Re: [Ianaplan] What's happening at ICANN?

John C Klensin <john-ietf@jck.com> Sat, 10 October 2015 21:23 UTC

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Date: Sat, 10 Oct 2015 17:23:39 -0400
From: John C Klensin <john-ietf@jck.com>
To: Seun Ojedeji <seun.ojedeji@gmail.com>, Brian E Carpenter <brian.e.carpenter@gmail.com>
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Cc: ianaplan@ietf.org, "Soininen, Jonne \(Nokia - FI/Espoo\)" <jonne.soininen@nokia.com>
Subject: Re: [Ianaplan] What's happening at ICANN?
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--On Saturday, October 10, 2015 21:21 +0100 Seun Ojedeji
<seun.ojedeji@gmail.com>; wrote:

> +1 to that as well, with some caveat. Considering that ICANN
> board acts in the interest of the entire organisation and
> considering that some board seats are filled by the entire
> community (nomcom). It's therefore important that board member
> removal be completed by the entire community (even though
> SO/AC appointed member removal process can only be triggered
> by the appointing SO/AC)

Seun,

Some observations that have turned out to be rather basic to the
discussion but for which most actors (including your note) seem
to be assuming a particular set of answers without being
explicit about them.

In political and organizational theory, there are two
fundamental models of how one elects the members of a
legislature or Board and what expectations one has of them.  In
one (often called a "delegate" model) they are expected to
represent the positions and views of those who selected them; in
the other (often called a "trustee" model and/or blamed on
Edmund Burke in British/ US traditions), they are expected to
exercise their own best judgment, even if it is (at least
temporarily) at variance with the views of their constituencies.
If one believes in that second model, then whatever body
appoints a particular individual ought to be able to remove him
or her... and, normally and barring criminal behavior, no one
else.  

Especially if one believes in the first model, there is a second
division, especially for organizations that are supposed to
serve the public interest, between an obligation for the Board
to optimize its decisions in that public interest (leading to a
third group of questions about how one defines "public") or
whether its main obligation is to the health and well-being of
the organization even if that is not consistent with the public
interest.  When I served on the ICANN Board, we were told many
times that our primary (perhaps even exclusive) obligation was
to ICANN's best interests, not that of the Internet. I gather
that instruction has not changed except, possibly, to become
more intense.  

In either model, if one thinks ICANN (and its Board, etc.)
should be representative of and responsible to the broad
Internet community, then we (or it) have probably failed whether
NTIA's role is considered or not.  It is easy for a person or
group to stand up and say "I represent X", but that doesn't make
it so.  Even with ALAC, a claim that a group of people whom most
people whose lives are significantly affected by the Internet
have never heard of are represented by them is a real stretch of
the imagination.  From a statistical point of view, a claim that
the interests and perceived needs of those who actively
participate in the ALAC are similar to, or a representative
sample of, that broader community simply would not survive any
reasonable scrutiny.    Similarly, one can say many positive
things about the way the ICANN Nomcom is selected, structured,
and works, but "representative of the broad Internet community"
is not one of them.

If the Board is instructed that it is obligated to act in
ICANN's best interests and not, if there is any potential
conflict, with the Internet's or the public's, then fussing with
who can "fire" and replace either individual Board members or
the whole Board is not productive: the problem becomes that
instruction and not the people.    If the Board is expected to
represent the needs or interests of the broad Internet community
but there is no appointment process that produces members who
understand and can reflect those needs, then tampering with
mechanisms about who is appointed and how they can be removed
isn't productive either because the appointment mechanisms are
almost guaranteed to produce more of the same.

So I wish these processes would be clear about what problems
they are actually trying to solve --your comments above about
seats being filled "by the entire community" and acting "in the
interest of the entire organisation" are really just symptoms of
the issues I don't see being addressed in a serious way.
Instead, it appears to me that the problem being solved is
closer to "how do we change the accountability mechanisms to
make sure ICANN can be controlled by the narrow set of interests
that already control the majority of the relevant bodies if
those bodies aren't serving those interests".    Whether that is
desirable or not is another issue but let's not confuse it with
more control by, or guarantee of responsiveness to, the broad
Internet community.

     john