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What does Neelie Kroes know about multistakeholderism?

Kevin Murphy, October 15, 2013, 09:17:19 (UTC), Domain Policy

European Commission vice president Neelie Kroes wants “your ideas on how the Internet should be governed and what Europe’s role should be.”

In a survey launched last week, Kroes, who has special responsibility for the “digital agenda” in Europe, criticized ICANN’s “multi-stakeholder” process.

She solicited suggestions on how governments should be treated within ICANN, and asked “How can a move from unilateral to multilateral accountability be realised?”

Kroes said on her blog (link in original):

we also must have a clearer view of what we mean when we speak of “multi-stakeholder processes”. I worry that without a clear definition, everyone will claim that their decision processes are inclusive and transparent, when in practice they are not – as was shown recently, when the Governmental Advisory Committee of ICANN pressed on regardless – in spite of the EU’s legitimate concerns on new domain names.

Let’s parse this.

On the one hand, Kroes is stating that ICANN’s process is not “inclusive and transparent”.

On the other, she’s linking to her own demands for special privileges for the European Commission in the debate over whether wine producers need special protections in the new gTLDs .wine and .vin.

I reported on Kroes letter a month ago.

As the letter and the public record makes plain, the GAC had originally asked ICANN for more time in order to consider whether the .wine protections were warranted.

In the end, the GAC was unable to reach a consensus on the matter and advised ICANN accordingly.

With no GAC consensus, ICANN has no mandate to act.

But Kroes wants ICANN to delay the .wine and .vin applications anyway, based on little more than the European Commission’s unilateral demands.

Is her definition of a “multi-stakeholder” process one in which individual governments get to override the consensus of dozens of governments? It certainly looks that way.

And it wouldn’t be the first time Kroes has tried to usurp the multi-stakeholder process in order to get what she wants.

Back in June 2011, she called for ICANN to be reformed because she didn’t like the fact that ICANN did not accept all the GAC’s advice when it approved the new gTLD program.

A month earlier, she privately wrote to the US Department of Commerce — which controls the DNS root server — to ask that it refuse to delegate the recently approved .xxx gTLD.

That would have been an unprecedented and worrying move by Commerce, and naturally it declined.

But the fact that Kroes even asked makes me wonder how serious she is about “multistakeholderism”.

It’s a newish term, poorly defined, but reason dictates that it means you can’t always get what you want.

Kroes blog post is available here. More information about her call for comments can be found here.

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Comments (1)

  1. laca says:

    Multi-stakeholderism is not a “newish” term. It may be a model adopted relatively recently by the internet governance community, but it is not new to the real world.

    Using a structure that actively solicits “stakeholder input” in order to establish “ownership” and achieve a “win-win outcome” is a business model/structure/philosophy that developed out of post-modernism over 50 years ago. During the latter part of the last millenium, businesses tried this model and it failed them.

    Back in the late 1980s, I spent over ten years working for an organization with over 5000 employees. My job as the Director of Human Resource Development and Training was to teach this multi-stakeholder model to all 5000 employees. I had an opportunity to see its failings, in detail, over and over again.

    Multi-stakeholderism is not new. It is old, it is tried, and it is failed. It is a product of the Baby-Boomer consciousness–one that will hopefully die when the baby boomers die.

    I do believe that, in the future, .xxx will become a Harvard case-study representing the failure of multi-stakeholderism and that ICANN will be seen as the model’s last proponent.

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