Following the 2 year long .Africa IRP where one applicant DCA Trust took ICANN to the independent review panel over how the domains organization handled its application, the Panel declared “that both the actions and inactions of the Board with respect to the application of DCA Trust relating to the .AFRICA gTLD were inconsistent with the Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws of ICANN.” And further recommended that “ ICANN continue to refrain from delegating the .AFRICA gTLD and permit DCA Trust’s application to proceed through the remainder of the new gTLD application process.”
In the aftermath though Africa union which was involved in giving both .africa string applicants an endorsement has repeated its long known mantra. A communique released whose provenance is unknown, stating the IRP procedure a dysfunctional one.
The letter reads:
The Africa region, African Internet stakeholders, the ZACR and AUC are the unfortunate victims of a dysfunctional accountability process and an independent review panel that did not delve more deeply to understand the new gTLD process, the role of governments in that process, and how the ICANN multistakeholder model functions in general.
This language is very similar and consistent to the past statements made by the representatives of the Africa Union Commission (AUC) in the course of resolving the IRP making many to ask if AUC fears accountability. What is of great concern is that the declaration has just been produced, no public comment made for the African stakeholders to contribute, there is no task force, so the AUC might want to clarify who is accountable for these declarations purpoted to represent African voice.
In our past blog, #ICANNAfrica: Africans do not want ICANN to be bound by any arbitration process, we wrote about the status of African representation in accountability where one specifically tried to disparage the DCA vs. ICANN IRP over .Africa by calling it ‘dysfunctional’ because the expected time for IRP decisions to be made, has been exceeded. She even resorted to a thinly veiled threat of blackmail by insinuating that if ICANN loses the IRP, then a case should be brought against the provider of the IRP dispute resolution service. This triggers a notion that either Africans do not want ICANN to be bound by any arbitration process, or do not understand the process.
Other expressions of lack of accountability as represented by African Union Representative, at ICANN GAC also was recorded mot recent articles as #OMG! Africans want ICANN insiders on Independent Review Panels (IRPs)
“There is a need to avoid legitimate public policy, commercial and technical objectives, for example from new gTLD applicants in underserved regions, being frustrated by lengthy procedural delays through no fault of those trying to achieve them”. Ms. Munyua apparently believes that ‘public policy’ is more important than ethical/legal accountability, and that when it comes to under-served regions (read ‘Africa’), a different ‘set of considerations’ should apply.
During a session in the ICANN 53 meeting of Buenos Aires, a representative of the Africa Union answered as below
Chair Schneider: Thank you. I have one more request for the floor from the African Union Commission.
African Union Commission: I’m sorry to hold you. One of my concerns is not only with regard to the composition of the members of the panel. It’s not only the geographical distribution about — of the members. But one other problem is their competency, too. In the case of .africa, we have seen the panel asking some questions that are not very relevant to the process itself. And you find yourself people dragging the process and hijacking it in a manner that is not beneficial for the ICANN process at all. So one of the issue need to take into consideration is, we need to have a panel who does understand not only the icann processes and mechanisms and policies, but also can contextualize everything with regard to the area which is actually being considered. This is very important. And my other concern will be with regard to the fact that from now on, their decision could be some kind of binding the board or taking some kind of decision. Auditing is auditing, if i may say. But hijacking the system, anybody should — they can stand up and say, “i need an irp process,” and then hijack everything, and finally we get into something that is not relevant to anybody. Please consider that. Read the rest of the coverage here
These worrying statements that have come in quick succession shows a failure in part of the Africa Union and ICANN to help the members understand and respect the rule of law and outcome resulting through procedural fairness.
As such , this most recent African Union declaration can be attributes to those individuals who use the African Union stationary to get what they want calling it declaration without any proper authorization on those the union represent. Therefore the declaration should be dismissed as a hocks.