[council] On Board elections:some unsolicited advice
Dear GNSO Council Members,
I’m writing to you in relation to the upcoming ICANN Board elections
(ie, the selection by the Council of seats 13 & 14 of the “New Board”).
In this regard I have a (probably irrelevant) communication and a some
(blatantly unsolicited) advise.
I’ve been asked by a Council member if I would “seek reelection” (as, it
was said, knowing this would help planning the electoral process). The
answer is quite simple: No, I will not be running for a new Board term.
But it took me some time to explain the reasons for this choice, and ,
also my advice for the Council on how I think that these elections
should be run
Here it is. I grouped the arguments, and summarized my advice at the end
of the mail.
WHY I AM NOT RUNNING
Because I want the New Board to be a better Board than the old one. I do
have a high personal opinion about most if not all the current and past
Directors. But, like it or not, probably the clearest truth about ICANN
is that the Board does not work as it should. There are many reasons for
that, and none amounts to any “conspiracy” whatsoever, but this is the
reality: the Board discusses too little, too often it’s done too late,
most of the times on topics that have nothing to do with DNS or any
other “core topic”, and relate instead to “structure” and “process”; at
the end of the day, we approve whatever comes from the staff (twhere all
of the “intellectual processes” take place, as we all know).
I do insist:; there are a lot of reasons for this, and it is not the
scope of today’s mail .But one, clearly, is inertia. No matter the
qualities of the individuals of any organization, the said organisation
is “more” than the mere sum of those individualities. Certain dynamics
are created, and changing relates more to a drastic change of the
membership (and especially, leadership) than changing its rules and
We have spent a lot of energy in this Reform. If we simply keep going
with the same people at the same places, very few things will change. In
Amsterdam, I publicly advised all ICANN “electoral bodies” to take
seriously the reform and deeply renew the very composition of the Board.
It would be therefore completely incoherent that I seek reelection by
the GNSO at this time. Especially when we know from experience how huge
the advantage of the “incumbents” is (The first elections were, errr, a
model of what they should not be, but the three of us have been
subsequently reelected, and not only because we were the best candidates ;-)
Let me insist on one point: I am not trying to said that the current
Directors are “bad”. Or that the current DNSO-selected Directors do not
deserve being reappointed. I’m not even saying that about myself ;-)
What I am pointing out is that besides the individual qualities of each
one “renewing the Board composition” so as to let it have a fresh start,
a fresh look at the situation. We have this unique change, coupled with
a new CEO. and “gestures”, “symbols” are often more effective than Bylaw
changes. Let’s not miss this chance.
WHAT I WOULD LIKE SEEING FROM THE COUNCIL
There are other considerations besides the clear need to reinvigorate
the Board (and many other areas; but this is the “plat du jour”...). I
really encourage the Council to take the election of the new Directors
with a different approach.
The Council has been more deeply renewed than the Board. Only Ken and
Tony Harris sit here from the very beginning. Add Philip and you have
all of those who were here at the time of the first Board elections. But
all of you know how those, and subsequent, elections, developed. Let’s
agree that we could do better;-) Perhaps not in terms of selecting the
names you sent to the Board (OK, at least tow out of the three ;-). But
the DNSO cannot simply be very proud of those electoral processes...
There are some especific things that I would humbly request the Council
to take into account for the upcoming elections:
* The need to renew the Board as a goal in itself (already explained)
* The need to provide more DNS focus to the Board. Let me explain this one.
ICANN is a strange place, where we seem to play the “musical chairs”
game. Most people look like “sitting” in the place that would suit
better someone else.... Think about the GAC, that for a long time had
lots of members who had absolutely nothing to do with any Governmental
body. Even the Chair, until very recently, was not a Government
official. Similarly the DNSO has elected three directors which are not
closely related with DNS issues as their day jobs. Once again, don’t
think about the individuals. Individually taken, you probably made the
best choices. But the overall package, submerged in the whole Board is,
how would I say it, not intensive enough in DNS issues.
