[council] Some observations re ATRT2 from the Interconnect report on the GNSO PP

Jonathan Robinson jrobinson at afilias.info
Tue Nov 12 14:56:37 UTC 2013

Thanks Maria.


This is helpful.  Agreed it’s important reading and note to all:


We are meeting with the ATRT2 on Wednesday 20th so it will be good to be as well-prepared as possible for this meeting.




From: Maria Farrell [mailto:maria.farrell at gmail.com] 
Sent: 11 November 2013 19:25
To: council at gnso.icann.org
Subject: [council] Some observations re ATRT2 from the Interconnect report on the GNSO PP


Hi all,

I'm still creeping through this report and thought to send you what I've got, about 3/4 way through the Interconnect report on the GNSO PDP. 

IMHO, the report itself is absolutely essential reading, as some of the data in it is quite concerning. 

Anyway, here are what you might call the 'greatest hits', with some not entirely rhetorical questions of mine peppered through.

I will send more anon, but thought I should circulate what I have as time is marching on toward BA.


All the best, Maria

Interconnect Report on the GNSO PDP


The “ATRT2 was convened to review the GNSO PDP with a view toward identifying its strengths and weaknesses, differences between defined process and actual practice, and the extent to which it incorporates the views, advice and needs of all stakeholders, both those active in ICANN and those not typically present for ICANN deliberations.”

30 interviews done.




First off, though the Interconnect report necessarily concentrates on what can be done better, it loudly applauds the work of volunteers who put in hours per week in multi-year processes. It also points out that compared with other multi-stakeholder, bottom-up processes, the GNSO PDP copes with a greater diversity of stakeholder types and more varied subject matter expertise. It is also not just open to anyone who wants to take part, but those who do say everyone’s input in welcomed and valued. 


So I think we should just pause a moment and remind ourselves of what the GNSO PDP has achieved and continues to achieve, and also the significant organisation support underpinning it. 




Participation in WG’s

Vast majority taking part in WGs do so only once. “100 Working Group participants have belonged to only one Working Group while less than 20 people have belonged to two Working Groups.” (this is shocking! We are scaring motivated people away...) 

·      Attendance in WGs is dominated by those for whom it’s part of their job

·      English language is a barrier to many 

·      Very Western culture of interaction (As a European, I would observe it’s a peculiarly American legal mode of adversarial interaction) 

·      Constituencies match developed country needs but not necessarily developing country ones – some people struggle to find one in the existing structure that really fits them

·      WGs have 75% men and 25% women, but the percentage of women is growing

North Americans are 70% of WG members, Europeans are just under 20%, and everyone else a bit over 10%. This is “a potential problem for global legitimacy”. That is putting it mildly, in the current geopolitical context. 


Small pool of participants creates accountability, credibility and resource risk, and means we cultivate few potential leaders.


It’s too hard to get agreement on group positions in time for comment periods. 


So, we need other ways to participate, recruit people from other regions directly to WGs and “reconsider the underlying collaboration and discourse model of the PDP” see how to make changes for people it doesn’t suit.

Commitment to the Process

“Significant” number of responses saying policy is changed after the fact by the Board and GAC, often because of lobbying by some parts of the community. 

Specific to GNSO, people are lobbying us for “changes in substance or implementation after a Working Group’s Final Report has been completed”.

“in one very recent Working Group, participants challenged others in the Working Group on the issue of whether they were truly committed to the process or if they simply intended to wait the process out then “lobby” for the results they wanted in other parts of the organization. Some of the people interviewed for this report indicated that cynicism about other participants’ commitment to the PDP was a barrier to their own participation.”

This is rather horrifying stuff and must be part of what is giving the GNSO a bad name. The report says “there needs to be process and procedure applied to ensure that other parts of the organization do not inadvertently subvert the accountability and transparency of the PDP.”

As Councilors, should we consider making a positive commitment or ‘re-commitment’ to the PDP’s primacy as the policy development tool for gTLDs?



·      Rarely takes advantage of points in the process to contribute, and, as we know quite well;

·      Raises its concerns when the process is almost complete

Report says no structural or bylaw changes needed but that the GAC basically needs to step up and engage with GNSO WGs the way it does on ccNSO WGs and did on the AOC reviews. 


The Future

Most people think the new gTLDs and also changes in Internet Governance will bring more players into the process. 

Should the GNSO be pro-actively sponsoring and facilitating open discussion on what forms this might take, and how/if it may change the constituency structure?



Current PDP started being used in December 2011. 


