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Correction: Sinha’s seat is safe

Kevin Murphy, May 3, 2024, Domain Policy

Last Friday, I speculated that, based on my back-of-the-envelope calculations, ICANN chair Tripti Sinha could find herself ineligible to continue on the ICANN board of directors this November, due to geographic diversity quotas.

My calculations were incorrect, it turns out. While she still needs to be reappointed by the Nominating Committee, Sinha is not limited by the geographic diversity limits. I’ve deleted the article and apologize for the error.

Doria leaving ICANN board a loss for new gTLD program

Kevin Murphy, August 1, 2023, Domain Policy

ICANN’s Nominating Committee has announced its 2023 selections for many of the Org’s leadership positions, and the big shocker is that director Avri Doria is not among the picks.

NomCom said it has reappointed lawyer Sarah Deutsch for a third three-year term, but Doria’s seat is being taken by Catherine Adeya, a Kenyan tech policy expert who describes herself as a “Senior Digital Transformation & Governance Specialist”.

Adeya holds various directorships and was director of research at the World Wide Web Foundation for a couple of years until layoffs in late 2022, according to her socials.

While Adeya seems incredibly well-qualified for the role, I can’t help but lament the loss of Doria’s institutional expertise. She, along with fellow ICANN lifer Becky Burr, have recently been doing a pretty good job working with the GNSO to help oil the wheels of implementation and get the new gTLD program up and running again.

The NomCom picks mean that the number of voting Africans on the 20-person board doubles from one to two and the number of North Americans is reduced by one. The gender mix of course remains the same, with six out of the 16 voting seats filled by women.

There’s been a lot of talk this year, particularly from chair Tripti Sinha, about a goal to achieve “gender parity” in ICANN’s leadership positions, and NomCom’s 2023 appointments certainly seem to reflect that.

Despite as few as 27% of the 155 applicants ticking the female box on the application form, versus 59% male, only two of the nine open positions were filled by men.

Two of the nine hail from Asia-Pacific, with three from Africa, two from North America, and one each from Europe and Latin America.

ICANN’s bylaws require at least one director from each of the five geographic regions and the board every year encourages NomCom to keep gender and geographical diversity in mind when making their picks.

All the NomCom picks take their seats at the end of ICANN’s public meeting this October.

ICANN wants more newbies on its board

Kevin Murphy, April 17, 2023, Domain Policy

ICANN is planning changes to how its board of directors are picked, including new measures to get more community virgins around the table.

Under proposed new rules for its Nominating Committee, which chooses eight of the 20 directors, at least three directors at any given time would have to be “unaffiliated”.

The definition of “unaffiliated” is extremely broad, seemingly ruling out anybody who has ever had any professional involvement with the ICANN community whatsoever. Even people who have showed up at ICANN meetings on their employer’s dime would be excluded.

By my reckoning, only two of the current crop of eight NomCom appointees could possibly meet this definition, based on their biographies.

The new rules would give NomCom some flexibility in cases where it really can’t find an otherwise qualified director without any ICANN ties.

NomCom members would also get their own terms extended under the proposals, from one year to two, in order to improve institutional memory. Some current members would have their terms extended while others would not.

To tackle the same continuity issues, ICANN also wants to create a Nominating Committee Standing Committee — that’s right, an entity with two “Committees” in its name — to oversee the NomCom.

The four-person committee would be made up of former NomCom members and would be tasked with things like reviewing the previous hiring cycle and suggesting possible procedural changes. It would have no input on who gets hired and fired.

The proposals, which originate from a review that began in 2016, are open for public comment until May 29.

ICANN rushes mystery directors onto board in apparent bylaws breach

Kevin Murphy, August 19, 2022, Domain Policy

ICANN is hurrying two new directors onto its board despite that fact that hardly anybody, apparently including the people who this week gave them the nod, seemed to know who they are.

The Org also seems to have technically breached its bylaws with the timing of the move, which also sees chair Maarten Botterman appointed for another three-year term.

Earlier this week the Empowered Community Administration, which has broad powers to hire and fire directors, submitted ICANN-drafted letters formally approving this year’s Nominating Committee picks — Botterman, Christopher Chapman and Sajidur Rahman.

But I’m told that the ECA, like the rest of us, were not given any information by ICANN about the two newcomers beyond their names and the geographic regions they hail from. They were basically waved onto the board blind, it seems.

