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ICANN’s Accountability in the Wake of the IANA Functions Stewardship Transition

Steve crocker blog post

Ever since the NTIA announced its intention to transition the stewardship of the IANA functions, the ICANN Community, our Board, and ICANN’s leadership all have been in agreement that a process on ICANN’s overall accountability is needed. This process should look at from an organizational perspective, whether and how ICANN’s broader accountability mechanisms should be strengthened to address the absence of its historical contractual relationship to the U.S. Government.

AT the recent NETmundial meeting in Sao Paulo, Brazil, our President and CEO, Fadi Chehadé, announced that ICANN would launch such a process – one that would be community-driven – the details of which have been put out for public dialogue and community feedback.

I can say that the framing of this process and how it relates to the other, recently- launched process on the transition of IANA stewardship itself, are top priorities for the Board and me. As Fadi noted in Sao Paulo, the two are closely interrelated and will run in parallel.   Our handling of these processes will be closely scrutinized.

Enhancing ICANN’s accountability is key to the success of the IANA functions stewardship transition process. We must be accountable to the global community beyond our role as the administrator of the IANA functions.

This process will take an inventory of our existing accountability mechanisms, such as the Affirmation of Commitments; examine if and how they should be strengthened, as well explore the needs for new mechanisms. More generally, the process will examine what new or enhanced accountability mechanisms will be necessary in the absence of ICANN’s historical contractual relationship to the U.S. Government.

The two processes, however, will run on separate tracks. Though open to all, the accountability process will take place mainly within the ICANN community, whereas the process on the transition of the IANA functions stewardship will occur across multiple fora. ICANN’s role in the latter is also limited to that of a convener and facilitator.

These developments come at a critical juncture as the discussion on the evolution of the Internet governance ecosystem has gained considerable momentum.  More importantly, the global multistakeholder community has signaled its readiness to engage in inclusive, collaborative decision-making processes to achieve tangible results. 

The community is encouraged to provide input on the proposed ICANN accountability process and a number of related questions.

The full announcement on the accountability process can be found here.

The public comment period is open and the deadline for input is 27 May 2014 (23:59 UTC).


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    Internationalized Domain Name ,IDN,"IDNs are domain names that include characters used in the local representation of languages that are not written with the twenty-six letters of the basic Latin alphabet ""a-z"". An IDN can contain Latin letters with diacritical marks, as required by many European languages, or may consist of characters from non-Latin scripts such as Arabic or Chinese. Many languages also use other types of digits than the European ""0-9"". The basic Latin alphabet together with the European-Arabic digits are, for the purpose of domain names, termed ""ASCII characters"" (ASCII = American Standard Code for Information Interchange). These are also included in the broader range of ""Unicode characters"" that provides the basis for IDNs. The ""hostname rule"" requires that all domain names of the type under consideration here are stored in the DNS using only the ASCII characters listed above, with the one further addition of the hyphen ""-"". The Unicode form of an IDN therefore requires special encoding before it is entered into the DNS. The following terminology is used when distinguishing between these forms: A domain name consists of a series of ""labels"" (separated by ""dots""). The ASCII form of an IDN label is termed an ""A-label"". All operations defined in the DNS protocol use A-labels exclusively. The Unicode form, which a user expects to be displayed, is termed a ""U-label"". The difference may be illustrated with the Hindi word for ""test"" — परीका — appearing here as a U-label would (in the Devanagari script). A special form of ""ASCII compatible encoding"" (abbreviated ACE) is applied to this to produce the corresponding A-label: xn--11b5bs1di. A domain name that only includes ASCII letters, digits, and hyphens is termed an ""LDH label"". Although the definitions of A-labels and LDH-labels overlap, a name consisting exclusively of LDH labels, such as"""" is not an IDN."