ICANN Governance

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ICANN Governance encompasses how the ICANN Board and organization as a whole pursue ICANN's Mission. The overarching governance of ICANN can be broken down into several areas of interest, including the Board, the Multistakeholder Model, ICANN's agreements with external Internet entities, and the organization's finances, planning, and correspondence with non-ICANN parties. As recently as July 18, 2018, the governance guidelines, which define and shape the roles ICANN and its bodies, were amended,[1] as the document is subject to refinement or changes whenever necessary.[2]

Board Governance

The running of the ICANN Board is guided by a Code of Conduct, and Board members must abide by a conflict of interest policy, submit a statement of interest, report lobbying activity to the United States House of Representatives and the Secretary of the U.S. Senate each quarter, and continue to implement the decisions that resulted from a three-phase review of the Board's Conflicts of Interest and Ethics practices, a summary of which can be found here.

Officers and Executive Functions

While the Board is responsible for the strategic and policy direction of ICANN, the implementation and the Board's plans are the responsibility of ICANN's Officers.[3] The ICANN President serves as the Chief Executive Officer of ICANN, and is responsible for "all of its activities and business.[3]" The President and their delegates perform supervisory functions over all other ICANN employees.[3]

Multistakeholder Model

Main article: Multistakeholder Model

The Multistakeholder Model is fundamental to ICANN's governance and the organization's role in Internet governance.


ICANN operates by entering into either Transition or Implementation agreements with Internet operation-related parties. Transition agreements refer to those which facilitate ending the U.S. Government's role in the Internet number and name address system while maintaining the stability of its operation.[4] This category includes

  • The Memorandum of Understanding/Joint Project Agreement with the U.S. Department of Commerce and its six amendments and one modification,
  • Agreement with the University of Southern California,
  • IANA Function Contracts,
  • Root-Nameserver Agreements, and
  • InterNIC Agreement.

Implementation Agreements refer to policies adopted through the ICANN process, which are implemented through the agreement of Internet operation-related entities. This category includes the March 1, 2000 IETF/ICANN Memorandum of Understanding concerning the Technical Work of the IANA and 13 supplementary agreements to the original IETF/ICANN MoU.


The Office of Finance directs ICANN's Board, management, staff, and community on financial decisions, manages the organization's financial resources, reports on the organization's financial performance, and sets ICANN's financial guidelines, policies, and procedures.[5]


A significant part of operationalizing ICANN's governance depends on a Planning Process that involves a three-prong approach. The cycle is continuous, and the steps overlap. The main components consist of the Strategic Plan, the Five-Year Operating Plan, and the Annual Operating Plan & Budget. Each cycle culminates with an Achievement & Progress Report.

Planning Components

Strategic Plan

The Strategic Plan is updated every five years and relies on community input to shape ICANN's mission, priorities, budget, and activities. ICANN is currently operating according to the 2021-2025 Strategic Plan, which includes five strategic objectives:

  1. Strengthen the security of the Domain Name System and the DNS Root Server System, which entails:
    • Improving shared responsibility of upholding the security and stability of the DNS;
    • Strengthening DNS operational governance;
    • Identifying and mitigating security threats to the DNS with the help of hardware, software, and service vendors; and
    • Making the DNS root zone key signing and distribution services and processes more robust.
  2. Improve the effectiveness of ICANN’s Multistakeholder Model of governance, which entails:
    • Making ICANN’s bottom-up decision-making process more effective and quicker;
    • Fostering more active and informed stakeholder participation; and
    • Increasing openness, inclusivity, accountability, and transparency.
  3. Evolve the unique identifier systems in coordination and collaboration with relevant parties to continue to serve the needs of the global Internet user base, which entails:
    • Fostering competition, consumer choice, and innovation by readying stakeholders for Universal Acceptance, IDN implementation, and IPv6;
    • Better assessing and responding to new technologies impacting the security, stability, and resiliency of unique identifier systems;
    • Delivering the IANA functions; and
    • Ensuring a new round of gTLDs is responsibly funded, managed, risk-evaluated, and consistent with ICANN processes.
  4. Address geopolitical issues impacting ICANN’s mission to ensure a single and globally interoperable Internet, which entails:
    • Identifying and addressing global challenges and opportunities by further developing early warning systems (e.g., ICANN Legislative and Regulatory Development Reports[6]); and
    • Building alliances in the Internet ecosystem to fulfill ICANN’s mission and policymaking.
  5. Ensure ICANN’s long-term financial sustainability, which entails:
    • Implementing a supportive five-year Financial Plan;
    • Developing reliable and predictable funding projections;
    • Optimizing operational costs; and
    • Ensuring that ICANN reserves are continuously set, reached, and maintained.[7]

Five-Year Operating Plan

The Five-Year Operating Plan is developed with community input and updated annually.

Annual Operating Plan & Budget

The Annual Operating Plan is derived from the Five-Year Operating Plan.

Achievement & Progress Report

The Achievement & Progress Report communicates performance metrics through Quarterly Reports toward the aim of ICANN Accountability & Transparency.


There are three types of correspondence. They may come from ICANN leadership, involve developments in the ICANN Empowered Community, or concern Data Protection/Privacy.[8][9][10]