First Accountability and Transparency Review

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The First Accountability and Transparency Review (ATRT1) was conducted between 2010 and 2011, with implementation of recommendations from the review stretching into 2013.[1]


Origin and Purpose of Specific Reviews

The Affirmation of Commitments, an agreement between ICANN and the United States Department of Commerce, establishes ICANN's obligations to perform its duties with specific commitments in mind. All of the commitments bear on public and consumer trust of the organization. ICANN is to perform its functions in a manner that:

  • ensures accountability and transparency of decision-making;
  • preserves the security, stability, and resiliency of the DNS;
  • promotes competition, consumer trust, and consumer choice; and
  • enables access to registration data; and
  • periodically review and assess its performance through the lens of each of the above commitments.[2]

ICANN's board enshrined these commitments (and the associated reviews) in its Bylaws in Article 1 (Mission, Commitments, and Core Values)[3] and in Article 4 (Accountability and Review).[4] Article 4.6 deals with "Specific Reviews," each of which are tied to one of the commitments in the Affirmation of Commitments.[5]

The Organizational Effectiveness Committee of the board oversees the conduct of specific reviews.[6] The ATRT is one such specific review.

ATRT1 Team

ATRT1 was composed of volunteer members: 1 from both the ASO and ALAC; 2 from the ccNSO; 4 from the GNSO; 4 from governments (including 2 ex-officio members); the chair of the ICANN Board; and 1 or 2 independent experts. The GAC's representatives to the ATRT included Manal Ismail, an ex-officio member who is the designated nominee of former GAC chairman Janis Karklins and serves as vice-chair of ATRT1, Fabio Colossanti from the EU and Xinsheng Zhang from China.

ATRT1 Process and Findings

The call for volunteers for ATRT1 was published on January 11, 2010.[7] The review team determined that an independent expert would be useful, and issued a request for proposals in June 2010.[8] In August 2010, the team selected the Berkman Center for Internet and Society as its independent expert for ATRT1.[9] They also divided into topic-driven working groups focusing on:

  1. Board performance;
  2. GAC Role in decision-making;
  3. Community and stakeholder engagement; and
  4. Independent review of board decisions.[9]

Public Comment Process - Questions to the Community

The review team composed a list of questions for the community[10] and published them for public comment. Twenty-eight responses were received.[11]

Berkman Center Findings

The Berkman Center's report to the review team was submitted in October 2010.[12] The report offered three summary findings:

  1. ICANN's performance regarding transparency is currently not meeting its potential across all areas reviewed and shows deficits along a number of dimensions. It calls for clearly defined improvements at the level of policy, information design, and decision making.
  2. ICANN has made significant process in improving its public participation mechanisms gets high marks regarding its overall trajectory in this regard. Remaining concerns about the practical impact of public participation on Board decisions are best addressed by increasing visibility and traceability of individual inputs, in order to clarify how these inputs ultimately factor into ICANN decision-making processes.
  3. ICANN's greates challenge ahead, despite significant recent efforts, remains corporate and Board governance. Proposed measures identified in this report aim to increase efficiency, transparency and accountability within the current context and in the absence of standard accountability mechanisms.[12]

ATRT1 Draft Recommendations

The review team consolidated the Berkman Center findings, along with the comments to its questions, and drafted a set of proposed recommendations for public comment.[13] The report presented the research results of each working group, as well as findings from the Berkman Center and review and analysis of the responses to the community questionnaire.

Fifteen total comments, from thirteen commenters, were received on the draft recommendations.[14]

Final Report and Implementation

The review team submitted its final report to the ICANN Board on December 31, 2010.[15] The report included twenty-seven recommendations, mainly divided across the four topic areas described above.[15] The report was also submitted for public comment, and received a total of ten substantive comments.[16]

Regarding the GAC's role, effectiveness, and interaction with the Board, the ATRT recommended the following:

  • The GAC-Board Joint Working Group needs to clarify what constitutes GAC public policy "advice" under the Bylaws.
  • After establishing the formal context of GAC public policy "advice," the ICANN Board should develop a more formal documented process to notify and request GAC advice regarding public policy issues.
  • ICANN should be proactive in requesting GAC advice in writing. Documentation of requests should be housed in a database, including the request and all advice received by ICANN from the GAC.
  • The Board and GAC should work together to ensure that GAC advice is provided and considered on time.
  • The Board should establish a joint working group to formally document the process through which ICANN responds to GAC advice. The process must require ICANN to provide specific information in a timely manner regarding its position, whether it agrees or disagrees with GAC advice, and for both parties to find mutually acceptable solutions in good faith. The Board and GAC must also establish strategies to ensure that relevant provisions in the Bylaws are met.
  • The Board should develop and implement mechanisms to engage the GAC earlier in the policy development process.
  • The Board and GAC should work together to create and implement actions to ensure that GAC is well informed regarding ICANN's policy agenda. Both parties should also consider creating/evaluating the role and necessary skills of the ICANN Support Staff to ensure that effective communication is provided.
  • The Board is encouraged to increase the level of support and commitment to the GAC process by: encouraging member countries, particularly developing countries, to participate in GAC deliberations; providing multilingual access to ICANN records; and developing a process to identify how and when ICANN deals with senior government officials on public policy issues on a regular or collective basis to complement the GAC process.

At its January 25, 2011 board meeting, the ICANN Board accepted the report and directed ICANN staff to formulate and propose an implementation plan.[17] On June 24, 2011, the board approved all recommendations but one (which required an independent study to assess its feasibility), and announced a plan to maintain regular updates on the implementation of the recommendations.[18]

In January 2013, the Board posted its final update on implementation proceedings, noting the work that had been completed in 2012 and providing summary updates on all twenty-seven recommendations from ATRT1.[19] ICANN considers ATRT1 to be complete.[1]