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<nettime> Top Ten Myths About Civil Society Participation in ICANN

Top Ten Myths About Civil Society Participation in ICANN

From: The Non-Commercial Users Constituency (NCUC), 21 August 2009
Posted by Robin Gross on August 21, 2009 at 6:30pm

Myth  1
?Civil Society won?t participate in ICANN under NCUC?s charter  
False.  ICANN staffers and others claim that civil society is  
discouraged from engaging at ICANN because NCUC?s charter proposal  
does not guarantee GNSO Council seats to constituencies.  The facts  
could not be further from the truth. NCUC?s membership includes 143  
noncommercial organizations and individuals. Since 2008 NCUC?s  
membership has increased by more 215%  ? largely in direct response to  
civil society?s support for the NCUC charter.  Not a single  
noncommercial organization commented in the public comment forum that  
hard-wiring council seats to constituencies will induce their  
participation in ICANN. None of the noncommercial organizations that  
commented on the NCSG Charter said they would participate to ICANN  
only if NCSG's Charter secured the constituencies a guaranteed seat on  
the GNSO.

Myth 2
?More civil society groups will get involved if the Board intervenes.?
A complete illusion.  Board imposition of its own charter and its  
refusal to listen to civil society groups will be interpreted as  
rejection of the many groups that commented and as discrimination  
against civil society participation.  ICANN?s reputation among  
noncommercial groups will be irreparably damaged unless this action is  
reversed or a compromise is found.  Even if we were to accept these  
actions and try to work with them, the total impact of the staff/SIC  
NCSG charter will be to handicap noncommercial groups and make them  
less likely to participate.  The appointment of representatives by the  
Board disenfranchises noncommercial groups and individuals.  The  
constituency-based SIC structure requires too much organizational  
overhead for most noncommercial organizations to sustain; it also pits  
groups against each other in political competition for votes and  
members.  Most noncommercial organizations will not enter the ICANN  
GNSO under those conditions.

Myth 3
The outpouring of civil society opposition can be dismissed as the  
product of a 'letter writing campaign.'
An outrageous claim.  Overwhelming civil society opposition to the SIC  
charter emerged not once, but twice.  In addition, there is the  
massive growth in NCUC membership stimulated by the broader  
community?s opposition to the staff and Board actions. Attempts to  
minimize the degree to which civil society has been undermined by  
these developments are simply not going to work, and reveal a shocking  
degree of insularity and arrogance.  ICANN is required to have public  
comment periods because it is supposed to listen to and be responsive  
to public opinion.  Public opinion results from networks of  
communication and public dialogue on controversial issues, including  
organized calls to action.  No policy or bylaw gives ICANN staff the  
authority to decide that it can discount or ignore nearly all of the  
groups who have taken an interest in the GNSO reforms, simply because  
they have taken a position critical of the staff?s.  ICANN's attempt  
to discount critical comments by labeling them a "letter writing  
campaign" undermines future participation and confidence in ICANN  
public processes.

Myth 4
"Civil society is divided on the NCSG charter issue."
Wrong.  There has never been such an overwhelmingly lopsided public  
comment period in ICANN?s history.  While ICANN?s staff is telling the  
Board that civil society is divided, the clear, documented consensus  
among civil society groups has been against the ICANN drafted NCSG  
charter and in favor of the NCUC one. Board members who rely only on  
staff-provided information may believe civil society is divided, but  
Board members who have actually read the public comments can see the  
solidarity of civil society against what ICANN is trying to impose on  

Myth 5
"Existing civil society groups are not representative or diverse  
Untrue by any reasonable standard.  The current civil society  
grouping, the Noncommercial Users Constituency (NCUC), now has 143  
members including 73 noncommercial organizations and 70 individuals in  
48 countries.  This is an increase of more than 215% since the parity  
principle was established.[1] Noncommercial participation in ICANN is  
now more diverse than any other constituency, so it is completely  
unfair to level this charge at NCUC without applying it to others.   
Even back in 2006, an independent report by the London School of  
Economics showed that NCUC was the most diverse geographically, had  
the largest number of different people serving on the GNSO Council  
over time, and the highest turn-over in council representatives of any  
of the 6 constituencies.  In contrast, the commercial users?  
constituency has recycled the same 5 people on the Council for a  
decade and upon the GNSO ?reform?, the first 3 of 6 GNSO Councilors  
from the Commercial Stakeholder Group will represent the United States.

Myth 6
"ALAC prefers the ICANN staff drafted charter over the civil society  
drafted charter."
False.  One ALAC leader said that she prefers the staff drafted  
charter.  ICANN staff ran away with this comment and falsely told the  
ICANN Board of Directors that ALAC prefers the staff drafted charter.   
In fact, the formal statement actually approved by ALAC said that many  
members of ALAC supported the NCUC proposal and that ?the de-linking  
of Council seats from Constituencies is a very good move in the right  

Myth 7
"The NCUC charter would give the same small group 6 votes instead of 3."
False.  For the past 8 months, NCUC has stated that it will dissolve  
when the NCSG is formed.  It does not make sense to have a  
"Noncommercial Users Constituency" and a "Noncommercial Stakeholders  
Group,? as they are synonymous terms.  Thus, NCUC leaders would not be  
in control of a new NCSG ? a completely new leadership would be  
elected.  Under the NCUC charter proposal, all noncommercial groups  
and individuals would vote on Council seats, not just former NCUC  
members.  Strict geographic diversity requirements would mean that  
candidates from throughout the world would have to be selected even if  
they could not get a majority of total votes.

Myth 8
"NCUC will not share council seats with other noncommercial  
Wrong.  NCUC?s proposed charter was designed to allow dozens of new  
noncommercial constituencies to form at will and to advance their own  
candidates for Council seats.  Given the diversity and breadth of  
NCUC's membership, many different constituencies with competing  
agendas are likely to form.  The organic, bottom-up self-forming  
approach to constituency formation is much better than the board/staff  
approach ? and more consistent with the BGC recommendations. The SIC  
charter makes constituency formation very top-heavy and difficult, and  
gives the staff and Board arbitrary power to decide how  
?representative? or ?significant? new participants are.  Because it  
ties constituencies to Council seats, every new constituency  
instigates power struggles over the allocation of Council seats.

Myth 9
"The NCUC wants to take away the Board's right to approve  
False.  People who said this have obviously not read the NCUC-proposed  
charter.  NCUC?s proposal let the board approve or disapprove of new  
constituencies formed under its proposed charter.  Our proposal simply  
offered to apply some simple, objective criteria (e.g., number of  
applicants) to new constituency groupings and then make a  
recommendation to the Board.  The idea was to reduce the burden of  
forming a new constituency for both the applicants and the Board.   
NCUC?s proposal made it easy to form new constituencies, unlike the  
SIC charter, which makes it difficult to form new constituencies.

Myth 10
?The purpose of a constituency is to have your very own GNSO Council  
False.  Some claim GNSO Council seats must be hard-wired to specific  
constituencies because a constituency is meaningless without a  
guaranteed GNSO Council representative.  However this interpretation  
fails to understand the role of constituencies in the new GNSO, which  
is to give a voice and a means of participation in the policy  
development process -- not a guaranteed councilor who has little  
incentive to reach beyond her constituency and find consensus with  
other constituencies.  Two of the other three stakeholder groups  
(Registries and Registrars) adopted NCUC?s charter approach of  
decoupling GNSO Council seats to constituencies, but NCUC has been  
prevented from electing its councilors on a SG-wide basis.

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