First ALAC Organizational Review

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The First ALAC Organizational Review (At-Large1) was conducted between 2007 and 2010, with implementation of improvements continuing through 2012.[1]


Article 4.4 of the ICANN Bylaws requires periodic review of all supporting organizations and advisory committees, as well as the Nominating Committee.[2] The bylaws state three objectives for the review:

  1. to determine whether that organization, council or committee has a continuing purpose in the ICANN structure;
  2. if so, whether any change in structure or operations is desirable to improve its effectiveness; and
  3. whether that organization, council or committee is accountable to its constituencies, stakeholder groups, organizations and other stakeholders.[2]

Organizational reviews are conducted by independent examiners, selected through a competitive bidding process.[2] The independent examiner works in consultation with a working group assembled by the board, who will act as implementation shepherds once the final report of the independent examiner is submitted.[3]The review parameters are set by the ICANN Board, and those parameters as well as other avenues of inquiry are typically included in the request for proposals (RFP) for independent examiners.[2][3] Reviews can take anywhere from three to five years to complete. The full review process includes seven phases, including the implementation of recommendations from the review.[3] Reviews must be conducted at least every five years, measuring from the date that the final report of the previous review was accepted by the ICANN Board.[3] The At-Large Advisory Committee is one of the organizations subject to the review requirements of Article 4.4.[3]

Initiation and Selection of Independent Examiner

The ICANN Board initiated the At-Large1 review in June 2007.[1] The board published an RFP,[4] along with a Terms of Reference (ToR)[5] describing the scope of the review, on June 20, 2007[1]

On January 23, 2008, the board approved two motions: appointing members to the At-Large1 Working group and approving the selection of Westlake Consulting as the independent examiner for the review.[6] Westlake began work in late January or early February, and audited sessions and conducted interviews at ICANN 31 in New Delhi and afterward.[7]

Report of Independent Examiner

Westlake submitted its final report to the board in July 2008.[1] The report contained a total of twenty-four recommendations, based on the fact-finding and analysis conducted by Westlake. The fact-finding included attending ALAC sessions at ICANN 31, interviews with ICANN staff, community members, and ALAC leaders, and research into the mission and purpose of ALAC and other constituent groups within the ICANN structure.[7]

Review Outcomes

Westlake concluded that the ALAC serves an essential purpose within the ICANN structure.[7] A number of recommendations were directed at the second foundational inquiry - whether changes to the structure or operation of the ALAC was desirable. Recommendations included additional staffing and resources from the ICANN organization, an increase in NomCom appointees to the ALAC, and extension of the term of liaison positions to the ICANN Board to two years.[7] With regard to ALAC's effectiveness, the report emphasized the need for annual goal-setting and strategic planning, refinement and increased transparency of the ALS application process, and expansion of multi-lingual communications. Westlake echoed comments received that the ALAC was doing good work regarding outreach and connection with its constituencies, it noted that increases in effectiveness would have a beneficial effect on the overall accountability of the committee to its stakeholders.[7]

Public comment

The report received eleven comments during the public comment period.[8] The ALAC response, authored by Cheryl Langdon-Orr, noted that many RALOs were critical of omissions from the final report:

Generally, from an ALAC perspective, we recognise that the Westlake report has indeed been quite complementary about the work and continuing purpose within ICANN of the current ALAC, and that only relatively minor recommendations for change in structure or operations have been suggested and further more [sic] in the case of several of these the ALAC has already undertaken or is currently addressing the identified issues independently.

On analysis of the aforementioned RALO comments, it is however clear that the report is subject to specific criticism not so much for what it does say (with the notable exception of recommendation 7*) but rather for what it does not. This is best considered to be a fault in the clear communication of outcomes and expectations between the independent consultants and some of their key interviewees early on in the data collection process.

Clearly many in the At-Large community and in the RALOs expected a report that specifically reflected their comments and opinion to a greater degree than this one has.[9]

*Recommendation 7 stated that "The ALAC position on the Board should remain that of a Liaison, with rights to full participation and information, but no voting rights."

Other comments were critical of ICANN's recent decisions regarding reorganization, which they saw as designed to sideline the ALAC and degrade commitment to ICANN's multistakeholder model.[8] Still others saw no point in the ALAC as currently configured and urged a consolidation and devolution of the structure around the committee.[8]

Working Group Activity

The At-Large Review Working Group (ARWG) began work in the months following release of Westlake's final report. In October 2008, the ARWG published a "Mid-Point Consultation Report" for public comment.[10] The goal of the report was to generate discussion, feedback and talking points in the lead-up to ICANN 33 in Cairo.[10] Notably, the report suggested that the ALAC should have two voting chairs on the ICANN Board, as compared to the Westlake report's recommendation that the organization's participation at the board level remain that of a liaison.[10] Public comments on the mid-point report ranged from dismissive of any effort to reform ALAC to strongly supportive of the recommendations in the report.[11] The ICANN 33 session on the review focused primarily on the topics of board seats and properly resourcing ALAC's activities. There was also discussion of how regional and ALS actions, advice, and comments get funneled through ALAC to ICANN.[12]

Following the public comment period and feedback sessions, the working group produced its draft report for public comment in January 2009.[1] The draft report maintained the call for two ALAC-appointed voting seats on the ICANN board.[13] Public comment was largely supportive of the findings and recommendations in the report. The proposal of board representation was supported by the majority of commenters, with some dissent.[14]

Final Report and Implementation

The working group's final report was submitted to the ICANN Board in June 2009.[1] The board acknowledged receipt of the report at the end of June and directed ICANN staff to begin work on an implementation plan for recommendations that could be implemented without further review. The question of board seats was deferred pending board discussions on the appropriate number and composition of both the board and the Nominating Committee.[15] A year later, in June 2010, an implemenation plan was submitted to the Board, with the question of board seats still in limbo.[16] The board requested a summary of the plan at its next regular meeting.[17] The board approved the implementation plan in August 2010.[18]

The final report of ALAC's implementation project team was delivered in June 2012, with all recommendations marked as 100% complete. This included the creation of one board seat (seat 15) appointed by the ALAC.[19]