Fadi cancels ICANN’s move to Geneva – First indication of failure of transition?

Globalization of ICANN has become quite like the trending topic of the internet governance in 2014.   The main discussion comes as ICANN seeks to be set free from US oversight, the discussionwas fanned by the NTIA decision to request ICANN to convene a discussion that would draft a roadmap to allow ICANN assume its roles outside US cradle.

In February 2013, CEO Fadi Chehadé announced that ICANN’s office in L.A. would diminish in importance while two new “hubs” created in the capital of troubled Turkey Istanbul, Singapore to serve the Asia-Pacific and Europe, Middle East and Africa respectively. ICANN’s headquarters in Los Angeles will become the hub serving the Americas this is all to shift ICANN’s “centre of gravity” away from the United States.

There were also unconfirmed reports of ICANN moving to Geneva. During a visit to France In February 2014, Fadi Chehadé reportedly announced that ICANN Board of Directors has given him a go ahead to further explore ICANN reforms. Among them is the possibility of creating a parallel ICANN international structure, likely based in Geneva. In a hearing before the French Senate on 21 February (video in French), he stated that ICANN opened an office in Geneva the week before.

These reports likely caused speculations that ICANN would be seeking a total makeover to become a mature stand alone body just like the UN ITU and given Geneva is home to many international organizations,  however few days before the NetMundial in Brazil that was triggered after Snowden revelations to discus new Internet governance routes, Fadi Chehadé on Hudson Institute led  panel discussion in Washington DC, has denied any speculations that ICANN would go to the Swiss Capital saying,

 I did not say that I’m moving ICANN to Geneva. This is speculation because we opened an office in Geneva… People conflate things because they’d like to. If you can find a statement saying we’re moving to Geneva I’d like to see it.

I can’t even make that decision. I told you, I can’t even change the coffee, so the board will have to make this decision and the board can’t make this decision without community agreement. And do you think our community will agree to move thousands of contracts we have today that are working marvelously in California to another place? Why would we do that? So let’s stop the speculation on this, I have no plans to move ICANN to Geneva. We have an office in Geneva, that’s the end of it. 

This recent announcement is seen as a possible trackback on the fast paced discussions to a globalized ICANN.  The transition possibility is facing much opposition from US political leaders. Two bills are already underway to block Fadi and his I* advisors on shooting to the moon without any kind of congressional consultation and consensuses, simply adapting ICANN’s bottom up multistakeholder methodology and in disregard to any sort of legal and governance implication, such signs are there now that the transition is on the road to imminent  failure.

At least on Chehade’s admission “the board can’t make this decision without community agreement” ICANN and the I* fraternity have almost been called out for making decisions without the full backing of the community behind these organizations.

February 17, ICANN’s board of directors approved the establishment of “complementary parallel international structure to enhance ICANN’s global legitimacy. Consider complementary parallel international structure within scope of ICANN’s mandate. However barely 6 weeks later on March 27, ICANN’s board scrapped these committees

“as the Board anticipates that the work contemplated to be undertaken by this Globalization Advisory Group will be incorporated into the work being undertaken by the Cross-Community Working Group on Internet Governance.”

Could this be an indication that ICANN is admitting that for the transition to happen there needs confirmation of community initiated decisions?

The urgency to quickly constitute the transition model is hurting the decision making and given that ICANN is involved in a massive new gtld process which has exposed the soft underbelly of ICANN’s decision mechanism, there is high possibility of the ‘community’ pulling the plug on the transition talk until ICANN can organize its house and clear the new gtld full plate.

ICANN’s transition will be fully possible if there is amicable community discussion and proper tangible bottom-up process, as evident there has been stakeholder discussions only of paper but decisions that carry the day have always come from top down.

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