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ICANN might be a director light after election stalemate

Kevin Murphy, August 29, 2023, 18:19:14 (UTC), Domain Policy

Months of internecine bickering have led to ICANN facing the possibility that it might enter its 25th anniversary meeting this October without a properly elected director in one seat of the board.

Chair Tripti Sinha has written to (pdf) the heads of the Non-Commercial Stakeholder Group and Commercial Stakeholder Group — and then published the letter, no doubt to light a fire under their arses — to demand they name their candidate for Seat 14 on the board.

The name was due under ICANN’s bylaws by April 26, which is six months before the Hamburg AGM, she said.

Without an appointment, any newly picked director won’t be able to participate in training and meetings to help them hit the ground running at the conclusion of ICANN 78’s AGM, she said.

Seat 14 is selected by the Non-Contracted Parties House. That’s every participant in the GNSO that is not a registry or registrar. It comprises the NCSG and CSG. The incumbent director is Matthew Shears, first picked in 2017.

The CSG has made it clear that it does not want Shears, the NCSG’s initially preferred candidate, reappointed for a third term. It seems the group is unhappy with his performance. It has also rejected alternate Rafik Dammak.

The NCSG meanwhile rejected CSG preference Mark Datysgeld, saying he lacks ICANN experience.

The problem seems to be election rules (pdf) agreed to by the two SGs in 2018 that requires them to reach a “consensus” on a candidate, which can be difficult when by definition they have two fundamentally opposing policy goals.

There may also be confusion about whose “turn” it is to pick a candidate. As the names of the SGs suggests, the two groups represent diametrically opposed interests, so there’s been an informal agreement to rotate nominations between the SGs. The question is whether NCSG/Shears’ turn has ended, or whether he gets the full nine years.

Eight months after the NCPH leaders started to discuss Seat 14, there appears to be four candidates currently under consideration, albeit only at the very early interview phase of the process.

The CSG has put forward Khaled Koubaa and Ihab Osman as candidates. The names are notable as they’re both previous ICANN directors who each served a single term as Nominating Committee appointees (until 2019 and 2022 respectively).

The NCSG has picked “ICANN Policy Ninja” Amr Elsadr and Chris Buckridge, a policy guy from the Regional Internet Registry world, as its two nominees.

With three Africans in the mix, there’s a possibility that next year’s NomCom may have more freedom than usual when trying to fill its geographic diversity quota. None of the slate are female.

Right now, with voting not yet underway, it seems the chances of the two SGs settling on a consensus candidate before Sinha’s end-of-August deadline are close to zero.

ICANN’s general counsel John Jeffrey wrote to (pdf) the NCPH heads back in May to remind them that their nomination was a month late and that any failure to pick a new director before the AGM would lead to Shears retaining the role while his successor is picked (assuming he wants the gig).

There seems to be some concern among ICANN’s top brass that the deadlock within the NCPH — caused, as so many ICANN conflicts are, by a failure to compromise — might reflect badly on ICANN and the multistakeholder model in general.



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