In a letter to the Chief Executive Officer of ICANN, Mr. Fadi Chehadé, the ICANN Board Chair Mr. Crocker and a copy to the various individuals presiding over New gTLD matters including:
Cherine Chalaby, Chair, New gTLD Program Committee
Heather Dryden, Chair, Government Advisory Committee
Kurt Pritz, SVP Stakeholder Relations and Acting Director of New gTLD Program
Suzanne Sene, U.S. Representative to ICANN Government Advisory Committee
Dr. Olivier M.J. Crépin-Leblond, Chair, ICANN At Large Advisory Committee
John Jeffrey, General Counsel
Chris Lahatte, ICANN Ombudsman
DotConnectAfrica has expressed an outrage on the alleged conflict of interest on two of ICANN’s Board members on the .africa TLD, namely Mr. Mike Silber from South Africa and Mr. Chris Disspain from Australia. The letter quoted says
“ DCA is quite outraged that COI issues have been raised regarding some ICANN Board members, and such ICANN Board members continue to remain rather active in new gTLD discussions and decisions. We seriously believe that conflicted Board Members should not be allowed to participate in meetings of the New gTLD Program Committee. ”
DCA headquarters is particularly incensed, that though it had sent two letters to ICANN in a July 2012 implicating the two individuals who are serving on the ICANN board and are closely related to the .africa gTLD. DCA feels that the presence of the two individuals as ICANN officials jeopardized to a higher degree the transparency that would be expected for the highly contested dotAfrica gTLD. The previously filed COI on these two individuals Mike Silber and Chris Disspain are posted on DCA’s Communications site where it lists most of its correspondences with ICANN including its current follow-up letter.
The letter demands that both Mr. Mike Silber and Mr. Chris Disspain recuse themselves from any ICANN Board-level discussions and decisions regarding .Africa; it continues to say…
“ Or DCA shall be forced to seek certain remedies and protect itself from any possible harm to its application by the continuing presence and influence of ” the afore mentioned on the New gTLD Program Committee.
Its quite clear that the battle lines have long been drawn and DCA having to send out a third letter to remind ICANN of the conflict of interest means that DCA does not take lightly the perception of gross interference should Mike and Chris continue to serve.
ICANN particularly has been hit with conflict of interest with some of its members having to withdraw themselves entirely from participating in certain meetings. Mr. Rod Beckstrom the immediate former CEO at ICANN had during the ICANN 43 Meeting at Costa Rica adversely condemned the state at which its board was stained. According to the ICANN website 18 of 21 Board Members were found conflicted.
Beckstrom said in part “ICANN must be able to act for the public good while placing commercial and financial interest in the appropriate context. How can it do this if all top leadership is from the very domain name industry it is supposed to coordinate independently? A more subtle but related risk is the tangle of conflicting agendas within the board that would make it more difficult for any CEO to meet the requirements of this deeply rewarding and sometimes frustrating job.”
The new CEO Mr. Fade Chehade was picked from seemly non-ICANN community and many took him as an outsider probably best suited for the position. He promised transparency during his introductory speech saying, “I will be very transparent, super transparent.” He added “ I could say are meaningless if ICANN does not operate with excellence.” It means that ICANN will have to be extra vigilant to address such issues with dignity to remain Excellent and it remains Mr. Chahade’s responsibility to lead through as such things will be used to gauge his successes .
The feuds ensuing from the African frontier will prove to be a bitter pill to ICANN if it’s not carefully untangled. Perhaps even though Africa did apply for just 17 domains, my analysis show that ICANN must prove to be not only in the middle, but avoid a possible lawsuit that will disparage the opportunity that Africa has to get its own domain.
Competition is always healthy but only if its played on a flat and non opportunistic side, so far it seems that one organization has an upperhand with AU inside its belly and perceived hand within the ICANN fraternity. At DomainNewsAfrica will continue to watch closely and bring you details as they unfold.