Non-Profits, ICANN Team to Improve Accountability

The Markle Foundation and several other non-profit organizations teamed up
Tuesday with The Internet Corp. for Assigned
Names and Numbers
to promote several initiatives designed to improve
ICANN’s accountability and its response to various Internet
constituencies.

The first initiative will be a $200,000 grant to ICANN that will fund an
outreach unit which ICANN Interim Chairman Esther Dyson said will be the
beginning of a more responsive organization.

“We are going to use this grant to establish an outreach organization. We
have all these people willing to help us and this gives us the ability to
hire a program director and implement the basics of an outreach program.
We’re extremely grateful to Markle and the other organizations for helping
us to move forward,” Dyson said at an afternoon press conference.

In addition to establishing an outreach organization, the grant will be used
to produce educational materials in a variety of languages, create technical
methods for worldwide voting and initiate the voting process. The money will
fund the first phase of ICANN’s at-large membership implementation program.
At-large members will ultimately be charged with selecting nine individuals
who will join ICANN’s 19-member board of directors. Nine other members have
already been selected by the three domain name supporting organizations with
the 19th member being President and Chief Executive Officer Mike Roberts.

Markle Foundation President Zoe Baird said a number of other organizations
will help in the efforts including The
Carter Center
, Common Cause, the American Library Association and others
who will work together to increase participation in the governing process
worldwide.

“What Markle is doing is bringing in experts in democracy to look at the
structure, identify needs for accountability and make recommendations to
improve the process so it might earn the public’s trust,” she said.

One of the harshest criticisms of ICANN has been its lack of accountability
to the various constituencies it serves as well as its failure to adequately
communicate with the Internet community as a whole.

Baird said Markle and the other groups will work with ICANN to ensure
commercial interests don’t shut out individuals and other important
constituencies around the world.

“Global institutions are beginning to oversee Internet activities,” she said. “The
decisions they make will determine whether the Internet achieves its
potential as a powerful weapon for democratic values and aspirations.
Management of the Internet by a private entity will not be stable or
legitimate if that entity does not adequately include the public voice.

“So it is essential that ICANN — which is establishing rules that impact
individuals and organizations alike — be accountable to all Internet users
everywhere. Specifically, that means building a legitimate way for
individuals to vote and create an authority they can trust. We are bringing
in experts who can make this happen,” Baird said.

Organizations enlisted in effort include:

  • The Carter Center, which will create an election monitoring
    organization to ensure at-large member elections are open and free of
    fraud. The group will also establish fair election standards.

  • Common Cause will create and
    lead an international group of governance experts who will advise ICANN on
    building an accountable voting and membership process.

  • The American Library Association will
    help distribute educational materials in a variety of languages throughout
    the world.

  • The Center for Democracy and Technology
    will produce a pamphlet explaining ICANN’s role and the importance of its
    decisions.

  • The Berkman Center for Internet
    and Society
    will explore ways governance and open debates can be
    implemented.

Tuesday’s initiatives are part of Markle’s broader $1 million Internet
Governance Project designed to promote public interest in nontraditional,
international venues.

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