ICANN News - ICANN CEO Talks About the New Affirmation of Commitments (2009-10-01)

ICANN was created to help move the domain name system that holds all the names and all the addresses together on the internet globally. Rod Beckstrom - ICANN Chief Executive Officer

And it was meant to transfer that responsibility from the U.S. government into the private sector, into a multi-stakeholder nonprofit organization. And the JPA was set up to assist that transfer and to make sure that transfer was successful.

With the conclusion of the JPA, it means we've hit that target after 11 years and we're now mature enough to move on to the next phase of our global development. So it's a real exciting time for us to enter a whole new level as an organization.

>>How would you characterize the JPA? >>Would you characterize it as a success?

Absolutely. There was a set of milestones that were established specifically around engaging different stakeholder communities: the addressing groups around the world, the ISPs, the registrars, the registries, and cultivating those communities and getting them engaged in self-governance for the Internet. That has succeeded.

>>JPA is gone. We now have this Affirmation. >>What is this Affirmation?

The Affirmation is an Affirmation of Commitments among the parties effectively for us to have a continued relationship with the United States government, and our commitment to do periodic reviews of our accountability and transparency as an organization of our performance and security and resiliency and in other areas. And we're committing to do those reviews, but in the past under the JPA those reviews were simply submitted to the U.S. government. Under the new relationship, these reviews are developed by what will conventionally be an international committee of parties chosen by the chairman of our Governmental Advisory Committee, who represents 100 countries around the world, and the CEO of ICANN--myself-- or in some cases the chairman of ICANN.

And so what it means is we'll do some reviews-- we're committing to do those--and the United States government will have one seat the table at one of those three sets of reviews, and the rest will be as appointed by these parties, including the Governmental Advisory Committee. So what it really means is we're going global. All the reviews and all the work done will be submitted for public comment to the world. And the United States, just like every other country, will be a recipient of that information through the publication of the results.

But there's no separate or unique or separate reporting to the United States government. All the reporting is to the world; that's the real change. Under the JPA the reporting was just to the U.S. government, and some of it was handled publicly, and now all the reporting is global.

A number of senior U.S. congressional leaders in early August sent us a letter expressing some concerns or things that appeared they wanted us to have in any relationship that might replace the JPA, in this case the Affirmation document. And the Affirmation document takes on all three of the issues that they raised, and I think they should be quite satisfied.

The first was that they wanted to see a long-term or a document with more permanence, a more permanent relationship. That is accomplished. The Affirmation is effectively a perpetual agreement. There are some abilities of the parties to exit, but it is fundamentally a long-standing agreement.

Secondly, they were concerned that ICANN remain on U.S. soil for its headquarter offices. We have reaffirmed our commitment to do that in the Affirmation agreement.

And thirdly, they wanted to make sure that we had adequate accountability for our performance as a private nonsector group. And as discussed already, accountability reviews will be part of what we do every three years from here on out, continuing as an organization under the Affirmation document.

If anyone is concerned about the conclusion of the JPA and is concerned about this move to the Affirmation, they should just open their eyes and look at the world. The internet is spreading everywhere. It's spreading into our PDAs, into our telephones, into our computer classrooms, in huts in Kenya, in the backwoods of Thailand, in the rainforest. The internet is connecting us all, and it's this amazing fabric that's bringing us together as mankind. And it is a global phenomenon.

In addition to the Affirmation agreement, we're moving towards fully supporting different scripts and languages in domain names, and these two efforts will tie together very nicely. But the internet's becoming more global because today you have to type dot com or a dot extension that has English-like or Latin characters, what we call ASCII. In the near future--next year--we'll be rolling out Chinese, Russian, and different languages.

So the Affirmation is our commitment to be global and to report to the global community and then, technologically, we're opening up other pieces of the internet, too. So the primary expansion now is around the world, of course. It's highly saturated in the United States and other advanced countries, and we're seeing tremendous uptake now across Asia and into Africa, Latin America, and all over the world.

The Affirmation of Commitments – What it Means

30 September 2009

The Affirmation of Commitments completes a transition that started 11 years ago ...

When ICANN was created in 1998, with the assistance of the United States Government, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) process was started with the objective of achieving a noble goal: the coordination of the Internet's unique identifiers by the private sector through a not-for-profit organization where policies were developed from the bottom up.

The signing of the Affirmation determines once and for all that this model works.

The JPA was the seventh amendment of the original MOU. Over the years there have been thirteen report cards on performance of responsibilities to the US Department of Commerce alone. So why is the Affirmation of Commitments a further step in progress and internationalization of the ICANN model?

It commits ICANN to remaining a private not for profit organization. It declares ICANN is independent and is not controlled by any one entity. It commits ICANN to reviews performed BY THE COMMUNITY – a further recognition that the multi-stakeholder model is robust enough to review itself.

The Affirmation is of long standing and is not limited to the three years for which previous agreements operated.

The Government Advisory Committee's role is reaffirmed. And the GAC is a key participant in selecting the membership of the review teams.

There is a certain timetable as to when those reviews will take place.

In summary, the Affirmation of Commitments places beyond doubt that the ICANN model is best equipped to coordinate this vital resource and places reviews of ICANN's performance in the hands of the community.

That provides a stable, secure platform into the future that can adapt to changes to the Internet itself.