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On the Shores of Turtle Bay

12 September 2014

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From left to right - Marek Michalewski, Minister-Counselor, Perm. Mission of Poland to the UN, Salvador De Lara Rangel, Second Committee Director, Permanent Mission of Mexico to the UN, Victor Lagunes, Chief Information Officer, Office of the President of Mexico, Mandy Carver, VP for Government Engagement, ICANN.

The expansion of ICANN's engagement in recent years has gone by many monikers; among them are ICANN's "internationalization" and "globalization". Indeed, over the past two years, the organization has scaled-up its resources in many parts of the world, opening hub offices in Istanbul and Singapore, as well as increasing capacity in offices located in Europe, Latin America, Africa, and the Asia-Pacific regions. However, there may be perhaps no greater symbol of increased global engagement, than bringing ICANN to one of the world's most recognized international institutions, the United Nations (UN).

The first official UN briefing from ICANN's Vice President responsible for the relations with the United Nations, Veni Markovski, took place at UN Headquarters in New York on September 8.

I joined Veni and Mandy Carver, Vice President for Government Engagement, for the event. The briefing was co-hosted by the Permanent Missions to the UN of Mexico and Poland, and it brought together 42 diplomats and experts from more than 25 permanent missions to discuss the evolving Internet governance landscape and ICANN. Victor Lagunes, Chief Information Officer of the Office of the President of Mexico also presented.

The meeting came at a time of heavy activity for the UN in the realm of Internet governance. To name just a few current issues: the Internet Governance Forum recently wrapped-up in Turkey, with the question of a renewed mandate for the meeting yet to be decided; there will be a high-level meeting, the World Summit for the Information Society +10 (WSIS+10) in December 2015 in New York; the International Telecommunications Union's Plenipotentiary conference is in little more than a month in South Korea; and there is active debate over how much the Internet should be featured in the UN's Post-2015 sustainable development agenda.

With so many issues on the table, it seemed almost impossible to fit everything into one 90-minute session. However, participants gained a better understanding of where ICANN fits into the overall Internet ecosystem, and where UN missions and agencies fit in ICANN. The historical context that was discussed regarding the history of ICANN and the trajectory of Internet governance discussions from the Tunis Agenda till today is key as countries (their governments and other stakeholders) enter a discussion that until relatively recently was dominated by the technical management of the Internet's core assets.

There was an opportunity for representatives from the missions to pose questions and obtain further information on hot topics such as the transition of the U.S. Government's stewardship over the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, the ICANN accountability process, and further integration of developing countries into the ICANN process and Internet governance conversations in general.

The event marks the beginning of increased engagement between ICANN and the UN in New York, and complements engagement already being done with the UN and the UN agencies in Geneva. Permanent Missions to the UN, which are engaged in conversations about Internet governance, now have ICANN resources where they work.

Joe Catapano is Coordinator, ICANN Global Stakeholder Engagement for North America


Joe Catapano

Joe Catapano

Stakeholder Engagement Director - North America & Global Academia