ICANN has finally published the letter it controversially drafted for the African Union Commission in order to help it express support for ZA Central Registry’s .africa bid.
Having now read the draft letter for the first time, on balance I’d have to say my previous opinions on its contents were more wrong than right.
The letter was central to claims by rival .africa applicant DotConnectAfrica that ICANN treated ZACR preferentially during the evaluation of both applications.
It was drafted by ICANN staffer Trang Nguyen around June 25, 2013, and sent to ZACR.
It was then edited by ZACR and the AUC, signed by the AUC, and returned to ICANN, whereupon it was forwarded to the new gTLD’s program’s Geographic Names Panel at InterConnect Communications.
The GNP took the letter as an official endorsement of ZACR’s bid, enabling it to pass the Geographic Names Review and proceed to the next stage of the program.
Having seen (and published) the signed AUC letter, I opined here in July that it looked like it had been mostly been written by ZACR and/or the AUC.
I no longer believe that.
It’s now proven that the AUC redraft goes far beyond the “minor edits” that have been claimed by DCA and others — for starters, it’s 40% longer — but a lot of the text that I believed to be ZACR’s work turns out in fact to have come from ICANN.
I’ve put the two letters into a single document (pdf), so you can do a side-by-side comparison if you wish.
There’s still no question that ZACR had African government support for its bid and DCA did not. The dispute centers entirely on whether InterConnect had received expressions of support in the correct format.
An Independent Review Process panel declined to issue an opinion on whether ICANN did anything wrong by drafting the letter, though it is mentioned in its final declaration.
ICANN itself says that it did nothing wrong by drafting the letter, and had DCA had any governmental support it would have done exactly the same thing for it.
The draft letter was among hundreds of pages of documents published last night by ICANN following a Documentary Information Disclosure Process request filed by DI a little over a month ago.