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ICANN Brief in Geneva: Distributed Internet Governance at Work

30 September 2014
By Anne-Rachel Inne

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During a lunch hosted by ICANN last week in Geneva, Switzerland, President and CEO, Fadi Chehadé and his Geneva team described ICANN's ongoing efforts to promote globalization. Attending were more than one hundred representatives of Country missions to the UN including some 30 Ambassadors, IGOs and NGOs. Fadi explained ICANN's core mission of coordinating the set of "unique identifiers" that form the glue of the Internet, also highlighting ICANN's creation, its multistakeholder model and the reason why pursuing a global presence was critical to an organisation that addresses stakeholder aspirations from all parts of the world. Noted also was the recent expansion in Internationalized Domain Names, the New generic Top Level Domain Programme and welcomed the increased participation by governments in the Government Advisory Committee (GAC).

The brief touched upon governance on the Internet with its global challenges such as network security, cyber crime, human rights and children's safety; issues that are constantly brought to ICANN's doorstep by the global community. Fadi reflected that while ICANN can do its part by coordinating the technical identifiers of the Internet successfully and making sure the technical solutions at the root are functioning well, these wider governance issues require a different focus and process. ICANN can help by participating in the discussions.

Lastly, an update was provided on the current IANA stewardship transition process and Fadi expressed his appreciation for the U.S. Government's bold decision to transition its role to the global multistakeholder community.

Questions from the attending representatives in Geneva demonstrated their interest in how the transition process is evolving and the steps being taken to meet what they agreed was a critical date to complete the process – the September 2015 expiration of the current IANA contract. The parallel ICANN accountability process was also touched upon.

The Internet has been and is more and more a tool for socio-economic growth, as reflected in this year's study from the Boston Consulting Group [PDF, 983 KB]. The study shows how countries can lose up to 2.5% of GDP because of "e-frictions" in four areas: infrastructure, industry, information and individual. This clearly shows the reasons why Internet governance/responsibility should continue to be distributed and open while being secure and resilient.

We heard much praise from the UN mission representatives for ICANN's presence in Geneva, welcoming the listening and learning exchanges about the multistakeholder model but also lamenting the lack of actions against threats such as cyber attacks to achieve a neutral and safe Internet. Governments look for actions against those threats and want to know who can help and where? Fadi explained that by starting with the NETmundial principles, we are trying to foster increased awareness by all stakeholders so we can all be part of these solutions in close cooperation with all existing organizations.

The presentation and discussion with the audience exceeded two hours and reflected immense interest from the Geneva-based community in learning more about ICANN and it's multi-stakeholder model, and engaging in the larger global debate in a cooperative spirit. We look forward to more opportunities like this one!

Authors

Anne-Rachel Inne