reality of the situation."

Olga Madruga-Forti noted that she intended to abstain from the vote because "there was not sufficient rationale provided for why the string similarity review panel made its determination".

Ray Plzak also abstained from the vote, saying that while the process was followed "it needs to be reviewed to potentially add a mechanism that would allow persons who don't agree with the outcome to make an objection."

Bill Graham who voted yes, however agreed with Ray's suggestion, and noted that generally, "there is a considerable level of discomfort and dissatisfaction with the process as expressed by Committee members." Sadly, ICANN board members were repeatedly informed that because the process had been followed, they had no choice but to deny the reconsideration request.

No Options for applicant
The expressions of concern within the technical issues in ICANN's own structure indicates systemic weaknesses and failures that are unable to provide appropriate reliefs and remedies that are seen as fair and just by all those seeking accountability review using ICANN's processes. Therefore when the .hotels/.hoteis application process failed almost from the start it means that applicants find themselves at an absolute loss. All the applicant complaint redress/internal dispute resolution procedures against ICANN Board or Staff actions such as the ICANN's Ombudsman, reconsideration requests, Cooperative Engagement Process (CEP) and the IRP must not remain weak options for the applicants.

Looking at the IRP Panel's decision, ICANN is not an outright winner and it is just the beginning of an indicative voice to find a permanent solution to its recourse mechanism.

An IRP Process is about accountability and not a negotiated resolution
IRP is a procedure-based juridical inquiry into ICANN Board or ICANN Staff actions. Therefore any IRP Decision that looks like a 'resolution' does not in any way further the cause of ICANN accountability improvements; nor adds any legal precedence value to IRP-based Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) processes. The persistent issue that remains is that the ICANN system for recourse by applicants has not been fixed and that means it is broken and will continue to affect applicants materially — including the time and money wasted in pursuing accountability through the IRP Process.

Lack of ICANN's accountability should be subject to due process in court of law

Therefore, ICANN should not engage on any premature ululation regarding this particular Booking.com IRP outcome; rather ICANN should be very troubled that there may be need for a higher place from which to find justice by affected new gTLD applicants. The next phase of the new gTD program should allow for applicants to sue ICANN in courts for any damages caused as a result of lack of proper accountability processes. This is what I would like to see as part of the Congressional Review of ICANN's Accountability which I would also recommend strongly.

By Sophia Bekele, CEO of DotConnectAfrica. Ms. Bekele is a former ICANN generic Names Supporting Organization (gNSO) Council policy advisor & contributed to policy over the new gTLD programme & IDNs. She was also policy advisor to various UN Agencies on ICTs. Founder and spearhead of the Yes2DotAfrica campaign. Bekele is a business and corporate executive, an international entrepreneur, a thought leader in Corporate and ICT Governance, international policy, Business Strategy, Internet, ICT & development. Her Profiles on sophiabekele.com / wikipedia.

ICANN Africa Strategy - A View from the Inside

The rise of "Exclusive Mulistakholder"
Will Africa be able to move and stand on its feet?
"Africa is rising" is a phrase we are accustomed to hearing nowadays. We Africans also seem desperate to make that positive narrative about Africa. From the vantage point of the digital Africa that I seat, it is most promising, but only if we can face some of our own self afflicted stagnation.
Having been in the African Domain scene for nearly a decade now, I am always challenged to view our situation with a pinch of salt, a fact that doesn't attract many friends. But I am willing to go at it and point out the shortcomings.

ICANN has been in a process to find its place and expand the footprint in Africa, but this has not been easy coming; with very few performing ccTLDs and a small number of new gTLDs, it seems like a long way off. Let us look at a few scenarios.

The formation of ICANN Africa Strategy
When the current CEO joined ICANN, there was a proposal for an 'ICANN Africa strategy' with a view to endear ICANN to Africa, and also get Africa into ICANN. Despite that our organization was excluded from initial meetings and the formulation of this strategy, as an African organization that is very active stakeholder at ICANN and Africa, we however gave our views on the proposal.

