Waterloo, Canada — The global technology body responsible for key functions of the Internet should change its corporate structure to include a membership that will hold its leadership accountable. This is among the key recommendations in a new report issued by The Global Commission on Internet Governance (GCIG).
ICANN: Bridging the Trust Gap is written by Emily Taylor, an Internet governance expert, associate fellow of Chatham House and research adviser to the GCIG.
The new report examines the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers’ (ICANN) role in the management of the Internet as a global public good and how improving the US-based not-for-profit’s accountability is essential for the successful transfer of oversight of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) away from the US government.
Establishing a membership at ICANN is a key way to fix accountability problems between the body’s leadership and its community of volunteers who create Internet policy through the multi-stakeholder process, according to the report.
“ICANN as a corporation is a largely unregulated, private sector body with control over critical Internet resources on which global economies depend. Without effective accountability and transparency mechanisms, the opportunities for distortion, even corruption, are manifold,” says Taylor. “ICANN's membership should have the power to approve changes to bylaws, and as an ultimate sanction, recall directors.”
Taylor states that due to its unusual structure, ICANN faces accountability risks in key areas including: financial transparency and oversight; lack of effective mechanisms for review of ICANN board decisions and recall of directors; and potential conflict between ICANN directors’ fiduciary duties to the company and the public interest. Creating a corporate membership into ICANN’s corporate structure would help remedy these potential risks, according to Taylor.
Taylor also recommends that ICANN consider the following to changes:
- Apply any solution for IANA oversight to all current IANA functions to avoid the risk of fragmentation;
- Develop numerous horizontal and vertical accountability checks and balances to develop a culture of trust that will help overcome paradoxes associated with high expectations of transparency and low levels of trust;
- Strengthen the effectiveness of financial transparency and oversight by implementing external checks and balances similar to those found in public sector environments; and
- Implement the recommendations of ICANN’s Accountability and Transparency Review Team (second review) (ATRT2), which would satisfy concerns over the review of board decisions and integration of key stakeholders into formal policy-making processes.
The GCIG is a two-year initiative launched by the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) and Chatham House. Chaired by former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt, the GCIG will produce a comprehensive stand on the future of multi-stakeholder Internet governance.
ICANN: Bridging the Trust Gap is No. 9 in the Global Commission on Internet Governance Paper Series. To access this report, please visit: https://ourinternet.org/#publications/icann-bridging-the-trust-gap. The opinions expressed in the report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of CIGI, Chatham House or the Global Commission on Internet Governance. For more information on the Global Commission on Internet Governance, including its twenty-nine commissioners and thirty-six research advisers, please visit: www.ourinternet.org. Follow the commission on Twitter @OurInternetGCIG.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Emily Taylor is an Internet governance expert and an associate fellow of Chatham House. She is a member of the Global Commission on Internet Governance Research Advisory Network. Her research publications include the annual World Report on Internationalised Domain Names (lead author), reports for the UK regulator, Ofcom, and a review of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN’s) policy development process. She chaired the independent WHOIS Review Team for ICANN, and served on the Internet Governance Forum’s Multistakeholder Advisory Group. From 2000–2009, she was at Nominet as director of Legal and Policy.
Kevin Dias, Communications Specialist, CIGI
Tel: 519.885.2444, ext. 7238, Email: [email protected]
The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) is an independent, non-partisan think tank on international governance. Led by experienced practitioners and distinguished academics, CIGI supports research, forms networks, advances policy debate and generates ideas for multilateral governance improvements. Conducting an active agenda of research, events and publications, CIGI’s interdisciplinary work includes collaboration with policy, business and academic communities around the world. CIGI was founded in 2001 by Jim Balsillie, then co-CEO of Research In Motion (BlackBerry), and collaborates with and gratefully acknowledges support from a number of strategic partners, in particular the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario. For more information, please visit www.cigionline.org.
Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, is based in London. Chatham House’s mission is to be a world-leading source of independent analysis, informed debate and influential ideas on how to build a prosperous and secure world for all. The institute: engages governments, the private sector, civil society and its members in open debates and confidential discussions about significant developments in international affairs; produces independent and rigorous analysis of critical global, regional and country-specific challenges and opportunities; and offers new ideas to decision-makers and -shapers on how these could best be tackled from the near- to the long-term. For more information, please visit www.chathamhouse.org.