On behalf of the ICANN Board, I want to express my gratitude to everyone who has given their time and effort to advancing ICANN's mission during 2021. Despite uncertainty and challenges, the ICANN Community, Organization (Org), and Board worked tirelessly together to ensure that we stay on mission, progress our work, and do so in a spirit of collaboration and productivity. Thank you for all you have done – with a full recognition of all the challenges that the year has brought to us, jointly and individually.
This past year has been one focused on preparations, planning, and prioritization. The Community, Org, and Board used this time to lay the foundation for upcoming projects in the best possible way. By starting the first two Operational Design Phases (ODPs), we are preparing for the launch of the next round of applications for new generic top-level domain names (gTLDs) as well as exploring solutions for the System for Standardized Access/Disclosure (SSAD). The ODP process has already proven to be useful in allowing us to interact with the Community while the design is ongoing, rather than at the end of the process, and thus avoid unnecessary delays. This early and transparent engagement is fundamental to a productive design phase.
The Board's focus for 2022 is moving from preparations to progress on key work areas that support our mission. We are committed to continuing to advance our work in a bottom-up multistakeholder way with the Community and are exploring and making steps with the Community and Org on how to best engage and interact under the circumstances relating to the pandemic. It is our hope that we can integrate meeting face-to-face as part of our engagement sooner rather than later. Hybrid forms of engagement are being tested by organizations across the globe. These events have demonstrated the challenges that lie ahead for us in ensuring that our approach is both meaningful and productive. We are grateful for those in the Internet ecosystem who are leading the way by testing their approaches and sharing their learnings, most recently the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) hosted in Poland. We will continue to share our experiences with those that ask us to do so.
Our current hope is to include in-person participation again in 2022 at the ICANN74 Policy Forum. While the Org team is exploring how to make that best happen, it also continues to work on ensuring the best possible experience during our ICANN73 virtual meeting. This will be our seventh consecutive fully virtual ICANN Public Meeting.
To prepare for meetings that incorporate face-to-face interactions, we will test our protocols over the months to come in a controlled environment. While pre-pandemic ICANN provided meaningful remote participation for our in-person work wherever possible, there will be a new and unique demand for blended participation options. Our initial hope was to be able to hold the January Board Workshop as a hybrid meeting, near the ICANN offices in Los Angeles. We were planning for two scenarios and sets of agendas for the ICANN Board Workshop: one fully remote option, and a second option which would be a hybrid meeting. Our original plan was to assess the situation in early January; however, recently Los Angeles moved to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Level 4 COVID-19 Risk Assessment. Combined with the rise of the Omicron variant, it seems unlikely that the situation will improve in time for the Board Workshop. We look forward to other opportunities to start piloting our first meetings and workshops that can include a face-to-face element.
January Board Workshop Agenda
Our workshop will kick off with a full day dedicated to review and reprioritize our work in the light of the ICANN Strategic Plan. Where necessary, we will reset our priorities with the aim to stay on mission and serve the Community best.
The remainder of the workshop will begin with an update by our President and CEO, Göran Marby, followed by a session on the ICANN Draft FY23-27 Operating and Financial Plan and the Draft FY23 Operating Plan and Budget. We will have two dedicated sessions on Reviews; one on the pending recommendations from the second Security, Stability, and Resiliency Review; and one on the third Accountability and Transparency Review. As part of our normal cadence, we will review the ICANN72 GAC Communiqué. The Board will discuss the progress of the first two ODPs, on SSAD and on the next round of gTLDs, and will receive a presentation on the Rights Protection Mechanisms (RPMs) Final Report and the Draft Board Paper. The RPM session will include a substantive overview of the issues, as well as a discussion of the recommendations made by the relevant Caucus for the Board's subsequent decision.
I will report back to you on the results of the meeting shortly after. The Board looks forward to engaging with you at the earliest opportunity. I am confident we will continue to deliver on our mission, together, even if circumstances still hamper us in meeting face-to-face.
On behalf of the ICANN Board, I extend our sincere best wishes to you and yours for a happy and healthy New Year. Stay safe!