FWIW, in Section 3 the report gives a very handy high-level primer on the stages of the PDP – especially how they differ to the previous version – that may be of use to new or returning councillors. Though the 42 Stages of the PDP could be a bit daunting to anyone!


I found this observation quite interesting: 

“Note that implementation is not included as one of the essential elements of the PDP. Implementation is, however, included as Section 10 of Annex A. The Bylaws, therefore, appear to suggest that implementation can be an element of a PDP, but that implementation is not essential to a PDP.” Page 8


Section 4, on ICANN’s historical context and environment is a great refresher on why we’re all here and how important it is to make this thing work...

It also notes that ‘volunteer fatigue’ is due not just to ICANN’s own work but part of the acceleration of the whole Internet governance calendar of activities. And bear in mind, this was written before the last 8 or so weeks of I* seismic shift, IGF Bali and an entirely new meeting proposed by Brazil. Figure 3, a diagram of just the 2013 calendar of major global Internet Governance is quite exhausting!

I also want to draw your attention to Fig. 4 on page 21 of the report (p. 102 of the overall document) which is a Calendar of ICANN Public Comments. It is astonishingly dense and illustrates perfectly in one graphic the massive workload of reading, consulting and response demanded of ICANN’s stakeholders. 

The report includes some insightful academic research about whether  and how people participate in policy processes that is expressed in wonderfully plain language:

·      People participate if they feel strongly about something

·      If they think they can make a difference

·      Different forms of participation (f2f, online, written) must be acknowledged and valued so people can participate in ways that suit them

·      You have to enable and support participation – i.e. timings of calls, support to attend physical meetings, etc. Otherwise it just won’t happen.

·      “Structures and processes must not be alienating (for example, real-time meetings favor those who think quickly and are native speakers of the language of the meeting.” We all know this one is true!

Other academics have analysed and even isolated the mythical ‘sweet spot’ between participation and the legitimacy and speed of the process. We know it exists because they have even drawn a graph of it. (p. 25) So, fear not, we may yet find this earthly paradise... 

Which is not meant to be at all facetious or critical. This is a useful report that reminds us that although we often think of ICANN as being sui generis, we’re not the first people in humanity to struggle with this. In the over-used ICANN Bingo phrase, ‘we don’t have to re-invent the wheel.’

Here is some interesting quantitative data they gathered on recent PDPs. A couple have been almost unbelievably long:


PDP Initiation Date





Total length of PDP

Fast Flux














































How do people find out about and then get involved in PDPs? Not from the GNSO website, unfortunately, but mostly it seems from being on mailing lists or being contacted (and also through the overall ICANN website): 

“The questionnaire found that ICANN meetings and mailing lists were the most popular sources of information about PDPs (Figure 11), with 90 percent and 80 percent, respectively, of respondents saying they were their sources of information about PDPs. In contrast, other ICANN websites (for example, the GNSO, and other SO and AC websites) and external websites were the least popular sources of information about PDPs.” (my underlining)

This means we’re only getting new participants from among the small pool of people we – as individuals and constituencies – are already in touch with. Can we do better on informing people and drumming up participation via the GNSO website or in other ways?

Public comments – fewer from individuals than a few years ago, and more from groups already in the process (constituencies, etc.) and also from outside organisations, typically companies or trade associations. So, on the face of it, some improvement in the numbers of organisations getting involved in commenting. Is it a problem that we have fewer individuals commenting? Maybe it’s a sign of a maturing model, but are we at risk of losing enthusiasm and expertise?

Fig. 19 on page 40 of the report is horrifying. It shows that on our most recent PDPs – Fast flux, IRTP Part C, PEDNR, Thick Whois, IGO-INGO, IRTP Part B and UDRP Lock – we had ZERO input from the entirety of Asia Pacific, Latin America / Caribbean and the continent of Africa. 

(Jonathan mentioned on the last Council call that the GNSO should, in part, look at doing important, valuable and compelling work – should we look harder at prioritizing and working on issues of importance to non-North America / European players?)

On the plus side, 60% of interviewees thought the public comments part of the PDP is accountable and transparent. Though about half of people thought this part of the process was effective – can we as a Council do more to discuss the substantive issues raised in public comments??

Also worrying, in terms of our relevance and mandate: half of the interviewees thought PDP outcomes reflected the public interest and ICANN’s mandate. Half emphatically did not.

On the whole ‘PDP takes too long’ side of things, the data uncovered are interesting: there is a wide variance in time taken. 





















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