IETF 100, IAOC perspective

IAOC Chair <> Wed, 08 June 2016 13:56 UTC

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This is a follow up to the discussion on holding IETF 100 in Singapore, arising from  the issue of the existence of Singapore laws that discriminate against LGBTQ people.

Jari, as IETF Chair, is sending a note outlining the forward-looking steps from the perspective of IETF community actions, so this note is focused on IAOC actions as part of the bigger context.

The IAOC has carefully reviewed feedback from the community, available alternative venue options and consulted with the IESG.   We have decided to keep the IETF 100 meeting in Singapore, while recognizing that the discussion of Singapore’s appropriateness as an IETF meeting site for other future meetings is not completed.

We, and we believe the whole IETF, value and respect our LGBTQ participants and their families.  It was and is not our intention to make them feel unwelcome at IETF 100.  In making this decision, we recognize that it was our mistake in missing the issue in the first place.  For that, again, we can only apologize.

More detail about the decision process itself is outlined in detail below — this message has been difficult to structure in order to both clearly deliver the decision and provide detail about how we reached it, without burying the former in the important detail.

I do want to thank everyone who has shared their knowledge and perspective in the discussion — I appreciate it has been difficult.  And, there are significant substantive issues in this discussion that remain unresolved in the larger context beyond IETF 100.  We have to move on with continued discussion and respectful engagement in order to determine the right answers for venues for future IETF meetings.   As part of that, the IAOC remains committed to continue to address the larger context by:

1/ Listening.  While it is important for the community to move on from the discussion of IETF 100, we in no way think this conversation about what we take into account when we do venue selection is completed.

2/ Not viewing this as a precedent for future meeting venue selection.  This is a choice for IETF 100, and any future evaluation of Singapore or any other venues will be made in the light of whatever the IETF community decides are requirements for meeting locations in areas that discriminate against any members of our community.

3/ Selecting sites that support the advancement of the IETF mission

4/ Seeking clarity from the community about parameters for venue selection.  Along with others in the community, we have asked the IETF Chair to formalize the MTGVENUE effort into a working group to produce a meeting selection BCP with consensus from the community about how to address diversity (of our community, of the laws in different parts of the world) as part of the selection criteria for meeting venues

5/ Improving our site selection process so that issues of which the community may be aware can be brought to light before we have signed contracts for a meeting.

In characterizing Singapore as a place where he could not bring his own family, because of its laws, Ted Hardie asked at the IETF 95 plenary meeting that those who had made the decision to meet in Singapore not bring their families, either.  In an earlier message, the IAOC outlined that it has to date focused on the suitability of venues/countries for meeting purposes, but not explicitly for suitability of meeting attendees bringing companions, family members, etc.  That understanding has now obviously evolved, and we understand better situations where companions are necessary.  We note Ted's request.  Individual participants here will have to make their own decisions about how to answer it. As a group we are focusing on making sure we improve our processes so that we don’t surprise or undermine any segments of our community.

In taking a broader view and reflecting on issues where IAOC announcements may have surprised the community (not solely related to IETF 100, nor just meeting venues) we also consider that there is merit in a broader review of the IASA structure, 10+ years after its inception. At the same time, the practical demands of the meeting arrangements discussion and the IANA-related work at the IETF Trust need to be satisfied first.  So we plan to initiate the evaluation of IASA work before the end of this year.

The IAOC’s decision making process

We (IAOC) don’t believe the discussion of Singapore’s appropriateness as an IETF meeting site (beyond IETF 100) is completed.  There are many strong positions: we have heard people say that Singapore’s laws clearly violate human rights and it is unconscionable to propose meeting there; we have heard people say that our meeting locations are about getting the work done and if national politics enter into it the IETF is lost beyond any hope of relevancy; people urge that we cannot avoid places where people are oppressed without denying the important contributions of those oppressed; some worry that we cannot attend to any particular oppression because once we start there will be no place left for us to meet.   All of these views have arguments in their favour; determining an outcome to the conversation is well beyond the scope of the IAOC (we look to the IETF Chair/IESG for determination of IETF policy), and they cannot be reconciled to a clear pointer to what to do now.

Against that backdrop, we perceived no obvious answer for where to hold IETF 100.

Absent a clear answer to the question of suitability of decision criteria for/against Singapore, and having reviewed resources to ascertain that everyone would be able to travel to Singapore with a reasonable expectation of personal safety and respect, the IAOC was guided by a few principles.

First, we obviously wanted to take into account all the feedback we received, both on- and off-list.  We could only take it into account, rather than reflect it, because we received responses from many different people who identified in many different ways, and sometimes those responses were diametrically opposed to others.

Second, we did not believe it was practically possible to consider alternative dates only 18 months before the meeting was to happen, especially because we already have a challenge in ensuring we have adequate support for the ordinary contract negotiation that needs to happen; so we decided that we had to stick with the dates we had.

Third, we believed that it was necessary that, if we were going to move, we would need to move to a site where we had already had an unambiguously successful meeting, otherwise we could run the risk of substituting one potentially unsuitable venue for another.   With less than 18 months to the meeting (practically no time for planning purposes), we focused on specific sites we had been to before.  (We were also somewhat worried about the financial effects on the IETF of moving the meeting.  We have had throughout strong support from our meeting sponsor.  So we believed that these effects could have been blunted but not completely eliminated when undertaking a new negotiation, since it would be clear to anyone with whom we were negotiating that we did not have a lot of options.)

Finally, we determined that that this meeting should take place in Asia if at all possible, to honor the 1-1-1* policy in 2017. None of the candidate sites in Asia could accommodate us on the dates we already had, making Singapore the only Asian venue available.  There were a number of potential sites in Europe and North America.

Part of our problem is that the requirements for meeting venue selection were sketchily defined, and reasonable people can perceive different priorities;  we look forward to successful conclusion of MTGVENUE work to remove ambiguity from those requirements.

We acknowledge that much of this could have been avoided if we had attempted earlier the strategy of calling out potential venues early, to see whether there are problems.  We regret very much that we did not do that, and we shall certainly heed that lesson in the future.

Leslie, for the IAOC.