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An Initiative for Action

18 August 2014
By Fadi Chehadé

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Back in May, I wrote a blog titled "Turning Talk into Action after NETmundial." In it, I promised to work tirelessly on coalescing governments, private sector and civil society to operationalize the NETmundial roadmap.

I did not make this promise lightly. This promise reflects my follow-through on the directive given to me by the ICANN Board of Directors – to begin the process of shifting some of ICANN's recent role in Internet governance to a broader group. This process will allow ICANN, and me, to share further the leadership role within the Internet ecosystem, and may take until the end of year before we can fully transition ICANN's role from leader to participant.

This process is now underway. ICANN will soon join several countries and multistakeholder organizations to begin to build a global initiative for Internet cooperation and governance with an emphasis on action. While the particulars of the initiative are still being finalized, I wanted to share with you – in advance of the formal announcement from the World Economic Forum and its partners from government, industry, academia and civil society – why I think this is good for ICANN and for the greater Internet ecosystem.

As many of you experienced, the NETmundial meeting held in São Paulo during April 2014 was historic. It united diverse stakeholders in a productive dialogue that created a shared set of principles to guide the evolution of Internet governance and cooperation. Many parties to these historic discussions wished to carry forward the cooperative spirit of São Paulo and work together to apply the NETmundial Principles to solve issues in concrete ways. This initiative will serve that purpose. As stated in the WEF's invitation letter to ICANN: "The initiative will seek through multistakeholder dialogue and action to apply the NETmundial Principles in ways that enhance trust in the capacity of the Internet's distributed governance ecosystem to respond to a range of emerging policy challenges."

This will bring several benefits to ICANN. First, it will directly help us shift ICANN's role to a broader initiative, relieving our organization of the pressure to enlarge our remit and mission. Second, it will enable the multistakeholder Internet governance ecosystem to operate on a much broader scale and to tackle a wider array of issues.

This initiative will be built to strengthen and support the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). It will not in any way replace it. It will promote dialogue and facilitate progress on the global, regional and national IGF structures as active platforms to identify Internet governance issues. The Initiative's work will not serve as a substitute for the IGF, but rather complement its efforts by formulating solutions, engaging in capacity development and broadening participation in Internet cooperation. ICANN's commitment and contributions to the IGF shall remain a priority.

Just as it was critical for ICANN to energize global discussions about Internet governance, it is now crucial that we meet the world's growing need to address IG issues within an action-oriented initiative. These efforts, along with others, will help turn the NETmundial Principles into action.

It will not have any authority over governance organizations like ICANN, nor will it have any role in the oversight of ICANN or the IANA functions. What it will do is explore in a very practical way the decentralized operationalization of a 21st century collaborative and distributed Internet cooperation ecosystem, as has been discussed by many of us in recent months, including President Ilves' Panel on Global Internet Cooperation and Governance Mechanisms.

I see this as a way for me to shift ICANN's posture from a leader to a participant in Internet governance. It will also allow me more time in the future to focus on my core responsibilities at ICANN – ensuring our operational excellence as well as preparing ICANN and enhancing its accountability as we contemplate the transition from U.S. government stewardship of IANA.


Fadi Chehadé

Former President & CEO