[CCWG-ACCT] Clarification

Andrew Sullivan ajs at anvilwalrusden.com
Sat Feb 20 02:15:13 UTC 2016

Dear colleagues,

I'd like to propose another way of framing this issue.  

I think people are speaking about this as though the threshold is
changing.  But it may be that what is changing is the number of
possible actors.

The only case we are talking about is the one where the GAC -- not
the community or anyone else -- has decided in effect to remove itself
from the Empowered Community.  If the GAC wishes to act in the mode in
which it gets to give special advice to the Board, and in which the
Board must then engage with the GAC (and not everyone else) directly,
then in effect the GAC takes itself out of the Empowered Community and
acts in its specal GAC-advice role.

In that case, the number of possible community participants in the
process is a total of four.  At the moment, there are seven total
logically-possible participants.  Two of them have already excluded
themselves.  That leaves a total possible number of five.  But if the
GAC decides that it wants special access to give advice to the board,
then the "carve out" says that the GAC doesn't get to participate in
the Empowered Community on that issue.

This is a choice entirely within the GAC's power.  It must choose.  If
it chooses to be board-advisor-GAC, then it is in effect choosing that
it prefers that mode of operation to being part of the wider Empowered
Community mechanism.  In effect, a GAC choice can reduce the possible
actors in the Empowered Community to four.  Otherwise, the GAC is in a
position to insist on advice it gave being considered first by the
board, and then that the GAC can also participate in the judgement of
the Board's actions.  That's the very "two bites" problem that we were
trying to solve.  I believe that in most organizations (including many
governments), it would be regarded as surprising that a participant in
the to-be-judged action also gets to be one of the judges.

Now, I believe there's been a long-standing principle that unanimity
of the community not be required to exercise the community powers.
Therefore, the only possible number of SOs and ACs left as the number
for action is three.

Viewed this way, it makes no difference at all whether there is an
IRP, whether one is possible, whether anyone claims there is a
violation of the mission, or anything else, because there are only
four possible actors.  One fewer than four is three, and that's how we
get to a threshold of three.  

I understand why people are uncomfortable with such a small number of
participating SOs and ACs making such a serious decision -- I am too
-- but it is a consequence of the way this community has decided to
organize itself, and the decisions of some ACs as to whether they
participate in the Empowered Community.  Once we accept that model of
organization, it's very hard for me to see how the threshold we're
talking about is not a logical consequence.  And after all, the many
practical barriers to action and rather long process for removing the
board are there precisely to allow rational discussion and negotiation
of settlements to happen.

Those who complain that the GAC is somehow being singled out are, in
my opinion, making an argument that does not stand up even to casual
scrutiny.  If the GAC wants to participate in the same way as every
other SO and AC, then there is no difference whatever in how it will
be treated.  The GAC has instead asked that its historic ability to
give certain kinds of priority advice to the board be maintained.  And
so it is, but with the rule that if the GAC wants to be special then
it has to be special in other ways too.  The "unfair treatment"
argument is basically one that the GAC ought to be special all the
time.  I'm sorry, but that's not how community-driven organizations

Moreover, if the situation is really the corner-case of a corner-case
that many seem to be arguing, then the practical consequences are not
significant anyway; and we are having an argument that might upend
everything we have worked so hard to achieve even though there is no
real problem to solve.  I don't really care how this is resolved, to
be honest, because I'm way more interested in getting _something_
everyone can live with.  Still, I'm having a hard time constructing a
reasonable argument for the board's position.  I think it is time to
end this seeming-unending discussion, and move ahead with the
admittedly imperfect compromises that have been hammered out over many

Finally, I must note that the IANA transition is waiting on us, and we
are way past the time when we can be debating these substantive
issues.  If we blow the transition because some people want special
treatment all the time, I fear very much for the legitimacy of ICANN's
claims (as a community) to be a responsible steward of IANA functions.
For me, it is very hard to predict what might happen if the transition
fails.  But I hope it is crystal clear that the _status quo ante_ may
not be what comes of such a failure.

Best regards,


PS: As usual, I'm speaking in my individual capacity; but I think it
important to emphasise it in this case.

Andrew Sullivan
ajs at anvilwalrusden.com

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