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Minutes | Special Meeting of the ICANN Board

A Special Meeting of the ICANN Board of Directors was held telephonically on 11 June 2020 at 16:30 UTC.

Maarten Botterman, Chair, promptly called the meeting to order.

In addition to the Chair, the following Directors participated in all or part of the meeting: Becky Burr, Ron da Silva, Sarah Deutsch, Chris Disspain, Avri Doria, Rafael Lito Ibarra, Danko Jevtović, Göran Marby (President and CEO), Akinori Maemura, Mandla Msimang, Ihab Osman, Nigel Roberts, León Sánchez (Vice Chair), Matthew Shears, and Tripti Sinha.

The following Board Liaisons participated in all or part of the meeting: Harald Alvestrand (IETF Liaison), Manal Ismail (GAC Liaison), Merike Käo (SSAC Liaison), and Kaveh Ranjbar (RSSAC Liaison).

Secretary: John Jeffrey (General Counsel and Secretary).

The following ICANN Executives and Staff participated in all or part of the meeting: Susanna Bennett (SVP, Chief Operations Officer), Michelle Bright (Board Content Coordination Director), Xavier Calvez (Chief Financial Officer), Franco Carrasco (Board Operations Specialist), Mandy Carver (Senior Vice President for Government and Intergovernmental Organization (IGO) Engagement), Sally Newell Cohen (SVP, Global Communications), David Conrad (Chief Technology Officer), Sally Costerton (Sr Advisor to President & SVP, Global Stakeholder Engagement), Sam Eisner (Deputy General Counsel), Jamie Hedlund (SVP, Contractual Compliance & Consumer Safeguards and Managing Director – Washington D.C. Office), John Jeffrey (General Counsel and Secretary), Aaron Jimenez (Board Operations Specialist), Vinciane Koenigsfeld (Senior Director, Board Operations), Elizabeth Le (Associate General Counsel), Karen Lentz (Senior Director, Policy Research & Data Services), David Olive (Senior Vice President, Policy Development Support), Krista Papac (Complaints Officer), Wendy Profit (Board Operations Senior Manager), Erika Randall (Associate General Counsel), Ashwin Rangan (SVP Engineering & Chief Information Officer), Lisa Saulino (Board Operations Specialist), Amy Stathos (Deputy General Counsel), Theresa Swinehart (Senior Vice President, Multistakeholder Strategy and Strategic Initiatives), and Gina Villavicencio (SVP, Global Human Resources).

  1. Main Agenda:
    1. Impact of COVID-19 on ICANN69
    2. AOB
  1. Main Agenda:

    1. Impact of COVID-19 on ICANN69

      The Chair introduced the agenda item and members of the ICANN org Executive Team provided a briefing to the Board about the global situation related to the COVID-19 coronavirus as it relates to ICANN69. Göran Marby and Theresa Swinehart addressed ICANN org's discussions with the leaders of Supporting Organizations and Advisory Committees, and other members of the community, about ICANN69 in light of the continuing spread of COVID-19 and various "stay at home" or lock-down orders around the world restricting movement and gatherings of people except to receive essential services.

      The Board engaged in a robust discussion of the recommendation from ICANN org, and a full spectrum of viewpoints and contributions were expressed by Board members. The Organization's paper sets out a detailed rationale and explanation for its recommendation.

      Some Board members did not agree with the recommendation from ICANN org. Ron da Silva asked whether it would be possible to proceed with an in person meeting if the number of meeting participants were reduced by 30% or 50% due to visa issues or regional travel restrictions. ICANN org commented on the many challenges presented with holding an in person meeting at this time. The restrictive seating configuration in the convention center would present challenges to social distancing requirements. Flight availability would likely present another challenge as it is anticipated that Germany will still likely restrict flights from countries with ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks, particularly as certain parts of the world may experience a second wave of outbreaks.  There would also be potential limitation on participants' abilities to obtain visas as embassies and consulates, especially in countries with high infection rates, may remain closed. The President and CEO pointed out that Germany canceled their Munich Beer Festival which was scheduled to take place only a few weeks from ICANN69 due to anticipated low turnout and social distancing challenges. The President and CEO also noted that the Supporting Organizations (SOs) and Advisory Committees (ACs) leadership provided feedback on the ability for participation on equal footing at the meeting.  Given the potential inequities in participants' access to international travel and visas across regions, this decision also ensures the broadest participation of attendees by virtual means without the potential distraction of uncertainties posed by hosting an in-person meeting at this time.

      Ihab Osman pointed out that large parts of the world are moving towards opening up, and that ICANN, as global community and global player, has a responsibility to do its part to bring the world back to some level of normalcy. Ihab inquired whether all options for an in person meeting have been considered rather going to purely virtual meeting, such as other potential locations around the world that could provide maximum possible safe participation in a physical meeting. The President and CEO explained that other venues have been considered but meeting logistics such as suitable conference space to accommodate the more than 300 meeting sessions, availability of hotel rooms, and travel restrictions present challenges to finding a suitable venue that could be assured would not face restrictions in gatherings in this time period.

