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Update on the Middle East Strategy

12 December 2013

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by Fahd A. Batayneh – Stakeholder Engagement Coordinator, Middle East

This time around last year, the Middle East Strategy Working Group (MESWG) kick-started its work. 22 volunteers 1 from 11 different countries within the region joined forces to develop a strategy to tailor the needs of the Internet ecosystem in the region; mainly the domain name industry and Internet Governance, as well as strengthening engagement from the region in the ICANN and other Internet-related processes. The working group came out with a three-year strategy document and a one-year implementation plan for FY14 2. The working group agreed to revisit the implementation plan from time-to-time based on what has been accomplished, and what is to be done.

The working group had its first face-to-face meeting during the ArabMIG Dubai event early March 2013. Subsequent meetings took place at ICANN meetings in Beijing and Durban. The group also presented its outcomes to the community during the ICANN Beijing and ICANN Durban meeting, respectively.

One year later, the working group is reaping the fruits of its hard work. So where do things stand at as we speak?

Task Force on Arabic Internationalized Domain Names (TF-AIDN)

The Task Force on Arabic Internationalized Domain Names (TF-AIDN) was formed back in September 2013 and was announced during the Second Arab IGF in Algiers early October 2013. 20 volunteers from 11 countries representing more than 10 different Arabic script languages are working together in an effort to push Arabic Script IDNs to cover more languages within the Arabic script, thus diversifying its usage within the Arabic script community. The task force is conducting its work mainly over email, as well as having teleconference calls and Skype calls on regular basis. One interesting fact about the task force is that all, except for two, members of the task force are not members of the MESWG. Also, the super majority of the volunteers on the task force are new faces to Arabic IDNs. In other words, not only there exists a task force dedicated to Arabic IDNs, but also new faces are showing interest in the ICANN process.

One of the issues the working group is working on is to develop a Generation Panel (GP) Document for the Arabic Script, and so a sub-group from the larger group was formed to undertake this task. 4 members of the task force volunteered to undertake this task and develop the draft document, while 2 other members volunteered to review the draft document as it was ready. Currently, the GP document is being reviewed by the entire TF-AIDN in preparation for submission to ICANN once final.

The TF-AIDN expects to have at least two face-to-face meetings in 2014 with each meeting spanning over the course of 2-3 days.

Task Force on Capacity Building Activities (TF-CBA)

Members of the MESWG are in consensus that a major driver of the strategy is to build capacity in every possible corner of the region as means to educate people on specific issues of Internet Governance. On December 1, 2013, the working group sent out a call for volunteers to join the Task Force on Capacity Building Activities (TF-CBA). Two members of the MESWG will be evaluating the applications submitted with more members with different expertise and skills-set expected to join. While the call will remain open even after the task force commences its activities, evaluators will start evaluating applications during the last 10 days of December in time to announce the poll of successful volunteers early January 2014.

Capacity building programs and activities targeted by the MESWG include the following broad topics:

  • DNS Registry and Registrar Operations;
  • Domain Name Marketing and Business Development;
  • DNS Protocols and Technologies, including DNSSEC, IPv6, IDNs, etc.;
  • DNS Security Planning, Management, and Enforcement; and
  • Internet Governance.

Candidates interested in joining the TF-CBA are expected to fulfill the following requirements:

  • Capacity building experience in programs related to one or more of the broad topics mentioned above.
  • Willingness to contribute 5-10 hours per week to the proceedings of the task force; mainly during the initial stages; and
  • Fluency in the English language. Additional language(s) used within the region is/are a plus.

    Interested candidates are requested to email their CV/Resume and a Statement of Interest (SoI) to tf-cba-owner@meswg.org mentioning relevant information that could strengthen the application in-hand. These CVs/Resumes and SoIs will be posted on the TF-CBA Wiki page for the public at https://community.icann.org/display/MES/TF-CBA+Wiki+Space.

    If you, or someone you now, are/is interested in joining the TF-CBA, please feel free to drop us a line at meswg@icann.org. The TF-CBA is not restricted to candidates from the region as anyone who has the expertise and time can apply to join.

Trainer-the-Trainer Track

Another interesting discussion item within the MESWG is a ‘train-the-trainer” model where the WG envision capacity building beyond the mandate of the strategy. The group is in consensus that this model can be better shaped once the TF-CBA commences.


The Middle East Strategy Working Group (MESWG) is an ad-hoc group of Internet experts from the region the strategy covers; i.e. the 22 Arab States, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan (collectively defined as “The Region”). The working group consists of 21 experts from 11 countries of the region. ICANN has coordinated the formation of the working group, and provides all the necessary support to drive its mandate forward. ICANN’s strategic goals for its engagement in the region are to:

  1. Foster two-way engagement between ICANN and the broader Internet community in the region;
  2. Build strong and competitive domain name industry in the region; and
  3. Promote multi-stakeholder Internet governance mechanisms in the region.

    These goals are divided into three strategic focus areas, namely: DNS Security and Stability, Domain Name Industry, and Internet Governance Ecosystem.

    More on the MESWG can be found on the dedicated Wiki online at https://community.icann.org/display/MES/Middle+East+Working+Group.


TF-AIDN is an initiative of MESWG which will focus on technical issues and solutions to promote Arabic IDNs’ definition, secure deployment and ease of use for the community. Though the scope of work may change over time, the current technical matters include at least the following:

  • Arabic Script Label Generation Ruleset (LGR) for the Root Zone
  • Second level LGRs for the Arabic script
  • Arabic script Internationalized Registration Data Protocol and Practice
  • Universal acceptability of Arabic script IDNs and variants
  • Technical challenges around registration of Arabic IDNs and variants
  • Operational software for Arabic script IDN registry and registrar operations
  • DNS security matters specifically related to Arabic IDNs and variants
  • Technical training material around Arabic script IDNs

    Though the task force is commencing operations, it will remain open for membership. Those interested to join the task force on voluntary basis should email their CV and Statement of Interest (SOI) to tf-aidnadmin@meswg.org.

    More on the TF-AIDN can be found on the dedicated Wiki online at https://community.icann.org/display/MES/TF-AIDN+Work+Space.

1 One member of the working group eventually joined ICANN as a staff member.

2 ICANN’s fiscal years starts on July 1st and spans all the way until June 30th of the next year.


Fahd Batayneh

Fahd Batayneh

Stakeholder Engagement Director - Middle East