Most recently at the center of the Singapore meeting was the ICANN Africa strategy meetings which was accorded a press release by ICANN on Feb 3, 2015 calling on emphasis for participation of the African community. The ICANN Africa team thus hosted two meetings in Singapore namely "The Africa Strategy 2016–2020" on 10th Feb 2015 and "Enhanced Engagement With Africa" 11th Feb 2015. The purpose is said to enhance ICANN's Engagement in Africa leading to the ICANN 55 meeting in Marrakech Morocco next year. DCA members have participated in most of the Africa sessions.

Community Opposition to the Initial ICANN Africa Strategy
Similar to the experience of the NetMundial Initiative, there was a well-known opposition from the African Community that the original ICANN Africa Strategy was not inclusive, transparent, and was unambiguously captured by "special interest group" who pronounced themselves as "Leaders of the African Internet community". This was symbolized by the joint letter they wrote to ICANN prior to forming the strategy.

DCA was also one of the opponents at the time, and wrote a strongly worded letter to ICANN leadership. As with many of DCA's complaints under the current ICANN leadership, this letter was completely ignored.

Decrypting what ICANN Africa Strategy is Not
In a rebuttal, I wrote on CircleID to correct an article written on how the .Africa gTLD was to be at the center of the ICANN Africa strategy, I recall clarifying the conflated issue of ICANN Africa Strategy vs "Africa Agenda".

I made clear to the African and Global ICANN community between the failed "Africa Strategy" in Dakar, which encompassed a rough call to reserve the .Africa gTLD for the AUC, so as to delegate it to a structure that the AUC choose (that included ZACR and the African Community kinship) versus what the new ICANN Africa Strategy is, and should be. We called to dismiss any reference to a .Africa gTLD.

Multistakeholder Model Quashed by Preferential Treatments
For reasons beyond any conjecture of Africans, the African community was widely informed that the ICANN Africa Strategy was architected by ICANN Board Chairman and his close allies on the board. The ICANN Africa Strategy members, who have self selected themselves as "Leaders of the African Community" were then said to have been handpicked by these same ICANN Board members leading to criticism and objections by many. These findings also substantiated the reasons why many were not aware of the initiative on the ground in the first place. It was a top down construct and had no community consultation.

The implications of this preferential treatment became more apparent, when the actions that took place by the ICANN Board Chairman during ICANN Toronto, made a visible promotional effort to the gathered audience, that the launch and strategy of this initiative included their handpicked people as representative of the African Community. There were no representatives invited from DCA, a long term member of ICANN community which was also attending nearly every ICANN meeting at its own expense.

A scholarship award without the merit or grade
It should be worth informing that non of the so called "Leaders of African Community" now selected and consolidated as ICANN Africa Strategy members, except one or two who are already members of other ICANN structure, were even attending the ICANN meetings for the past many years. In particular during New gTLD program development of 5-7 years.
DCA and its members however have had significant visibility and continuous contributions to ICANN since 2005, not only to the .Africa gTLD, but to the success of the New gTLD program, IDNs, Multistakholer model, and beyond.

Equally, this exclusion treatment given to DCA by ICANN was understood by many Africans, as well as the closely observing global ICANN community, as an attempt to endear a selection process of who should be representing Africa, due to the high stakes over the .africa gTLD - a sort of .africa Magna Carta, if ICANN was to succeed in Africa.

Later to be noted by one AfriICANN list member who wrote in the list attributing ICANN's action by saying "we now know whose support ICANN has for the community" giving rise to an what I call "Exclusive MultiStakholderism".

