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ICANN’s Information Briefings for UN Diplomats Go Virtual

ICANN’s Government and Intergovernmental Organizations Engagement team (GE) has facilitated discussions at the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York and Geneva since 2014. We do this, because it is critical that ICANN have participation, representation, and engagement from all stakeholders, and this includes governments and intergovernmental organizations. It is equally critical for us to learn more about the developments that impact the Internet ecosystem within this stakeholder group and be in a position to explain, where appropriate, our role and mission in this ecosystem.

The information briefings are usually hosted by one or two Permanent Missions to the UN. As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, our last in-person briefing titled “How to Maintain a Global, Interoperable, and Single Internet - Technical and Security Aspects," was held in January of this year. Our subsequent briefing was scheduled for 22 April, and we quickly pivoted to offer a virtual briefing using Zoom. This enables our continued efforts to lend our expertise on technical, policy, and regulatory issues that affect ICANN's mission.

One of the GE team’s key roles, representing ICANN org, is to build capacity and share knowledge with this stakeholder group. To that effect, GE began holding informational briefings and workshops in 2015, in which we share ICANN’s knowledge of the technical functioning of the Internet and the security of the Domain Name System (DNS). Not only is this type of engagement ICANN’s responsibility, it also stems from a sincere desire to lend technical expertise that will aid governments as they discuss Internet-related issues. This form of engagement also paves the way for government and intergovernmental stakeholders’ active participation in ICANN community policymaking.

The virtual briefing approach, a first of its kind for ICANN, allowed us a new opportunity to extend our outreach beyond the usual participants from the UN headquarters in New York. This time, it expanded its reach and was co-hosted by the Permanent Missions of Bulgaria and Estonia to the United Nations in both New York and Geneva, effectively involving four permanent missions from two cities as co-hosts. This approach was particularly appreciated by the UN as the organization strives for better coordination between New York and Geneva. This event was a demonstration of one way for them to achieve that goal.

The topic of the April briefing was the same as in January but covered from a different perspective by different speakers. This time the topic was covered by David Conrad, ICANN’s Chief Technology Officer and Naela Sarras, Director of IANA Operations, with Veni Markovski, VP for UN engagement, moderating the session. One hundred and sixteen diplomats who cover UN General Assembly First, Second, and Third Committees attended the briefing.

Our first virtual informational briefing was considered a success by the co-hosts and participating diplomats. It’s impressive reach, robust participation, and virtual approach which took the briefings outside of the UN walls in New York, was seen as a validation of the effort. In response to this positive reaction, ICANN conducted a survey among participants, the results of which will help design future briefings of this kind, virtual and face to face.

Since the inception of these events, the general feedback from UN diplomats continues to reinforce the value of these briefings, because they are a valuable informational resource on issues of importance in the diplomats’ negotiations and general understanding of Internet-related issues.

We continue to be committed to raising awareness and sharing our valuable technical expertise on the operation of the Internet and its system of unique identifiers.


    Domain Name System
    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."