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Ombudsman is a term given to someone who is in charge of neutrally handling and replying to all the complaints about a particular organization. The former ombudsman for ICANN was Herb Waye; he assumed this position in July, 2016.[1].

ICANN Ombudsman

Responsibilities of the ICANN ombudsman include dispute resolution, filing complaints and taking actions in response to ICANN staff, board or supporting organization decisions.[2] ICANN is required to have a fair and impartial ombudsman.[3] ICANN first filled the position of ombudsman in late 2004.[4][5] The Ombudsman can only be removed by a three-fourths vote of the entire board.[6]


The ICANN ombudsman has the power to access all documents and files. S/he can take action if there is any behavior by ICANN board members and staff that is perceived as unfair, inappropriate, or inconsistent with the organization's Articles and ICANN Bylaws. S/he is required to submit an annual report to the ICANN Board. The ICANN ombudsman must adhere to the standard rules of The Ombudsman Association.[7]

Can Do: The ICANN Ombudsman has jurisdiction over complaints that arise from things that happen within the community. The ombudsman investigates these events and uses ADR techniques to resolve them and make recommendations as to changes. Can address problems with diversity issues, delays within ICANN and the community, unfair procedures in ICANN and the community, bullying, concerns about privacy, and the new gTLD applications and process.

Cannot Do: The Ombudsman cannot make, change or set aside a policy, administrative or Board decision, act, or omission. The Ombudsman cannot investigate issues between a domain name registrar and a domain name holder, nor can the office help with website content or spam or malware.


The independence of the ICANN Ombudsman has been questioned given the fact that is hired and fired by the ICANN Board and reports to the ICANN Chair. There were also complaints that the person filling the role, Frank Fowlie at the time, had an indefinite tenure and was not expected to re-apply or held to any form of term limits.[8]

Complaints Investigated

There was a general disapproval of closed-door meetings convened in November 2012, by new ICANN CEO, Fadi Chehadé, at the bequest of ICANN's Intellectual Property Constituency and Business Constituency, and Ms. Maria Farrell of ICANN's Non-Commercial User Constituency was the first to submit an official complaint to the ICANN Ombudsman.[9] In a public post she went on the explain, "The complaint is not simply about lack of consultation of constituencies, but about secrecy of the process re. notice, transcripts and documentation, and how it undermines the existing processes whilst privileging a particular interest group." The complaint was brought up by the Ombudsman who asked for further input. However, ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé admitted some 2 months later that convening the meetings and producing the Strawman Solution to the Trademark Clearinghouse was the biggest mistake of his first months as CEO.[10]

Previous Ombudsmen

First Ombudsman

Frank Fowlie was selected to be the first ombudsman of ICANN in November, 2004. Mr. Fowlie is a native Canafian; he has over 20 years of experience as an ombudsman and conflict resolution officer for different companies in Canada and The USA.[11] After 6 years of service, Frank Fowlie resigned from his post in early 2011, he said that he was tired of the traveling requirements.[12]

Herb Waye served as the Interim Ombudsman following Mr. Fowlie's resignation.[13]

Second Ombudsman

On July 28th, 2011, ICANN appointed Chris LaHatte as its new ombudsman. Chris is a senior mediator and lawyer. He obtained his graduate degree in law from University of Auckland. He also studied dispute resolution from Massey University. He lives in New Zealand where he practices law. He is a Fellow of the Arbitrators and Mediators Institute of New Zealand and a mediator for the New Zealand Law Society. He is also a construction law adjudicator.[14]

When assuming the position of Ombudsman, Mr. LaHatte said that he hoped to help work on effective cross-cultural communication within ICANN, and was also noted that he was preparing for disputes related to the new gTLD program.[15]

Chris LaHatte was dealing with twice as many complaints as his predecessor as of January 2012, though many of these are issues that he must refer elsewhere as they fall outside his own jurisdiction.[16]

In December 2012, he called for community feedback related to investigations into closed-door discussions about Trademark Clearinghouse.[17]

LaHatte completed his service as Ombudsman in July 2016, and was succeeded by Herb Waye.[18]

External Links