What Measurable Results did ICANN Africa Strategy Achieve so far?
With the link that tied the ICANN Africa Strategy and .africa gTLD cut off, several markers have been mentioned to show the success of the initiative. The budget allocations for the previous quarter to support the strategy are not known.
  • However what we do know is that, at first instance, the budget carried along those member appointments who could not afford to attend ICANN meetings at their own cost. This we believe to be nearly all members of the ICANN Africa Strategy other than the ones who are already carried by ICANN's other structures.
  • In lieu of "African participation to ICANN", there were many African Governments sponsored by ICANN to GAC at the last minute. These Government Representatives had no understanding of ICANN, the New gTLD program, nor .africa gTLD, but were directly made to object to DCA's .africa application, amounting to simply a planned invasion on DCA. I guess some would say this is quite an achievement to ICANN Africa Strategy program.
  • There were also mentions of the DNSSEC roadshows that are said to have resulted to a few ccTLD DNSSEC signings and one DNS Forum in Durban.
  • We also hear of announcements that some supporters of the African kinship get fellowship awards and continue to be sponsored to ICANN, or noise makers, such as tech day organizers, have been given roles to be occupied and keep them quiet.
Apart from these, we do not really see much development in reaching out to Africa.
High Level Appointments and Expat Hires - A witness protection program
Perhaps it will be right to say that the Africa Strategy has benefited a few individuals more than the community. This also extends to other high-level ICANN appointments and numerous salaried positions that have been concluded so far. Almost all those who proclaimed themselves as "Leaders of the African Internet Community" now seem to have escaped to salaried positions at ICANN in different parts of the world. These are newly created positions by ICANN CEO which issues titles of "Vice President", positions which amounts to a witness protection program. Therefore, one would wonder if the Africa Strategy was meant for the real African community and/or even be sustainable in the long run?

The Special Session on "Africa on the Road to Marrakech" — A Surprise ICANN Africa Strategy 2.0, Call for African Governments
Before the shock has even left the scene of the original ICANN Africa Strategy, and its performance or lack thereof, we are now introduced to a version 2.0. From looking at the design of things in the report, the 2.0 seems to call for more African government's involvement in Internet Business. In reality, the African private sector has moved ahead on its own with little or no engagement from the governments.

Statistics on Internet development, innovation, startups and Entrepreneurship have demonstrated that Africa's rise is private sector led, with government acting as a support rather than catalyst. What the African Strategy needs is not a new 2.0 strategy but a total revolution of the working structure, involving more stakeholders and voices. Finally, a workable formula that is SMART — Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-related.

Déjà vu Dakar Masquerade — An "Africa Agenda 2.0" in Marrakech?
It is noteworthy to observe that while the whole internet governance ecosystem is becoming wary of government involvement, the ICANN Africa Strategy 2.0 is heading in the opposite direction. Customarily, DCA was not invited to be part of the development of this ICANN Africa Strategy 2.0 document, but we believe this strategy is potentially problematic.

However, if I shall give a heads up, should the script to bring in more governments in Marrakech be written by the same playwright, and mirror what we experienced with "Africa Agenda" Dakar, it will be another tragedy for ICANN and the African Community's expectation.

Finally, having followed the ICANN Africa Strategy closely, it is almost hard to quantify the benefits to the African Community. In fact, the implementation of the strategy, so far, in the opinion of many Africans, is a failure in the multi-stakeholder model of Internet Governance we aspired for. The entire ICANN Africa Strategy is an apparent usurpation of the model by a Special Interest Group who has appointed themselves as "Leaders of the African Internet Community" and has used it to their limited benefit rather than the wider African community.

By Sophia Bekele, CEO of DotConnectAfrica. Ms. Bekele is a former ICANN generic Names Supporting Organization (gNSO) Council policy advisor & contributed to policy over the new gTLD programme & IDNs. She was also policy advisor to various UN Agencies on ICTs. Founder and spearhead of the Yes2DotAfrica campaign. Bekele is a business and corporate executive, an international entrepreneur, a thought leader in Corporate and ICT Governance, international policy, Business Strategy, Internet, ICT & development. Her Profiles on sophiabekele.com / wikipedia.