Photographs subsequently published on the NomCom web site confirm the two directors’ identities. They’re the former head of the Australian Communications and Media Authority Chris Chapman, and Indonesian venture capitalist Sajid Rahman of MyAsiaVC.

Judging by the ICANN bylaws, approval by the ECA — which comprises one person from each of the ASO, the ccNSO, the GNSO, the ALAC and the GAC — is pretty much just a rubber-stamp. All the due diligence is done by NomCom and the Org.

But the appointments appear to amount to a technical bylaws breach on timing grounds, coming about a month late. The bylaws state:

At least two months before the commencement of each annual meeting, the Nominating Committee shall give the EC Administration (with a copy to the Decisional Participants and Secretary) written notice of its nomination of Directors for seats with terms beginning at the conclusion of the annual meeting, and the EC Administration shall promptly provide the Secretary (with a copy to the Decisional Participants) with written notice of the designation of those Directors.

This year’s AGM will be held in Kuala Lumpur from September 17, with the new directors taking their seats at its conclusion on September 22. So NomCom seems to have missed its “at least two months before” deadline by a month. ECA approval came August 15.

This year’s AGM is a little earlier than usual, which may help explain the problem. They’re usually held in October or November, and there hasn’t been one held in September since 2001.

NomCom also missed the two-month window in 2020, by an even bigger margin, for entirely understandable pandemic-related reasons. It announced its selections just a couple of weeks before the AGM.

Diversity takes a hit as NomCom replaces two ICANN directors with newcomers

Kevin Murphy, August 12, 2022, Domain Policy

ICANN will be left with fewer women and Africans on its board of directors following this year’s Nominating Committee selections, after which apparent community newcomers will take seats.

NomCom last night announced that its three picks for the board, due to take or retake their seats at the Annual General Meeting in Kuala Lumpur next month, are Maarten Botterman, Christopher Chapman and Sajidur Rahman.

Botterman is of course the current chair, and his reappointment was surely never in any doubt. He’ll be entering his third and final term at the AGM.

Less is known about the two newcomers. ICANN has so far provided no biographical information about them beyond the geographic region they represent. Botterman is European and both Chapman and Rahman are from Asia-Pacific.

Both new appointees have very common, google-resistant names, and neither appears to have a track record of vocal ICANN community participation.

Chapman, if I had to guess, would be Chris Chapman, the former long-term independent media regulator from Australia. Sajid Rahman is such a common name I don’t think I could confidently make a call on his identity early doors.

What we do know is that they’re both Asia-Pac, and they’re both replacing one-term African directors.

Leaving the board at the AGM will be NomCom’s 2019 picks Mandla Msimang from South Africa and Ihab Osman from Sudan. This means the sole remaining voting African on the board come October will be South African Alan Barrett.

Msimang leaving and being replaced by a man of course changes the gender mix. After the AGM, there will be six women on the 20-seat board, five out of the 16 voting seats.

Note that I’m not analyzing the picks by some subjective “woke” criteria — ICANN has strict rules about geographic representation in its bylaws and every year its board of directors encourages NomCom to consider the gender mix when making its selections.

The bylaws state that each of the five geographic regions must have at least one seat on the board, and that no one region can have more than five directors.

That said, ICANN doesn’t make it easy to figure out which directors hail from which regions. There’s no published breakdown that I’m aware of and many directors have multiple citizenships and/or are long-term residents of nations outside their birth region.

Two other directors have their current terms ending next month — GNSO appointee Becky Burr (North America), who has been reappointed for a third term, and Akinori Maemura (Asia-Pac) who is being replaced by Christian Kaufmann (Europe) as an ASO appointee.

NomCom broke down the gender and geographic mix of applicants for all the open board and non-board positions here.

ICANN names NomCom chairs

Kevin Murphy, July 18, 2022, Domain Policy

ICANN has announced its picks for chair and chair-elect of its influential Nominating Committee, raising questions about the latter role for not the first time.

The board of directors has picked Vanda Scartezini as chair and Amir Qayyum as chair elect, according to a newly published resolution.

It’s the third time in recent years that the previous year’s chair-elect, in this case Damon Ashcraft, has not gone on to become chair, as the ICANN bylaws anticipate.

