The ICANN Board unanimous passed a resolution at ICANN58, effectively putting into place the new ICANN Community Anti-Harassment Policy that not only supports ICANN’s Expected Standards of Behavior, but now gives community members recourse if they identify or are victims of inappropriate behavior or harassment.
Frequently, offenders are unaware that their behavior is offensive or inappropriate, possibly due to differences in cultural or social norms. It is important to consider that the behavior may not be intentional or malicious. For that reason, the Anti-Harassment Policy complaint procedure begins with the option of confronting the offender to resolve the issue informally. If the behavior is unintentional or unwelcome, merely identifying the behavior as offensive or inappropriate often results in a change in behavior, and very likely, an apology.
The role of the Ombuds in dealing with inappropriate behavior or harassment is first and foremost to address the issue as informally as the circumstances allow. There is clearly a continuum of severity that must be considered. The Ombuds will not treat an inappropriate comment the same way as an allegation of sexual harassment or assault. One complaint may call for an informal intervention, where the next may call for the involvement of law enforcement. The Ombuds will also take into consideration whether the reason for the complaint is a one-time event or a recurring behavior.
The policy further authorizes the Ombuds to impose sanctions on an offender if deemed necessary. Though considered to be an action of last resort, the sanctions do serve to remind community participants that they will be held accountable for their actions and there may be consequences imposed. With an extensive background in harassment training and policy implementation, I understand not only the impact harassment has on an organization, but more importantly, the often-devastating impact it has on the victim. There is no place for harassment, bullying or any other type of inappropriate behavior in today’s world.
It is important to note that ICANN staff (employees and contractors) are covered by internal policies against harassment, and the Ombuds does not have jurisdiction.
In closing, I would like to once again remind everyone to act professionally, embrace diversity and human rights, and above all, treat others with respect. Together we can make ICANN a safe and harassment-free environment for all.