Working Group

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A Working Group (WG) is defined as a group of individuals or experts in a particular field who came together to achieve specific objectives. Different organizations like the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers and the Internet Engineering Task Force created different working groups to accomplish specific purposes. Based on RFC 2418, Working Groups are created to address specific problem or to produce one or more specific deliverables such as guidelines, standards or specifications. Working groups operate for a short period of time, generally until the completion of its goal. Its term may also be terminated for any other reason.[1]

Organizations like IETF, ICANN, etc. determine if there is a need or if it is appropriate to create a working group in order to resolve certain issues. Any organization provides guidelines and defines the criteria in establishing a working group. Every working group has a charter, which serves as an agreement between the working group and the organization. It contains the specific assignments of the working group that needs to be fulfilled.

ICANN Working Groups

ICANN's supporting organizations have different working groups tasked to address or resolve different issues. Membership of the ICANN working groups are open to individuals within the ICANN community who are willing to volunteer their expertise on certain issues. The decision whether it is necessary to form a working group for policy development is decided by ICANN's Supporting Organizations or Advisory Councils. Discussions and meeting of working groups are properly documented and translated using the 5 United Nations languages so that non-English speaking members of the Internet community may participate. Any decision or recommendation made by a working group are evaluated by the SO and the ICANN Board.[2]

The First ICANN Working Group

Historically, the first working group was created on June 12th, 1999, during the transition period of the management of the domain name system from the US government to ICANN. The interim DNSO Names Council of ICANN formed Working Group A to examine Chapter 3 of the WIPO's recommendations regarding the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy. Amadeu Abril i Abril of Nominalia and Jonathan Cohen of Federation International des Conseils en Propriete Industrielle were appointed co-chairs of Working Group A. Its initial members include: [3]

Working Group A was criticized by University of Miami Law Professor Michael Froomkin, he described the working group as a failure and that it was not properly constituted based on ICANN rules. He cited that working group A was not properly representative of each of the constituencies within the DNSO, which is a requirement under ICANN rules. According to him, the working group was further manipulated and railroaded by the chairman, by creating sub-groups, and minimizing and disenfranchising input.[4]

Despite criticisms, subsequent Working Groups were also created by the DNSO Names Council on June 25, 1999, to perform specific tasks such as:

  • WG B - Protection on famous trade-marks
  • WG C - Creation of new gTLDs
  • WG D - DNSO business plan and internal procedures
  • WG E - Global awareness and Outreach

GNSO Working Group Guidelines

On March 31, 2010, the DNSO's successor, the Generic Names Supporting Organization, proposed the creation of guidelines for working groups as part of its objective to improve its structure and operations. The main purpose of the GNSO Working Group Guidelines is to help the members of working groups/working teams to be able to deliver productive and effective results.[5] On January 18, 2011, the proposed GNSO Working Group Guidelines were published, and subsequently were approved by the Policy Process Steering Committee. The public comment period lasted until February 8, 2011.[6]

Based on the GNSO Working Group Guidelines, once a decision is made to form a working group, a call for volunteers should be announced and published within the internet community worldwide and through ICANN's websites, stakeholder groups, supporting organizations and advisory committees, etc. to call for volunteers to ensure that its membership will be properly represented. Stakeholder groups and constituencies must have representatives within the WG. This WG Guidelines may be also be adopted by other Chartering Organizations.

The membership application is received by the Chartering Organization Secretariat or their representatives. Applicants are required to submit expressions of interest, which will be verified by the secretariat. Upon verification, a confirmation of receipt will be sent accompanied by a request for Statement of Interest (SOI) as mandated by the GNSO Operating Procedures Chapter 5.0. Further instruction will be sent to applicant regarding Disclosure of Interest (DOI) and other matters.

The ICANN Staff is responsible in coordinating and planning the first meeting with the Chair, Interim Chair or Chartering Organization and providing the members of the working group with relevant background information, historical data before the first meeting.

During the first meeting of the WG, members will be introduced for team building and will be informed that they are expected to operate under the principles of transparency and openness. Members of the WG will also elect their leaders unless a chairman has been appointed by the Chartering Organization. The WG is required to review documents such as the Charter, Working Group Guidelines, Policy Development Process Guidebook, Issues Paper etc.

The GNSO Working Group Guidelines also enumerate the general roles and responsibilities of the working group including the specific duties of the chairman, vice-chairman, liaison and members. The WG members are also expected to ensure the integrity of the process, act based on ICANN's Expected Standards of Behavior set forth by the ICANN Accountability and Transparency Framework, and follow the process on how to deal with a member who is obstructing the efforts of the WG.