The bylaws say that the chair-elect, who does not have a vote, is basically an apprentice to the chair who spends a year on the committee to prepare her or him for the big seat. The bylaws also say that the ICANN board can pick another person for chair if it wants to.

In this case, while Scartezini was on the 2022 committee she was not chair-elect.

Something similar happened last year, when the board picked 2021 chair-elect Tracy Hackshaw for chair, then changed its mind two weeks later.

It also caused a controversy in the 2015 cycle when it snubbed Ron Andruff.

The NomCom is responsible for picking several leadership roles in the ICANN community, including three directors per year.

New chair Scartezini is from the At-Large community and Brazil. Qayyum is from the root server community and Pakistan.

Surprise eleventh-hour picks for NomCom leadership after ICANN U-turn

Kevin Murphy, October 14, 2021, Domain Policy

ICANN has named the new chair of its influential Nominating Committee, and it’s not who you might have expected.

The Org last night said Michael Graham will chair NomCom for the 2022 cycle, with Damon Ashcraft taking the chair-elect role.

The news came weeks later than expected — live during an online Prep Week session of ICANN 72 last night in fact — and followed a secretive ICANN vote that saw the board of directors U-turn on its initial selection.

ICANN said that 2021 chair-elect Tracy Hackshaw — who under ICANN convention was the heir apparent for the chair, replacing Ole Jacobsen — had “withdrew his candidacy for 2022 NomCom Chair due to a new professional role he has taken”.

No additional information on the withdrawal, which came as a surprise even to NomCom insiders, was made available. Hackshaw has not responded to an October 5 request for comment and does not appear to have addressed his withdrawal in public.

It’s the second time in recent years a chair-elect has not gone on to take the chair. In 2015, Ron Andruff was snubbed after poor peer-evaluation results. Hackshaw, however, appears to have scored more respectably in his review.

While the leadership picks were not revealed until the 11th hour, it seems ICANN actually made its choice in secret two weeks ago.

In a September 30 vote, the board selected Graham and Ashcraft.

But that resolution actually overrode and replaced a September 12 resolution, which was never published, appointing Hackshaw as NomCom chair. The September 30 resolution states:

Whereas, prior to publishing the Approved Resolutions of the 12 September 2021 Board meeting, the Board became aware of new information that is relevant to the evaluation of candidates.

Whereas, taking into account this new information, the BGC has recommended that the Board rescind its previous resolution and approve Michael Graham be appointed as the 2022 NomCom Chair and J. Damon Ashcraft be appointed as the 2022 NomCom Chair-Elect

That resolution was redacted in its entirety until last night. For some reason ICANN found it necessary to keep its NomCom picks secret until the very last moment.

The 2022 NomCom has the responsibility of picking three ICANN directors, one member of the Public Technical Identifiers board, two ALAC reps, and one member each of the ccNSO Council and GNSO Council.

Both chair and chair-elect are IP lawyers. New chair Graham is travel company Expedia’s top IP guy, and Ashcraft is a partner at the law firm Snell & Wilmer. It’s Ashcraft’s second go at the job in recent years, having chaired the 2019 committee.

Due to the leadership kerfuffle, the NomCom is starting its work on this cycle slightly later than usual.

ICANN director picks for 2021 revealed

Kevin Murphy, August 19, 2021, Domain Policy

ICANN’s Nominating Committee has revealed its three picks for the organization’s board of directors, with one member been swapped out for a newcomer.

Lito Ibarra will be replaced by Edmon Chung, while Danko Jevtović and Tripti Sinha see their seats kept safe for their respective second three-year terms.

Ibarra works for El Salvador’s .sv top-level domain registry and represented the Latin America region on the board. By the time the handover occurs in October, he will have served two of his possible three-year terms.

He’s being replaced by Chung, a long-time industry and ICANN participant perhaps best known as the CEO of DotAsia, which runs .asia. As you might expect, he represents the Asia-Pacific region.

While the appointments clearly alter the regional mix somewhat, they equally clearly do nothing to tilt the gender balance on the male-heavy board, which ICANN has stated is a desirable goal for NomCom.

NomCom also revealed its picks for two members of the GNSO Council, one member of the ccNSO Council and three members of the At-Large Advisory Committee, which include some familiar names.

NomCom said it had 116 applications in total, over half of which came from Africa and Asia-Pac.

For the first time since 2006, ICANN did not disclose the gender mix of the applicants. It’s not clear why.

