Re: [Recentattendees] Background on Singapore go/no go for IETF 100

Joe Abley <jabley@dyn.com> Thu, 26 May 2016 21:29 UTC

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Subject: Re: [Recentattendees] Background on Singapore go/no go for IETF 100
From: Joe Abley <jabley@dyn.com>
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Date: Thu, 26 May 2016 23:29:24 +0200
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To: Margaret Cullen <margaretw42@gmail.com>
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Cc: "recentattendees@ietf.org" <recentattendees@ietf.org>, "Ietf@Ietf. Org" <ietf@ietf.org>, Keith Moore <moore@network-heretics.com>, "Fred Baker \(fred\)" <fred@cisco.com>
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On 26 May 2016, at 22:21, Margaret Cullen <margaretw42@gmail.com>; wrote:

> On May 26, 2016, at 4:01 PM, Keith Moore <moore@network-heretics.com>; wrote:
> 
>> Right, but should IETF need to hire lawyers in each country in order to get an expert opinion about whether members of each of an enumerated set of groups can legally be harassed when attending a meeting there, and about the likelihood of that happening?
> 
> What about the IAOC writing to the IETF list and/or recent attendees when they are considering going to a new country, asking if anyone has any feedback on the idea?  And then considering that feedback _before_ making a final decision, signing a contract, etc?

And if there is some feedback that some community is disadvantaged by a choice but the majority is not, which to be honest is likely to be the case every time, doesn't that leave us in the same position as now, trying to work out how to make a decision based on that feedback?

I am extremely sympathetic to avoiding situations where any group feels disadvantaged, not even to (but certainly including) the point where they feel that they can't attend.

However, I worry that there is no real solution to this that can be effected by the IETF, and that any principled stand to avoid any particular location for any particular reason is only going to inconvenience some other group for some other reason. And the reasons we're talking about are not just those of human rights, but also economics, hotel logistics, immigration controls and commercial viability. I challenge anybody to find a location that it is not possible to complain about, regardless of how minor any particular stakeholder considers the particular complaint.

I appreciate that "inconvenience" sounds like a poor choice of words in many cases, since "threat of imprisonment or death" for example surely deserves more blunt and straightforward language. However, my fundamental point is that these are all qualitative judgements that depend on perspective, context and situation, and that it's hard to imagine that one size ever fits all.

Some random examples, not intended to be anything like a comprehensive list:

The US is an unsuitable venue if you want to take a principled stand against pervasive surveillance or particular policies on border security that certainly some have claimed is biased by skin colour.

Serious criticisms have been levelled at Canada relating to the rights of indigenous women in Canada, and ask anybody from a developing country who has had to apply for a visa for the first time how practical it was to get there.

The former inhabitants of Diego Garcia might have an opinion on the human rights record of the UK.

Bhutan's progressive commitments to policymaking by conventional, human-centric metrics are laudable and frequently celebrated, but that's of little comfort to the people who were ejected from the country into Nepal and who aren't allowed back. [I don't think we were ever likely to find Bhutan a sensible venue for other reasons, but since it's frequently lauded for its approach to decision-making it seems pertinent to point out that even those decisions are not without collateral damage.]

My selfish, personal perspective is certainly that bad treatment of women and LGBT people is far more serious an issue than the ability to be issued a visa in a timely fashion. However, I have the accidental privilege of not needing visas to visit most of the planet. Should my personal opinions have weight over others? Do we have an established bias in past attendees that have an informed opinion due to venue choices made in the past? Are we confident we can even characterise this problem, never mind solve a weighted set of constraints to find the most equitable solution?

It's a complicated problem of wet meat, and I sense people are trying to find simple, cut-and-dry binary solutions because they are by nature engineers. In the world of wet meat we need to be aware that principled stands are not always compatible with getting work done, and that our ability to impact the policies of others rather depends on the relevance that work feeds.

One thing is I think without argument: whatever the choice of venue, some people's ability to attend will be compromised, and from their perspective this will be unfair.


Joe