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The Role of The Ombudsman Post IANA Transition

17 February 2016
By Office of the Ombudsman

As part of the IANA transition, and to start the process for the accountability studies for Work Stream 2, I will be holding a session at ICANN 55 at Marrakesh on Wednesday 9th March, at 3:45 p.m. in the Opale room. I will give a presentation on what I do at present, just a brief introduction, and then open for a brainstorming session on what people want. Any changes of course need to come from the community, and many have already begun to comment on the context of the discussions in the CCWG.

The sort of things to talk about our what people want the ombudsman to do. I have an existing function based on a bylaw drafted in 2002, when ICANN was a much smaller organisation, and before the introduction of the new generic top level domains. It is important to remember that the office of the ombudsman adheres to the IOA principles of ombudsmanship, and that an ombudsman does not have powers to enforce decisions but only to recommend something. It is not an appeal authority, but a function to look at fairness issues. The role has evolved somewhat in the 12 years of operation, and I will be happy to enter into discussions and welcome new ideas.

From the IOA site, with modifications, this is a guide. There are of course some specific ICANN Functions but I wanted to give a more general guide

The Ombudsman—Role and Function

The primary duties of an ombudsman are (1) to work with individuals and groups in the ICANN Community to explore and assist them in determining options to help resolve conflicts, problematic issues or concerns, and (2) to bring systemic concerns to the attention of the organization for resolution.

An ombudsman operates in a manner to preserve the confidentiality of those seeking services, maintains a neutral/impartial position with respect to the concerns raised, works at an informal level, and is independent of formal organizational structures. Successfully fulfilling that primary function in a manner consistent with the IOA Standards of Practice requires a number of activities on the part of the ombudsman while precluding others.

Activities and functions most frequently undertaken by an ombudsman include, but are not limited to:

Listens and understands issues while remaining neutral with respect to the facts. The ombudsman doesn’t listen to judge or to decide who is right or wrong. The ombudsman listens to understand the issue from the perspective of the individual. This is a critical step in developing options for resolution.
Assists in reframing issues and developing and helping individuals evaluate options. This helps individuals identify the interests of various parties to the issues and helps focus efforts on potential options to meet those interests.
Guides or coaches individuals to deal directly with other parties, including the use of formal resolution resources of the organization. An ombudsman often seeks to help individuals improve their skill and their confidence in giving voice to their concerns directly.
Refers individuals to appropriate resolution resources. An ombudsman may refer individuals to one or more formal organizational resources that can potentially resolve the issue.
Assists in surfacing issues to formal resolution channels. When an individual is unable or unwilling to surface a concern directly, the ombudsman can assist by helping give voice to the concern and /or creating an awareness of the issue among appropriate decision-makers in the organization.
Facilitates informal resolution processes. An ombudsman may help to resolve issues between parties through various types of informal mediation.
Identifies new issues and opportunities for systemic change for the organization. The unique positioning of the ombudsman serves to provide unfiltered information that can produce insight to issues and resolutions. The ombudsman is a source of detection and early warning of new issues and a source of suggestions of systemic change to improve existing processes.

What an ombudsman does not do:
Because of the informal, neutral, confidential and independent positioning of an ombudsman in an organization, they typically do not undertake the following roles or activities:
Participate in formal investigations or play any role in a formal issue resolution process
Serve in any other organizational role that would compromise the neutrality of the ombudsman role
Receive notice for the organization
Make binding decisions or mandate policies
Create or maintain records or reports for the organization

For detailed reading see https://www.ombudsassociation.org/IOA_Main/media/SiteFiles/IOA-Library-Links-Only-v3_links.pdf


Office of the Ombudsman