The full list of successful applicants can be found here.

It’s pandemic continuity versus gender diversity in ICANN’s board wish-list

Kevin Murphy, January 13, 2021, Domain Policy

ICANN’s Nominating Committee will be asked to pit two fundamentally opposed principles against each other when they pick three members of the organization’s board of directors this year.

Board chair Maarten Botterman has asked NomCom to prioritize continuity — keeping experienced directors in place — while also increasing gender diversity in the male-heavy current line-up.

Botterman this week sent a letter (pdf) to NomCom chair Ole Jacobsen, offering guidance virtually identical to that found in a December 2019 letter (pdf) to his predecessor.

The two most significant changes concern the impact on the board’s work of the coronavirus pandemic.

Noting that it typically takes a year or two for new directors to learn the ropes, and that it’s useful to have a staggered mix of tenures among the board, Botterman goes on to say:

Continuity is particularly important this year given the recent departure of the Board’s longest-serving, term- limited member and the ongoing challenges arising from the pandemic, including uncertainties about when the full Board may be next able to move from its current remote schedule to in-person meetings.

The long-serving member who left was presumably Chris Disspain, certainly one of the most active directors in recent years.

Later, Botterman’s letter contains an entirely new paragraph explaining what a time vampire ICANN directorship can be:

We underscore the significant time commitment required of Board members. Applicants must be able to devote weeks and long hours throughout the year to Board service, and even more because of the challenges caused by the pandemic. Among many other key initiatives, one focus in the upcoming year will be understanding and evaluating the expected recommendations from the policy development process on Subsequent Procedures regarding the next round of new gTLDs (as well as implementation of several Board-approved recommendations from community groups).

That, at least, should provide some comfort to those champing at the bit to get the next round of new gTLDs up and running — ICANN clearly expects it to happen at some point in the next four years.

So there’s a definite, newly emphasized focus on continuity at ICANN.

That’s good news for Lito Ibarra, Danko Jevtović and Tripti Sinha, the three NomCom appointees whose current terms end this coming October. Ibarra is on his second three-year term, the other two on their first. All are eligible for reselection.

The Botterman letter is less encouraging for Ibarra and Jevtović, who are men. ICANN is still seeking to increase gender diversity on its board, which only currently has five female voting members of 16 total directors.

While the wording is slightly different to the 2020 guidance, the essence is the same:

The ICANN community has also expressed strong support for efforts to increase diversity along several axes, especially including gender diversity, across the ICANN eco-system. Without compromising the fundamental requirement to have Board members with the necessary integrity, skills, experience, the Board would find it helpful to have greater gender diversity on the Board.

NomCom may find this pressure is relieved slightly by the fact that current ccNSO representative to the board, Nigel Roberts, is being replaced by Katrina Sataki of the Latvian ccTLD registry this October, following an election last month.

The Address Supporting Organization’s rep, Ron Da Silva, is also ending his current term this year. He’s up for reselection against nine other candidates, three of whom are female.

Two American women appointed to ICANN board

Kevin Murphy, October 5, 2020, Domain Policy

In a move that will surprise nobody, ICANN’s Nominating Committee has maintained the status quo on the ICANN board of directors by reappointing two of its previous selections.

NomCom’s two picks are Sarah Deutsch and Avri Doria, both of whom were selected in 2017 and have their first three-year term expiring later this month.

Deutsch is an intellectual property lawyer in private practice. She spent most of her career lawyering for Verizon. She’s also a director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Doria is a consultant who has spent most of her time at ICANN on the non-commercial side of the house.

Both appointees are classified as North American under ICANN’s geographical diversity quotas.

As I’ve previously reported, the reappointments were very likely. Not only are both directors hugely experienced community members, but ICANN had given NomCom strong hints that it wants to increase gender diversity on the board.

That won’t actually happen this year. The other directors whose terms are up this month are all male, and they’ve all either been reappointed or replaced with other men by their respective constituency groups.

Currently, just five of the 16 voting directors are female. Including the four non-voting members, that number rises to seven. With the new NomCom appointees, those numbers will remain the same for at least a year.

UPDATE October 5, 2020: Deutsch tells me she has not been with the Winterfeldt IP Group for two years. Her official bio on ICANN’s web site says she is with that company, but apparently those bios are no longer reliable. She’s now working for herself. My apologies for the error.