      There was also a discussion around the possibility of a "hybrid" meeting for future meetings that would include an in-person meeting component while integrating additional remote participation tools or features to enhance the meeting experience and provide for equal participation for those who are not able to attend in person.  The President and CEO explained that ICANN org is working with the SOs and ACs on a phased plan for future ICANN meetings that would include a hybrid approach, and that the questions raised by the Board will be considered in developing the phased approach.

      Ron expressed concerns that the decision to conduct ICANN69 as a purely virtual meeting is premature and indicated a preference for the President and CEO to explore with the SO and AC leadership the implications, costs and logistics around a hybrid approach for ICANN69. Ihab expressed concerns that the proposed resolution does not allow for the possibility of some sort of physical hybrid model for ICANN69.

      The President and CEO explained that the general consensus from the SOs and ACs was to not proceed with ICANN69 as an in person meeting in Hamburg. Becky Burr and Chris Disspain noted that based on the community discussions in which they have participated, there wasn't consensus for calling ICANN69 as hybrid model meeting. Rather, there was consensus for cancelling it as an in person meeting, and to do so sooner than later.  The Board notes that the resolution directs the "ICANN President and CEO, or his designees, to coordinate with the ICANN community on the best way forward for ICANN69 to meet the expected outcomes of an ICANN Annual General Meeting, including the furthering of ICANN policy development and advice work, reporting on milestones and community-agreed priorities for the meeting." This provides the option to proceed in a hybrid style meeting should that be the result from the continued consultation with the community.

      The Board also discussed the financial impact of canceling the in person meeting and proceeding as a virtual meeting for ICANN69. The Board noted that the cost for ICANN69 as an in person meeting in Hamburg has been budgeted for. The Board noted that the cost for a virtual meeting is far less than an in person meeting as far less due the savings on travel related costs, and that proceeding with the proposed decision would be well within and well below the budgeted amount.

      The Board thanked the Organization for the work on the matter.

      After discussion, Nigel Roberts moved and León  seconded. The Board called for a vote and then took the following action:

      Whereas, on 23 June 2018, the ICANN Board approved for ICANN organization to proceed to contracting in support of the October 2020 ICANN Public Meeting (ICANN69) in Hamburg, Germany (https://www.icann.org/resources/board-material/resolutions-2018-06-23-en#1.f). Under the Meetings Strategy, and in accordance with the Bylaws, ICANN69 is scheduled as ICANN's Annual General Meeting for 2020.

      Whereas, the ICANN Board is responsible for a decision to change an ICANN public meeting location once such a meeting location has been approved for contracting and announced.

      Whereas, in December 2019, a new strain of coronavirus, referred to as COVID-19, emerged and on 11 March 2020 was declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a pandemic. Globally, a high number of people either have been or continue to be under some form of a "stay at home" or lock-down order, directed to avoid contact with others except to receive essential services such as medical care or to purchase supplies. Schools and offices are starting to reopen in limited measures, gatherings are still greatly limited and international travel remains largely on pause. We still do not know when international travel will be more fully restored, or if size limitations on gatherings will be appropriately sized and feasible for ICANN's in-person public meetings. When faced with new emergences of COVID-19, even economies that have opened back up are likely to re-impose some form of "stay-at-home" orders to once again control the spread.

      Whereas, as an organization with staff and stakeholders across the globe, in January 2020 ICANN org convened an adaptive crisis management team (A-CMT) in order to assist ICANN org in tracking and mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on ICANN's work.

      Whereas, ICANN org, through the A-CMT, briefed the Board on the current status of COVID-19 on ICANN's work, including the potential impacts on ICANN69. ICANN org has also consulted with the leadership teams of the various ICANN community structures – our Advisory Committees, Supporting Organizations, Stakeholder Groups and Constituencies – regarding the planning for ICANN69 in the face of the pandemic.

      Whereas, the Board recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact other planned opportunities for the ICANN community to further their work in-person, with ICANN67 and ICANN68 both convened as virtual meetings, with all intersessional in-person meetings for groups (including the Nominating Committee, the Security and Stability Advisory Committee and Review Teams, to name a few) canceled, postponed or moved to virtual. As much as possible, ICANN org has been in communication with the ICANN community on these schedule changes.

      Whereas, at this time, it does not appear possible or feasible to convene an in-person ICANN69 in Hamburg, Germany as planned.

      Whereas, ICANN org successfully moved ICANN67 to a virtual meeting, providing a useful test for the ICANN community on how to plan, schedule and execute an ICANN Public Meeting in a fully virtual setting. ICANN org, working with the ICANN Community, has been planning for the ICANN68 Policy Forum as a virtual meeting, which will see innovation in delivery of real-time translation during a virtual event, and is the first test of an ICANN Public Meeting both planned for and delivered virtually.

