Cross Community Working Group on Enhancing ICANN Accountability

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The Cross Community Working Group on Enhancing ICANN Accountability (CCWG-Accountability) was launched as part of the IANA Functions Stewardship Transition to develop and improve accountability mechanisms within ICANN and its constituent organizations.


The IANA Functions Stewardship Transition was spurred by the NTIA's announcement in March 2014 that they intended to "transition key internet domain functions to the global multistakeholder community."[1] At the time, ICANN was already serving as a contractor to the NTIA to perform those functions. The transition planning required the development of a plan that satisfied NTIA's stated requirements:

  • Support and enhance the multistakeholder model;
  • Maintain the security, stability, and resiliency of the Internet DNS;
  • Meet the needs and expectations of the global customers and partners of the IANA services; and
  • Maintain the openness of the Internet.[1]

ICANN initiated a discussion with the community around the topic of enhancing ICANN accountability and proposed a working group to respond to accountability issues, in May 2014. Before the CCWG was officially formed, public comment was sought on ICANN's "Enhancing ICANN Accountability" brief on its website.[2] A second round of public comment occurred regarding ICANN's posting on the process and next steps in August 2014.[3] In addition, the (Second Accountability and Transparency Review) presented its final report and recommendations in 2014, adding to the volume of community input and policy recommendations regarding accountability.

The CCWG-Accountability was established to develop ICANN-level accountability mechanisms to ensure that the NTIA's criteria were met, as well as to validate and strengthen ICANN's accountability to its stakeholders. As the CCWG's charter makes clear, community support for any transition proposal required improved accountability measures:

During discussions around the transition process, the community raised the broader topic of the impact of the change on ICANN's accountability given its historical contractual relationship with the United States and NTIA. Accountability in this context is defined, according to the NETmundial multistakeholder statement, as the existence of mechanisms for independent checks and balances as well as for review and redress. The concerns raised during these discussions around the transition process indicate that the existing ICANN accountability mechanisms do not yet meet stakeholder expectations. Recent statements made by various stakeholders suggest that current accountability mechanisms need to be reviewed and, if need be, improved, amended, replaced, or supplemented with new mechanisms (see for instance ATRT recommendations) in light of the changing historic contractual relationship with the U.S. Government. Considering that the NTIA has stressed that it is expecting community consensus regarding the transition, a failure to meet stakeholder expectations with regards to accountability may create a situation where NTIA does not accept the IANA transition proposal as meeting its conditions. Thus reviewing ICANN’s accountability mechanisms was considered to be crucial for the transition process.[4]

The chartering organizations for the working group were the ALAC, the ASO, the ccNSO, the GAC, the GNSO, and the SSAC.[4]

Dependencies and Work Streams

The IANA Transition was coordinated by the IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination Group (ICG), whose job was to gather, assess, and consolidate proposals from the three operational communities affected by the work performed by IANA: names, numbers, and protocols. The IETF's IANAPLAN Working Group created the protocol proposal; the Regional Internet Registries assembled the CRISP Team to draft the proposal for the numbers community, and a number of chartering organizations within the ICANN community chartered the IANA Stewardship Transition Cross Community Working Group (CWG-Stewardship) for the development of a proposal for the names community. The functions surrounding numbers and protocols were, in the eyes of the respective operating communities, comparatively straightforward, as were the requirements for oversight. In the names operational community, however, there were multiple larger issues, including ICANN's accountability to fulfill its commitments to stakeholders and the global public interest. As a result, the CWG-Stewardship's transition proposal included both accountability proposals as they related to IANA functions and a number of dependencies upon actions or decisions of the CCWG-Accountability working group. The CCWG-Accountability charter described the interrelationship between the two working groups in this way:

This process on Enhancing ICANN Accountability is taking place alongside a parallel and related process on the transition of the stewardship of the IANA functions through the CWG to Develop an IANA Stewardship Transition Proposal on Naming Related Functions (hereinafter CWG-Stewardship). The CWG-Stewardship’s scope is focused on the arrangements required for the continuance of IANA functions in an accountable and widely accepted manner after the expiry of the IANA Functions Contract. Accountability for the administration of the IANA functions (i.e., implementation and operational accountability) is not within the scope of the CCWG-Accountability as it is being dealt with by the CWG-Stewardship. Nevertheless, the two processes are interrelated and interdependent and should appropriately coordinate their work.[4]

To facilitate a smooth and swift transition of the IANA functions stewardship, the CCWG-Accountability divided work into two streams. Work Stream 1 addressed accountability issues that had to be addressed and resolved prior to the transition of the IANA stewardship from NTIA to the global multistakeholder community. Work Stream 2 focused on "those mechanisms for which a timeline for implementation may extend beyond the IANA Stewardship Transition."[4]

Transforming Contractual Obligations into Institutional Mandates

A common concern raised in the wake of the NTIA's announcement was how to maintain ICANN's accountability to the global Internet community once there was no longer a contract for services between NTIA and ICANN. Similar concerns were raised in relation to the Affirmation of Commitments, which was expected to be terminated either alongside the expiration of the NTIA contract or in the aftermath of the transition of IANA stewardship functions. The working group's charter included an examination of how to ensure ICANN's accountability to the multistakeholder community in the absence of such legal safeguards.[4]

Work Stream 1

main article: CCWG-Accountability Work Stream 1

Work Stream 1 (CCWG-Accountability WS1) was a process for ICANN to facilitate a smooth and swift transition of the IANA functions stewardship. The CCWG-Accountability divided work into two streams. WS1 addressed accountability issues prior to the transition of the IANA stewardship from NTIA to the global multistakeholder community. Work Stream 1 held its first meeting in December 2014.[5]

Work Stream 2

main article: CCWG-Accountability Work Stream 2

Work Stream 2 focuses on mechanisms that could be implemented after the completion of the IANA Functions Stewardship Transition and began in 2016.[6]