ICANN has a proven commitment to accountability and transparency in all of its practices. Indeed, ICANN considers these principles to be fundamental safeguards in ensuring that its international, bottom-up and multi-stakeholder operating model remains effective.
Three important milestones in the advancement of ICANN's accountability and transparency are implementation of the:
- Affirmation of Commitments (AoC) – the 2009 agreement that reaffirmed ICANN's independence, and the U.S. Dept. of Commerce's and ICANN's commitment to accountability and transparency, DNS security and stability, competition and consumer choice, international participation, periodic community reviews, and related activities;
- AoC Reviews – periodic community review of four key objectives are required under the AoC to assess and report on ICANN's progress toward 1) ensuring accountability, transparency (see "ATRT"), 2) preserving security, stability and resiliency of the DNS, 3) promoting competition, consumer trust and consumer choice, and 4) WHOIS policy; and
- Accountability & Transparency Review (ATRT)
- ATRT 1 – *The first review [PDF, 876 KB] completed under the AoC contained 27 recommendations to enhance activities throughout ICANN, including the governance and performance of the Board, the role and effectiveness of the Governmental Advisory Committee, public Input and public policy processes, and review mechanisms for Board decisions. All recommendations were accepted by the ICANN Board and directed to be implemented.
- ATRT 2 – * The second ATRT review [PDF, 3.46 MB] was completed, posted for public comment in January 2014 and is being considered by ICANN's Board.
The mechanisms through which ICANN achieves accountability and transparency are built into every level of its organization and mandate – beginning with its Bylaws, detailed in its Accountability and Transparency Frameworks and Principles (adopted by ICANN's Board in 2008) and reinforced in its Strategic and Operational Plan.
Furthermore, improving ICANN's accountability and transparency is an ongoing priority of our organization's regular Organizational Reviews.
Now, let's look more closely at the three landmarks in the advancement of ICANN's accountability and transparency – the Affirmation of Commitments, the Accountability & Transparency Review Team Report, and the ongoing community reviews called for in the AoC.
Affirmation of Commitments
ICANN's accountability to the global community was highlighted in September 2009, when our organization's President & CEO, Rod Beckstrom, signed ICANN's Affirmation of Commitments with the U.S. Department of Commerce. This document:
- Affirmed ICANN's independence;
- Affirmed ICANN's commitment to making decisions in the public interest that are accountable and transparent; and
- Committed ICANN to undergoing four regular reviews performed by the community.
ICANN's commitment to fulfilling – and exceeding – these obligations is demonstrated in a numerous ways throughout our organization. Here are some notable examples:
- ICANN's President & CEO regularly publishes a Dashboard with comprehensive data and information on ICANN's internal operations. This material includes performance indicators in areas such as Registrant Protection, Global Participation, Finance and Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs), to name just a few.
- The actions taken by ICANN's Board are tracked and documented on a searchable public wiki, giving anyone interested access to past Board resolutions (all the way back to 1998) and their status.
- ICANN's Supporting Organizations (SOs) and Advisory Committees (ACs) publicly post detailed information about their activities and deliberations, along with clear instructions on how one can participate. See, for example, the issues they currently have posted for public comment, and click on any of the groups displayed in ICANN's multi-stakeholder model to learn more about what they are doing.
- Implementation of all AoC review recommendations accepted by the Board is publicly tracked with periodic status reports and background information posted on ICANN's website.
Affirmation of Commitments Reviews
The Affirmation of Commitments calls for periodic assessment by community review teams of ICANN's progress toward four fundamental organizational objectives:
- Ensuring accountability, transparency and the interests of global Internet users;
- Preserving security, stability and resiliency of the DNS;
- Promoting competition, consumer trust and consumer choice; and
- WHOIS policy.
Accountability & Transparency Review Team – Two community review teams have assessed ICANN's commitment "to maintain and improve robust mechanisms for public input, accountability, and transparency" since the AoC was instituted. See above "ATRT1" and "ATRT2" links for more information.
WHOIS Policy Review Team – ICANN's Board took action on this review team's final report and recommendations on 8 November 2012, providing the President and CEO with detailed guidance on how to proceed with implementation of the Recommendations. The Team was charged with reviewing WHOIS policy and its implementation to "assess the extent to which WHOIS policy is effective and its implementation meets the legitimate needs of law enforcement and promotes consumer trust." Information on the WHOIS Policy Review Team and its activities can be found here.