Probably my only real frustration with ICANN is that there has been no
way to get the Board’s real attention to DNS issues. Just remember the
way new TLDs were selected.. (the way, I insist, not necessarily the
outcome). Remember the public discussions about IDN, deletions, grace
periods, WLS, new registry agreements, transfers, WhoIs or any other
topic in this area? Yes, they ranged from non-existing to scaringly
poor... There is within the Board too little real knwoledge of the
technical, business, and “social” implications of DNS issues. Worst even
where there is knowledge (and there is more than shat should be enough)
there is very little interest. Take as you want, but the objective fact
is that the record of the Board with these issues is not encouraging at
all. And if ICANN exists is precisely to deal with these very issues (IP
addresses, or ccTLDs are also important topics, indeed, but the reality
is that they relation to ICANN competences is very different than with
Therefore I request you to seriously consider how the sum of the
Directors you elect can be read in this regard, what sort of “sign” do
you want to send to the whole ICANN with your appointees. Frankly, if it
is not the GNSO who brings a “plus” regarding DNS and especially gTLDs
knowledge and, above all, INTEREST, what do you expect form the other
* The need to be very careful wtih both possible conflict of interests
and personal ambition. Well, you know what I mean. Some of the past
results can be explained by the fear that some candidates had a very
loose sense of conflict of interest. If my general advise is that you
gain DNS focus in the upcoming elections, then you will need to
scrutinize closer than ever the personal attitudes f those individuals,
their individual sense of independence and service. More than ever.
* The need to think at the Council level what sort of “message”, what
sort of Directors you want to send (beyond voting on the individual
names). In the past, the real discussions have taken place at the
Constituencies level. The Council, as such, has just been the place for
the vote. I urge you to think, as a college, not in substitution but in
addition to the Constituencies, about what do you want form these
elections, and, among other things, the points I am making in this post.
MAIN PROBLEM: NOW IS NOT THE TIME TO RUN THE ELECTIONS
If I am not mistaken you intend to run the elections in the
old-fashioned way (with the famous “convention style” mechanism and all
the rest!) starting just now. Sure, this is waht the Transition requires
but.... let’s have a closer look.
Let’s imagine you run the elections. We have two new Directors,
elected... for a very short time? Well, one for about one year, the
other for a couple of years. Good.
But who is electing those Directors? In fact the “old” Council, with the
old membership, and only paritally updated rules. Let me explain.
Before the end of “this” year each constituency has to renew/reaffirm
the Council reps. Within months form now, therefore. This has to be done
regardless of the fact that finally some constituencies see their reps
reduce to two, as provided by the Bylaws, or that, for any reason, they
keep three (but with decreased voting rights regarding registries and
registrars). More importantly, the NomCom has to appoint three Council
members (with voting rigths) and different other parties will elect
non-voting liaisons. Then, we will have the “new” GNSO Council inist
While the Council in its current form has the right to carry such
elections, I submit that it would strongly increase the legitimacy of
the GNSO and the Board if this is done by the “new” Council.
This is a process of re-legitimating ICANN instances and, if you
understand what i mean, it is better to reform the build the house from
the basement, not from the roof: first we elect the NomCom, it sends its
reps to the Council, and helps populating the ALAC that has also to
appont a liaison... Then we re-legitimate the GNSO constituencies reps
within the Council. This Council chooses the GNSO-selected Directors.
Frankly, it would be more elegant.
Let me clarify what i mean. Let’s take a likely scenario. You run your
elections and, say, you re-appoint Alex for a two-years term. And you
appoint someone “new” for the one-year term. One year? No way. Let’s be
honest: past experiences clearly show that getting elected may depend on
a miracle, but being reelected is even trivial. In our complex
“political environment” the incumbent carries a HUGE advantage. So, most
probably you would be selecting your share of the Board for the next
coming four years, at least.
Shouldn’t this be lest to the consideration of GNSO’s “steady” Council?
