[ga] Discussion Paper: At-Large "Nominations"
There are times when the ICANN Board states a reason for a given action that,
while seemingly plausible, does not appear to truly reflect the actual
thinking of the Board. In other words, the stated reason seems to hide the
true considerations that prompted the decision.
The recent resolution to cancel upcoming elections for At-large directors is
one such example. The Board publicly stated that it was prompted by concerns
about capture, identity verification processes, and by the validity,
fairness, representativeness, affordability and practicality of global online
elections... a lot of verbiage outlining concerns that had already been
sufficiently discounted by both major groups that had investigated the
At-Large election issues, the ALSC and NAIS.
What is most likely the truth of the matter?
We know that an election process will invariably draw highly vocal critics of
ICANN. We also know that in a climate where it is fashionable to hate the
ICANN organization such critics have an extremely high chance of being
elected by the voting members of the general public. The ICANN Board was
facing the very real political prospect of having half of their Board
potentially populated by their worst critics. There are those on the current
Board that view such a prospect as destabilizing and "not in the best
interests of the Corporation" -- essentially they strongly maintain the view
that such a Board composition would thoroughly paralyze the organization, and
no way in Hell would they ever allow such a development to proceed unchecked.
The elections were cancelled for pretty much the same reasons that national
governments on occasion choose to cancel an election cycle -- fear of the
potential success of the rival opposition party, and the sentiment that a
government that included in great measure such nefarious elements would
ill-serve the nation's needs. The motivation may be misguided but it still
is, in one sense, almost patriotic.
I will not argue as to the relative validity of the motivations that prompted
the Board's action. My intent here is to determine a proper course of action
that may yet preserve the At-Large while still respecting the Board's
Being pragmatic, we have to realize that this Board still wields the power
and still controls the process. Yes, there are those that believe that if
sufficient pressure is exerted upon Congress, a successor agency to ICANN
will be designated, or at the very least the ICANN contracts will be re-bid.
I, however, have a different sense of the political landscape... as long as
ICANN doesn't thoroughly screw up in the days ahead, the Department of
Commerce will honor the stated attempt to reform/restructure this
organization as an activity undertaken in good faith, and will convince
Congress that the DoC is sufficiently diligent in their oversight role to
ensure that Congress's concerns will be satisfied. ICANN will survive yet
another day in an amended form.
The issue we now face is how to obtain the necessary complement of At-Large
directors in a manner that does not ostensibly "threaten" the currently
seated Board. If the Board can feel a necessary "comfort level" with the
next set of At-Large directors, then the Board's perceived need to reduce the
level of At-Large representation from that which was originally promised
All of us that participated in the "clean-sheet study" process understood
that the ALSC never had a documented "consensus" to reduce the number of
At-Large directors -- that recommendation was simply a poorly designed
subterfuge to conceal the fact that the Committee believed that the Board
would only accept ongoing At-large elections if the number of At-Large
directors was reduced to a "controllable" amount.
As it turned out, even that reduced amount of directors proved to be an
unacceptable risk to the current Board. The ALSC miscalculated, and
elections were cancelled.
That brings us to our present state of affairs...
If we are to have our full complement of At-large directors, we must first
recognize the risk that open elections pose to the Board, and secondly we
must craft an alternative process that will both be acceptable to the Board
and which will effectively meet the needs of the broader At-Large community.
In an earlier recommendation, I have already proposed an election plan based
on a quantifiable subset of the At-Large. In this recommendation, I consider
the merits of the nomination process as the only other remaining option.
The key issue is: if we have to resort to nominations of At-Large Directors,
who will be making the nominations? The At-Large Community will rightfully
feel betrayed if such nominations are made by either a Board Committee, or by
the non-At-Large directors on the Board. The one solution that is eminently
logical and reasonable is for all At-large directors to nominate their own
replacements (with the suggested caveat that no director may select a
replacement from his/her own country).
At this point in time, I believe that the Board is sufficiently comfortable
with the judgement of the bulk of its At-large directors to not feel
threatened by the prospect that they will select poor replacements (and even
should such a "poor" selection be made by any one or two At-Large directors,
such new Board members would invariably become a very "manageable" minority
element). The At-large community, by the same token, should be able to feel
comfortable with the fact that their own representatives will be making a
well-considered choice that serves to guarantee geographic/cultural
diversity. Most obviously, the informed electorate that formerly would have
voted now becomes able to lobby its representative in favor of certain
candidates. No... a vote is not held, but nonetheless the public can make
its choice of candidates known and can encourage the At-large director to
make the "right choice" through open processes.
I recognize that there are always flaws in any proposal, and that we haven't
accounted for how the currently "non-elected" At-Large directors would
guarantee that their choices added to the cultural/geographic diversity that
we require, but that is why this is a discussion paper...
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