Security, Stability and Resiliency of the DNS Review Team – 19 December 2012 – The Security team has published an update on the implementation of the 28 SSR RT recommendations. The update is available at http://blog.icann.org/2012/12/tracking-the-ssr-review-implementation/. This community review team completed its work on 21 June 2012. On 18 October 2012, the Board accepted the Final Report of the Security, Stability and Resiliency of the DNS Review Team [PDF, 1.16 MB] and instructed the President and CEO to proceed with implementation of the 28 Recommendations. Their mandate was to assess the extent to which "ICANN has successfully implemented its security plan, the effectiveness of the plan to deal with actual and potential challenges and threats, and the extent to which the security plan is sufficiently robust to meet future challenges and threats to the security, stability and resiliency of the Internet DNS, consistent with ICANN's limited technical mission." Information on Security, Stability & Resiliency of the DNS Review Team and its activities can be found here. The Review Team's documents are available on the following webpage: http://www.icann.org/en/about/aoc-review/ssr/documents
Competition, Consumer Trust and Consumer Choice Review Team – After new gTLDs have been in operation for one year, ICANN will organize a review that will examine the extent to which "the introduction or expansion of gTLDs has promoted competition, consumer trust and consumer choice, as well as effectiveness of the application and evaluation process, and safeguards put in place to mitigate issues involved in the introduction or expansion."
Accountability & Transparency Review
An important step toward further enhancing accountability and transparency within ICANN came with the ICANN Board's adoption of the recommended improvements in the first Accountability and Transparency Review Team's (ATRT's) Final Report. ICANN implemented this report's 27 recommendations that focused on improving transparency and accountability in four areas of ICANN:
- Board governance, performance, and composition, including the Nominating Committee (NomCom) processes for filling Board positions;
- Governmental Advisory Committee's (GAC's) role, effectiveness and Interaction with the Board;
- Public input and policy development processes; and
- Review mechanisms for Board decisions.
The Board found that the ATRT provided a constructive report that validates and builds upon ICANN's commitments and improvements, and directed implementation to move forward. A comprehensive June 2011 report on the Board's ATRT actions and how these 27 recommendations are being implemented is available online [PDF, 876 KB]. As implementation moves forward, metrics for ATRT-specific project are being developed and eventually will be integrated with ICANN's broader performance metrics.
Highlights of implementation actions include:
To provide better access to, and insight into, Board decisions ICANN has incorporated the following into its standard operating procedures (SOP):
- Posts extensive Board meeting information (including briefing materials and expanded minutes).
- Publishes conditions for redaction of posted Board briefing materials.
- Provides translations into the six UN Languages of approved Board resolutions and minutes of Board meetings, which are posted within the 21-day timeframe.
- Posts rationales for Board actions and Board briefing materials.
To improve ICANN's "Review Mechanisms for Board Decisions":
- The "Reconsideration Requests" webpage has been revamped so the public has a standard timeline, format, and explanations for all Reconsideration Requests (all part of SOP).
- Independent experts have been identified to serve on a committee to assess ICANN's review mechanisms.
- The Board approved the Ombudsman framework and confirmed that it is consistent with international standards.
To improve the process for selecting ICANN Directors and address recommendations on Board composition:
- The Nominating Committee (NomCom) annually consults with the ICANN community and public on skill set requirements to consider when making appointments to leadership positions.
- The Board annually provides the NomCom with information on the Board's skill sets.
- New NomCom guidelines were approved by the Board and instituted, including internal procedures and a code of conduct.
- The Board approved compensation to voting Directors for their services to ICANN, and revised the "ICANN Conflicts of Interest Policy and ICANN Bylaws."
To help advance the effectiveness of the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) and its interaction with the Board:
- ICANN increased funding, multilingual access services, and staff resources to support the work of the GAC.
- The GAC has clarified what constitutes GAC advise.
- A formal, documented process for requesting and tracking GAC advice has been launched.
- Regional plans were developed for increasing involvement in ICANN.
- Board-GAC face-to-face interactions have been increased.
To improve the processes ICANN uses to gain public input and develop policy:
- ICANN's Bylaws have been translated into multiple languages.
- A new "Language Services Policies and Procedures" [PDF, 277 KB] has been implemented.
- ICANN's Public Comment Webpage was revamped to make it easier to find and understand opportunities for public comment, and a list of up-coming comment periods is posted here.
- A new stratified; prioritized "public notice & comment process" was implemented, including a "comment/reply cycle" for each issue under public comment.
To help ensure ICANN staffing arrangements are appropriately multilingual, job postings and related forms have been updated and language-training programs have been identified for ICANN staff.
Finally, in terms of overarching activities, resources required to implement the ATRT Recommendations were included in the FY12 Operating Plan and Budget [PDF, 2.51 MB], and proposed metrics and benchmarks are under development.
Information on Reconsideration & Independent Review can be found here.
Information on Documentary Disclosure Information Policy requests can be found here.