Wouldn’t it be a sign of the “new attitude” that is as more important
than the new Bylaws?
A related point: the way past elections were run, the realities of DNSO
internal “politics” wre such that only a certain type of people, those
with “political skills” but also having a really thick skin could really
stand. Once again, the DNSO was lucky with the outcome (and i will not
pretend to include any “modesty clause” here). But the way this has been
carried out has prevented some “good” candidates from running. Shouldn’t
you give some thoughts, within the new Council, to different approaches
to these elections, so as to widen the spectrum of suitable candidates?
Dont misunderstand me: the current Council has the right and the
legitimation to carry the elections now and with the mechanism you want
(provided that you sort out the point that you don’t need a majority of
10 votes, as it is stated in the standing proposal, but rather 13, as
six of the Council reps will have two votes each). But in my modest
vies, and trying to learn from our history, I submit that you would
provide a better service to ICANN if you would proceed form bottom to
top and not the reverse, in appointing new officers/Directors, instead
of tying the hands of future shapes of the Council that we don’t know
today how similar or different from the current one will be.
For sure, the GNSO cannot afford that once the NomCom elects its 8
directors and the Transition Board collapses (as the ASO has already
re-appointed two of the current directors for the new terms and then
there would be the required 10 “new” Directors) the Board remains with
no GNSO-elected reps at all during some weeks/months. A stupid sign, yes.
But you can easily deal with that. legally speaking, you cannot limit
the terms of any Director to a different term that those established in
the Bylaws. But you can easily get a commitment from, say, any two of
the current Directors to keep on the Board (formally reelected by the
GNSO Council) for some months until, say, the Annual Board the year, at
which time all the processes above should be long completed. Or any time
prior to that meeting, say, as soon as NomCom and the Constituencies do
their job regarding the Council and the Council itself feels fit to run
the elections). A simple resignation from both Directors at such time
would allow the process to run as it should. And you would get that
Indeed, you could elect somebody else to do that. But it would probably
be less elegant to expect sch behavior (be there for jsut a few months)
from a new face....
Indeed, nothing would prevent that there, with the new Council and,
hopefully, new procedures (if not necessarily new rules) say, Alex or
Jonathan or anyone else declared that they would seek reelection. In any
case, it is formally clear that i would not.
But it is above all a question of the old ICANN playing nice with the
new one. It is a question of not trying to preclude the chocies of the
forms and institutions that will run ICANN from within very little.
In summary, my advice is that:
* The Council spends some time figuring out not just how many votes a
successful candidate needs, but what sort of candidates, what sort of
“message” is the GNSO as such sending to the new Board. The process is
carried at Council level, not only at the constituency level (with the
Council “just” voting).
* You keep three main goals in mind, besides the usual ones of honesty,
energy, dedication etc....
- Renewing the Board, not only re-legitimating it as a goal in itself
- Increased DNS-specific (technical and “market-wise”) skills added
to the Board
- Commitment to have the Board really working, and not just
approving staff proposals
* You choose the build the house from the basement, not from the roof.
This means that the Council won’t run the “real” new elections (ie, you
don’t appoint those who will seat in the Board for the next years until
the “New Council” has been “religitmated”, emaning:
- The NomCom-appointed Council members are already in
- The Constituencies have elected/reaffirmed their Council reps
- The Council has figured out how the “new” voting mechanism (ie,
balanced voting among “contractual providers”/”users” works
* In the meanwhile, and in order to prevent the New Board leaving the
GNSO without appointed Directors you do whatever is simpler from your
perspective from these two options:
- You ask any two out of the three current Directors to stay with
the clear understanding and commitment form both that it is only until
the Annual Meeting 2004, or any such prior time as the conditions above
(specially, the re-composition/re-affirmation of the Council) takes place.
- You appoint one/two new Directors, with the same conditions as
above (if you find somebody wiling to do so who commits not to re-run in
the subsequent election, and is still “useful” for a six-month period
time or so).
Thanks for your attention, and good luck whatever way you go!