      Whereas, ICANN org reports to the Board that it continues both its internal operational planning as well as consultation with the community on how to best design an Annual General Meeting that achieves the intended purpose and that supports the community's ongoing policy advice and development work.

      Whereas, the Board understands the import of the face-to-face interactions as provided for at ICANN's Public Meetings and looks forward to a return to those interactions as soon as feasible.

      Resolved (2020.06.11.01), the Board confirms that ICANN69 shall not proceed as an in-person meeting, and directs the ICANN President and CEO, or his designees, to take all steps necessary to cancel the facilities and arrangements made for an in-person meeting in Hamburg, Germany.

      Resolved (2020.06.11.02), the Board directs the ICANN President and CEO, or his designees, to coordinate with the ICANN community on the best way forward for ICANN69 to meet the expected outcomes of an ICANN Annual General Meeting, including the furthering of ICANN policy development and advice work, reporting on milestones and community-agreed priorities for the meeting. The ICANN President and CEO is also directed to continue internal operational planning in order to support the delivery of the ICANN69 Annual General Meeting as appropriate to deliver on those expected outcomes.

      Resolved (2020.06.11.03), the Board thanks ICANN org and the ICANN community for their attention to this important issue. The Board also thanks the hosts and venues planned for ICANN69 in Hamburg, Germany for their understanding of the need to cancel the in-person plans for ICANN69. We hope that there is a future time that we will be able to come back and visit your city to host an ICANN Public Meeting.

      Thirteen members of the Board voted in favor of Resolutions 2020.06.11.01 – 2020.06.11.03.   Ron da Silva and Ihab Osman voted against the Resolutions. Tripti Sinha was unavailable to vote on the Resolutions. The Resolutions carried.

      Rationale for Resolutions 2020.06.11.01 - 2020.06.11.03

      The Board takes this action today as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, considered a pandemic by the World Health Organization. While the Board recognizes and upholds the value of face-to-face interactions at ICANN's Public Meetings, and the advancement of ICANN community work that happens at these meetings, we cannot move forward with an in-person meeting at the cost of the health of attendees, ICANN org staff members, and the host country.

      At the time of the Board decision, the December 2019 COVID-19 outbreak has reached almost all parts of the world, while work on therapeutics and vaccines is proceeding. Each day, there is updated news on the spread of the virus and the worldwide response. Globally, a high number of people either have been or continue to be under some form of a "stay at home" or lock-down order, directed to avoid contact with others except to receive essential services such as medical care or to purchase supplies. Across ICANN org, all offices are closed (except for essential items) and personnel are working from home. Those with school-aged children are expected to care for and, in many cases, take on the education of their children. Many within the ICANN community are experiencing these same impacts. Many may also be dealing with infection amongst their family and friends. The pandemic continues to impact us all.

      After the Board's February 2020 decision canceling the in-person component of ICANN67 and directing ICANN org to proceed with a virtual meeting, a virtual ICANN67 was convened. Many valuable lessons were learned from that experience, and ICANN org then proceeded to consult with ICANN's Community Leaders about how to use the lessons from ICANN67 to design future virtual meetings as the pandemic might necessitate, taking into consideration the purpose of each Public Meeting. ICANN68, scheduled for 22-25 June 2020, will be the first test of an ICANN Public Meeting fully planned and executed in a virtual format.

      Prior to taking this decision, the Board received briefings from ICANN org, on areas including the impact of COVID-19, conversations with the ICANN community, and operational planning for a distributed meeting.

      We thank the ICANN community for its commitment to concluding a successful ICANN67 and ICANN68 in virtual formats. The ICANN community has shown great leadership already in a global move towards virtual collaboration.

      The ICANN Board thanks the host committee as well as our community in the European Region who worked tirelessly to host this meeting in Hamburg. We appreciate their understanding and look forward to returning to the European region as soon as we are able.

      This action is within ICANN's mission and the public interest, as it is the only path to assure that the work of the ICANN community continues as planned. It is the proper decision on many levels, from not putting ICANN org staff at risk nor risking the need to divert the resources and attention of ICANN org to a response to a COVID-19 outbreak amongst ICANN org or the community; to taking a responsible and proper measure to protect against contributing to the global pandemic. Given the potential inequities in participants' access to international travel and visas across regions, this decision also ensures the broadest participation of attendees by virtual means without the potential distraction of uncertainties posed by hosting an in-person meeting at this time.

      This decision has resource implications that are being quantified. However, the resources needed to support an ICANN69 Annual General Meeting as can be appropriately designed are expected to be within or below the resources that have already been allocated for ICANN69 within ICANN's budget. This decision has no impact on the security, stability, or resiliency of the Internet's DNS.

      This is an organizational administrative decision that does not require public comment.

    2. AOB

      No resolutions taken.

    The Chair called the meeting to a close.

Published on 18 June 2020

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""icann.org"" is not an IDN."