Top Ten Myths About Civil Society Participation in ICANN
From The Non-Commercial Users Constituency (NCUC)
“Civil Society won’t participate in ICANN under NCUC’s charter proposal.”
False. ICANN staffers and others claim that civil society is discouraged from engaging at ICANN because NCUC’s charter proposal does not guarantee GNSO Council seats to constituencies. The facts show this claim could not be further from the truth. NCUC’s membership includes 152 noncommercial organizations and individuals. Since 2008 NCUC’s membership has increased by more 240% – largely in direct response to civil society’s support for the NCUC charter. Not a single noncommercial organization commented in the public comment forum that hard-wiring council seats to constituencies will induce their participation in ICANN. None of the noncommercial organizations that commented on the NCSG Charter said they would participate to ICANN only if NCSG’s Charter secured the constituencies a guaranteed seat on the GNSO.
“More civil society groups will get involved if the Board intervenes.”
A complete illusion. Board imposition of its own charter and its refusal to listen to civil society groups will be interpreted as rejection of the many groups that commented and as discrimination against civil society participation. ICANN’s reputation among noncommercial groups will be irreparably damaged unless this action is reversed or a compromise is found. Even if we were to accept these actions and try to work with them, the total impact of the staff/SIC NCSG charter will be to handicap noncommercial groups and make them less likely to participate. The appointment of representatives by the Board disenfranchises noncommercial groups and individuals. The constituency-based SIC structure requires too much organizational overhead for most noncommercial organizations to sustain; it also pits groups against each other in political competition for votes and members. Most noncommercial organizations will not enter the ICANN GNSO under those conditions.
The outpouring of civil society opposition can be dismissed as the product of a ‘letter writing campaign.’
An outrageous claim. Overwhelming civil society opposition to the SIC charter emerged not once, but twice. In addition, there is the massive growth in NCUC membership stimulated by the broader community’s opposition to the staff and Board actions. Attempts to minimize the degree to which civil society has been undermined by these developments are simply not going to work, and reveal a shocking degree of insularity and arrogance. ICANN is required to have public comment periods because it is supposed to listen to and be responsive to public opinion. Public opinion results from networks of communication and public dialogue on controversial issues, including organized calls to action. No policy or bylaw gives ICANN staff the authority to decide that it can discount or ignore nearly all of the groups who have taken an interest in the GNSO reforms, simply because they have taken a position critical of the staff’s. ICANN’s attempt to discount critical comments by labeling them a “letter writing campaign” undermines future participation and confidence in ICANN public processes.
“Civil society is divided on the NCSG charter issue.”
Wrong. There has never been such an overwhelmingly lopsided public comment period in ICANN’s history. While ICANN’s staff is telling the Board that civil society is divided, the clear, documented consensus among civil society groups has been against the ICANN drafted NCSG charter and in favor of the NCUC one. Board members who rely only on staff-provided information may believe civil society is divided, but Board members who have actually read the public comments can see the solidarity of civil society against what ICANN is trying to impose on them.
“Existing civil society groups are not representative or diverse enough.”
Untrue by any reasonable standard. The current civil society grouping, the Noncommercial Users Constituency (NCUC), now has 152 members including 75 noncommercial organizations and 77 individuals in 52 countries. This is an increase of more than 240% since the parity principle was established.