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Transcript of the Ombudsman's presentation at the ALAC Summit

2 March 2009
By Office of the Ombudsman

>>CHERYL LANGDON ORR: We were just looking around to see if we have got the ombudsman in the room.
>>VANDA SCARTEZINI: He is over there.
>>CHERYL LANGDON ORR: Don't behind up the back, Frank. We need you down here.
There is a beautiful line of seats there so we poor chairs can know who is lined up next.
So if you are a speaker, perhaps you could lurk about down there, and even more to the point, come to here just before you are coming up to speak.
So Theresa, if you can come down so we know you are here as well.
You are ready, yes. You are poised.
Welcome, Mr. Ombudsman.
It is my honor and pleasure to introduce to you the at-large. Each one of these people have hundreds, if not thousands, of real Internet users behind them. And your task this morning is to explain the role of your office.
The stage is yours.
>>FRANK FOWLIE: Good morning, everybody.
(saying hello in a different languages).
I am very happy to be here in Mexico City.
I will make my remarks in English because if I did it in Spanish the translators would have a great deal of difficulty.
I have been asked to address three particular questions for you today, and I'll go through them one by one. But before I do, I would like to point out that my office did send down some printed material. There are annual reports available for you. I believe they are outside. Lapel pins, and multilingual brochures in several languages, and I encourage you to take them away.
I will have an office during the week in the business center, and if any of you would like to either ask questions or bring issues to me for review, I will be most happy to set up a time to meet with you there.
The activities that my office is engaged in are part of a systemic view that ICANN has in how it deals with conflict and disputes.
The office of the ombudsman is one of three internal conflict management systems that ICANN established in its bylaws. The office of the ombudsman is informal, private and confidential, and it deals specifically with issues that concern unfairness, not necessarily substantive issues.
For example, the decision made by ICANN was wrong. ICANN, in the view of the office of the ombudsman can make any decision that it wants so long as the process to get to that decision was made fairly.
So it can be the worst decision in the world, but it needs to be by a fair process.
Conversely, it can be absolutely the best decision in the world, but if the process wasn't fair, then obviously members of the community can come to my office.
My jurisdiction relates specifically to the actions, decisions, or inactions by ICANN staff, the board, or its supporting structures, such as ALAC. The principles of the office include independence, impartiality, neutrality and confidentiality.
The other mechanisms that ICANN has to deal with disputes are the newly institutionalized redress mechanism through the Board Governance Committee, which had, in the past, been the board reconsideration committee, and the independent review panel.
The normal work of the office is to receive complaints about the actions, decisions, or inactions of the organization, by members of the community or stakeholders, and to use a wide spectrum of alternative dispute resolution techniques to try to resolve the issue.
And when needed, to provide reports to the Board of Directors suggesting individual and systemic redress, and to try to prevent further unfair necessary from happening in the future.
The perspectives where the views of the individual Internet users are important to my office obviously are if those persons are impacted by what they believe is an unfair act, decision, or inaction by the organization.
We encourage, actively, for members of the community to contact my office as the lowest possible temperature for resolving conflict in an informal way before accelerating through to other processes, which, while they may be very important in resolving disputes, lack, in my humble view, the timely and informal way that the office of the ombudsman can deal with disputes.
Individual users of the Internet have made complaints in the past, and these have led to both individual and systemic improvements in the way that ICANN conducts its business.
Presently, the office of the ombudsman is into its five-year or summative review process. And shortly a group of masters students from Pepperdine University will be inviting community feedback about the office of the ombudsman, so your input into that serving will be most appreciative and helpful.
And the third question I have been asked to address is the opportunities for increased engagement with the ALAC community. Actually, I hope, with respect to ALAC and its community, that we have decreased. I think the Chair and I are both in agreement that the most — the least amount of time we have to spend talking about conflict within the ALAC or from ALAC members, the happier all concerned would be.
However, if members of the community, as individual Internet users, are not pleased with the manner in which they are being treated by the organization, I am always amenable to receive complaints or contacts.
And there is a large body of information on www.icannombudsman.org in a number of languages that talks about the office.
We have our annual reports are posted there, case reports are posted there, as well as a method to be able to send direct and secure and confidential e-mail contact to me.
And with that, madam chairman, unless there is anything else you would like me to speak about, I will turn the dais back over to you.

(Fowlie and Langdon Orr share a hug)
[ Applause ]
>>CHERYL LANGDON ORR: That was a very deliberate act between Frank and I, although totally unscripted.
ALAC has been at a very early history in rather more conflict than it has in proactive work and cooperation with the ombudsman office. We are just proving to you all that it we, in fact, talk very well and we are working together.
Thank you also for gaining some time back into our schedule.
Greatly appreciate that.


Office of the Ombudsman