Heading into Helsinki: Core issues at ICANN56

By Aarti Bhavana

The upcoming 56th ICANN meeting shall be held in Helsinki, Finland from 27-30th June 2016. This is the first ‘Meeting B’ as per the new meeting strategy, which means a shorter, 4-day meeting focusing solely on policy work and outreach, and no public forum or public board meeting. A full schedule of this meeting can be found here. This post briefly highlights some of the core issues that will be discussed over the week.

CCWG-Accountability

On the Sunday before the meeting officially begins, the Cross-Community Working Group on Enhancing ICANN Accountability (CCWG-Accountability) shall be having a day-long open session to discuss accountability-enhancing topics that were left for Work Stream 2.

At the end of ICANN55, the chartering organizations and the ICANN Board approved Work Stream 1 recommendations. A detailed analysis of these recommendations can be found here. Along with the IANA Stewardship Transition Proposal, the CCWG-Accountability Work Stream 1 Report was then transmitted to the U.S. National Telecommunication and Information Administration (NTIA) to be reviewed. In the mean time, Work Stream 1 implementation was in full swing, with the ICANN Board passing a resolution to adopt the new bylaws, which were amended to reflect the changes recommended by the proposals. With this, the final step of the transition was completed from ICANN’s end. On June 10th, it was announced that the proposals met the criteria set out by the NTIA, and was therefore accepted by the Executive Branch of the U.S. Government.

That being done, the focus now shifts to Work Stream 2 topics. These are a list of issues that are necessary to enhance ICANN’s accountability, but not deemed urgent enough to be completed prior to the transition. However, this is not to mean that these topics are any less important. One might even say that some of the most critical accountability issues have been left to be dealt with once the pressure of the transition has been lifted. Taking off from Helsinki, the work will be divided into subgroups on the themes of: Human Rights, Jurisdiction, Transparency, Diversity, SO/AC Accountability, Staff Accountability, Ombudsman, Guidelines on Good Faith Conduct in Participating in Board Removal Discussions and Reviewing the CEP.

Active Policy Development Processes (PDPs)

Since this meeting will be focusing on policy work within ICANN, the PDPs take on an extremely important role, with multiple sessions dedicated to discussing these issues. The three big PDPs to watch out for at ICANN 56 are:

  • New gTLD Subsequent Procedures : This PDP was initiated by the GNSO after the closure of the first round of new gTLD applications. The aim was to evaluate and learn from the experiences of the first round, and make policy recommendations and changes for subsequent rounds. The process began with the setting up of a discussion group that identified issues and areas of policy development for subsequent procedures. This process then culminated in the preliminary issue report and the final issue report. The GNSO Council then passed a resolution to initiate the PDP and set up a working group. More information on this PDP can be found here.
  • Next Generation gTLD Registration Directory Service (RDS) : This Board-initiated PDP is the latest step in 15 years of efforts to develop a stronger WHOIS policy. WHOIS discussions usually revolve around issues of accuracy, purpose, availability, privacy, anonymity, cost, policing, intellectual property concerns and malicious use. This PDP will be analysing all these issues, with the aim of answering these questions- (1) what are the fundamental requirements for gTLD registration data; and (2) is there a need for a new RDS to replace the existing WHOIS policy. This work is expected to take place over three phases. More information on this PDP can be found here.
  • Review of All Rights Protection Mechanisms in All gTLDs: Since the new gTLD Program, several new Rights Protection Mechanisms (RPMs) have been developed taking into account potential trademarks concerns that could arise from the increase of gTLDs: the Uniform Rapid Suspension Dispute Resolution Procedure (URS); the Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH) and the associated availability through the TMCH of Sunrise periods and the Trademark Claims notification service; and the Post-Delegation Dispute Resolution Procedures (PDDRPs). This focus of this PDP is to conduct a review of all RPMs in all gTLDs in two phases: Phase One will focus on a review of all the RPMs that were developed for the New gTLD Program, and Phase Two will focus on a review of the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP). More information on this PDP can be found here.

Being the first of its kind, it will be interesting to see how well this new meeting structure works, especially in the absence of public sessions and public Board meetings. Watch this space for more updates from the meeting over the coming days.

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