9 April 2001
by Bret Fausett, WG-D Chair
Dear Members of the Names Council:
On tomorrow's call, you will be considering the report of Working Group D, which I was privileged to Chair, on the procedures and operations of DNSO Working Groups. A copy is linked from here:http://www.dnso.org/wgroups/wg-d/Arc02/msg00001.html
As background for that report, I wanted to provide you with a brief introduction about why, in my personal opinion, working groups are important, and in some instances, even may be necessary.
First, let me state the obvious: Working Groups are not the most efficient way to reach decisions. They can be noisy, cumbersome and slow. The rules you will see set out in the document linked above, however, are designed to minimize the problems associated with Working Groups, making them productive places to develop policy initiatives.
Whatever problems may still exist after the adoption of these rules, however, Working Groups are *extremely effective* at identifying the universe of issues that need to be considered on a given problem and developing tentative recommendations about how to address those issues. As such, Working Groups are an excellent first step in the policy development process.
Second, in some instances, a Working Group process may be preferable to a task force or some other small group. One of the primary goals of the ICANN consensus policy-making process is to bind a recalcitrant participant to a consensus policy on which it does not agree. For example, the ICANN-accredited registries and registrars are only bound to consensus policies that are supported by:
a written report and supporting materials (which must include all substantive submissions to the Supporting Organization relating to the proposal) that (i) documents the extent of agreement and disagreement among impacted groups, (ii) documents the outreach process used to seek to achieve adequate representation of the views of groups that are likely to be impacted, and (iii) documents the nature and intensity of reasoned support and opposition to the proposed policy.
While open Working Groups are not the only means for the "outreach process" described in the contracts, they are the most open, broad-based mechanism available for bottom-up decision-making. The risk of implementing a policy process that involves fewer participants or that lacks a meaningful opportunity for participation is that it will not stand up to a legal challenge by a party who wishes to contest the legitimacy of an ICANN consensus policy. The Working Group process potentially provides one of the best mechanisms for meeting the consensus requirements in many of the ICANN contracts, and the reports specified in the Working Group D report are designed to meet the rigors of the definition above.
The Working Group D recommendation should be revised from time to time as we gain more experience about how these groups perform, but I hope that the NC will not abandon the open Working Group format. Indeed, using the rules set forth in the Working Group D proposal, it is my personal hope that the NC will soon create working groups for the UDRP review, multilingual issues, and a review of the new TLD process and testbed results, among other topics..
Thank you for your consideration, and if you have any questions about the report, please feel free to post to the Working Group D mailing list at firstname.lastname@example.org.
-- Bret Fausett
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