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Chehade rules out move to Geneva

Kevin Murphy, April 5, 2014, Domain Policy

ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade yesterday called for an end to “speculation” about plans to move the organization’s headquarters out of US jurisdiction to Geneva, Switzerland.

Responding to a reporter’s question during a panel discussion at the Hudson Institute in Washington DC, Chehade said:

I did not say that I’m moving ICANN to Geneva. This is speculation because we opened an office in Geneva… People conflate things because they’d like to. If you can find a statement saying we’re moving to Geneva I’d like to see it.

I can’t even make that decision. I told you, I can’t even change the coffee, so the board will have to make this decision and the board can’t make this decision without community agreement. And do you think our community will agree to move thousands of contracts we have today that are working marvelously in California to another place? Why would we do that? So let’s stop the speculation on this, I have no plans to move ICANN to Geneva. We have an office in Geneva, that’s the end of it.

The speculation, which DI indulged in following a Swiss newspaper report in February, was not of course only rooted in the fact that ICANN had opened an office in Geneva.

On February 17, ICANN’s board of directors approved the creation of several “President’s Globalization Advisory Groups”, one of which was tasked with looking at ways to:

Establish complementary parallel international structure to enhance ICANN’s global legitimacy. Consider complementary parallel international structure within scope of ICANN’s mandate.

That seemed to indicate pretty clearly that ICANN was looking outside of the US for a “parallel international structure”. Geneva, home of many international organizations, seemed like a prime candidate.

However, just six weeks later, March 27, ICANN’s board dissolved these committees, stating that they were no longer needed in light of the process to transition stewardship of the DNS root away from the US government.

Chehade’s statement, coupled with the board’s resolution, means Geneva appears to be off the cards for now.

Board confirms: ICANN seeks non-US HQ

Kevin Murphy, February 20, 2014, Domain Policy

ICANN’s board of directors has given the clearest indication yet that the organization wants to set up an HQ overseas, further loosening ties with the US government.

The board has formed six new “President’s Globalization Advisory Groups”, made up of half a dozen directors each, one of which has been tasked with advising ICANN on ways to:

Establish complimentary [sic] parallel international structure to enhance ICANN’s global legitimacy. Consider complementary parallel international structure within scope of ICANN’s mandate.

This indicates that ICANN’s reported plan to base itself in Geneva may not be so far-fetched after all, but it also indicates that ICANN currently does not anticipate doing away with its original HQ in Los Angeles.

ICANN already has several offices around the world, but recently there’s been talk of it embedding itself in Switzerland, as an “international organization”, more deeply.

As we’ve previously reported, ICANN may not relocate outside of the US due to its Affirmation of Commitments with the US Department of Commerce, which requires it to remain a US non-profit.

But another of the three panels set up by the board this week will advise ICANN on how to create an “enhanced Affirmation of Commitments.”

Other panels will explore the globalization of the IANA function — currently operated under a procurement contract with Commerce — and the root server system, which is independent operated but heavily US-based.

The ICANN board said in its resolution:

the continued globalization of ICANN must evolve in several ways, including: partnerships in the broader Internet eco-system to strengthen multistakeholder Internet governance frameworks; strengthening ICANN itself, including affirmations of commitments and relationships among the stakeholders; evolving the policy structures to serve and scale to the needs of the global community, and identify opportunities for the future legal structures and IANA globalization.

The plan is for these panels talk to the community at the Singapore meeting next month, before reporting back to the board before ICANN meets for its 50th public meeting in London this coming June.

This week’s move is the latest in a series of decisions made by the ICANN board following the spying revelations of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and the subsequent consternation they caused in capitals around the world.

Brazil is set to host a meeting to discuss these kinds of internet governance matters with ICANN and its coalition of the willing in Sao Paulo this April.

ICANN heading to Geneva after all?

Kevin Murphy, February 14, 2014, Domain Policy

ICANN could wind up being based in Geneva as a result of the current post-Snowden internet governance discussions, according to a report in a Swiss newspaper.

Le Temps, citing several anonymous ICANN sources, reported today that an HQ move from Los Angeles to Geneva was a “very likely scenario”.

That’s as an alternative to allowing its functions to be taken over by the International Telecommunications Union, the paper reported.

It’s not the first time a move to Geneva has been touted.

Back in September, DI rubbished — and ICANN denied — claims that the organization had already put the wheels in motion for a move to Switzerland.

It still appears to be unlikely in the short term, and for the same reason: ICANN’s Affirmation of Commitments with the US Department of Commerce requires it to remain a US non-profit corporation.

But the AoC is now open for discussion again.

Barely a month after the Geneva move was first raised as a possibility, Edward Snowden’s revelations about widespread US spying on internet users had led to the Montevideo Declaration, in which ICANN spoke of the need for further “internationalization” of ICANN.

Later last October, ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade called America’s unique role in ICANN’s oversight “just not sustainable“.

Coming this April, governments, standards bodies, industry and others are set to meet in Sao Paolo, Brazil, for early-stage discussions that may eventually lead to the US cutting ICANN loose.

If ICANN does leave the US, Geneva does seem like the most plausible venue for its headquarters. It already has a small office there and has obtained international non-profit status for its local subsidiary.