First ASO Organizational Review

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The First ASO Organizational Review (ASO1) was conducted in 2011, with implementation of improvements continuing through 2014.[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 Address Supporting Organization is one of the organizations subject to the review requirements of Article 4.4.[3] The ASO functions are performed by the Number Resource Organization (NRO) under memoranda of understanding with ICANN and the Regional Internet Registries. Under the memorandum of understanding with ICANN, the NRO is responsible for implementing reviews that satisfy the requirements of Article 4.4 of the ICANN Bylaws.[4]

Initiation and Review Process

The NRO posted an RFP for an independent examiner in December 2010.[1] The RFP offered guidance regarding the objectives and parameters of the review, as well as application guidance.[5] The NRO selected ITEMS International to conduct the review in January 2011.[6]

Review Scope and Differences from other Article 4.4 Reviews

Article 4.4 reviews focus on three key questions, starting with whether the organization being reviewed serves a continuing purpose within ICANN. NRO's RFP folded that initial question into two topics for inquiry:

  1. an assessment of the performance of the ASO in accordance with its constituent documents; and
  2. whether any change in its structure or operations is desirable to improve its effectiveness (including the question of whether the ASO has a continuing purpose within ICANN).[5]

Although the scope is functionally equivalent, there were some differences in process and logistics from standard organizational reviews. In its final report, ITEMS identified the distinctions between the NRO's conduct of the ASO1 review and the standard ICANN method:

The NRO’s review mechanism differs from the SIC mechanism in at least the following respects:

  • The RFP was drafted by the NRO, not the SIC;
  • In addition to ICANN’s general goals for the reviews of its SOs and ACs a specific requirement was added to assess the performance of the ASO, in accordance with its constituent documents;
  • The SIC did not create a Working Group for the ASO Review; and
  • The ASO Review process was overseen by the NRO.[7]


ITEMS utilized a three-prong approach to data collection:

  1. face-to-face interviews with over 100 individuals within the community and RIRs;
  2. an online survey conducted between September and November 2011;[8] and
  3. reviewers attended RIR meetings in each of the five ICANN regions, as well as two ICANN meetings.[7]

The reviewers also consulted ASO and NRO foundational documents and conducted an analysis of the objectives and operational capacity of the ASO.[7] The survey received ninety-six responses, which was four short of the goal. However, ITEMS determined that the tally was "a sufficiently large response rate to allow reviewers to discern clear trends of opinion."[7]

Final Report

ITEMS submitted its final report in December 2011.[1] The report contained twenty-six recommendations, divided into eight categories:

  1. Clarification and updating of the current ASO MoU;
  2. Global Policy Development Process (GPDP);
  3. Presence of the ASO at ICANN meetings;
  4. Enhancements to the ASO website;
  5. ASO Procedures;
  6. Recommendations to the ICANN Board;
  7. Recommendations to the NRO Executive Council; and
  8. Joint Recommendations to the ICANN Board and the NRO Executive Council.[7]

Public comment on the ITEMS report was minimal - a total of two commenters, one of which was the NRO itself.[9] The other comment expressed concern that the ASO memorandum of understanding permitted the NRO to oversee the review, which presented a possible conflict of interest.[9] The NRO agreed with or provided no comment on nineteen of the recommendations. Their comments "diverged to varying degrees" with respect to seven of the recommendations. The following recommendations drew the most dissent from the NRO:

  • Recommendation 1: Clarify the purpose, mandate and objectives of the ASO and distinguish between the ASO functions to be undertaken by the Address Council and those to be undertaken by the NRO Executive Council. The NRO responded that these were clearly defined but acknowledged the need to cure some confusion among the ICANN community regarding those topics.
  • Recommendation 2: Update Attachment A of the ASO MoU to ensure that it is consistent with the description of the Global Policy Development Process (GPDP) in the Address Council Operating Procedures (ASO AC OP) document. The NRO argued that the operating procedures should conform to the MoU, not the other way around.
  • Recommendation 5: The signatories of the ASO MoU should agree on a procedure through which the recognition of the ability of the ICANN Board to request the Address Council to initiate a policy development process through the RIRs would be provisioned. The NRO stated that the ICANN Board was already empowered to start a PDP (in Annex A of the MoU), and that the Address Council had agreed to develop procedures for such an occurrence.

The other comments contained clarifying statements or other minor disagreements with the report's characterization of the status quo.[9]

Board Action and Implementation

The ASO1 dashboard states that the ICANN Board received and initiated actions on the report on May 3, 2012,[1] however there is no record of such action in the board meeting minutes from 2012.[10]

In April 2013, the NRO and the Board met at ICANN 46 in Beijing to discuss the status of implementation of recommendations.[11] In November 2013, Paul Wilson, chair of the NRO Executive Council, sent a letter to the Structural Impovements Committee reporting on implementation progress. The letter stated that twenty-one of the recommendations had been implemented and were now complete.[12] In June 2014, the NRO sent another status report regarding the implementation of improvements. The report noted that there were only two open action items remaining.[13] In November 2014, the board designated the review as complete and instructed ICANN staff to continue developing plans for additional support that was requested in Paul Wilson's November 2013 letter.[14] Implementation has been deemed complete.[1]