I write again regarding the so-called “Observers” at
face-to-face GNSO Council meetings.
Of course, I fully support that our face-to-face meetings
are generally always open to true observers, both those present and located
remotely. And I fully support that all of our meetings are generally
fully recorded and transcribed. Indeed I think they should be
translated, and that our conference calls be opened in real time to the
public, with non-speaking access. I fully support that our email list is
open and archived. All of this allows the public to see how the Council
operates in practically real-time, and to experience the information and
debate first-hand. Council must have flexibility to close its sessions
and/or communicate privately, when it deems necessary for any stated and
agreed reason. But I believe that has never happened to date, and of
course the default must be open meetings and open
However, the growing trend is for GNSO “Observers” to
participate in the Council’s weekend face-to-face meetings on equal footing
with Councilors, Liasons and Staff. A small and growing group of
privileged observers, none of whom are elected or appointed to represent
anyone but themselves and/or their specific organizations, are increasingly
taking an inordinate amount of Council and Staff time. In effect, they
are a “Shadow Council” that follows the Council from meeting to meeting,
taking advantage of a privilege they ought not have. This must stop,
It is not scalable as the community of interested observers
grows and diversifies. It is not fair in any way:
fair to Councilors and Liasons who offer great personal sacrifice to travel
long distances away from their lives, volunteering an overly full weekend in
advance of a lengthy five-day meeting.
fair to the constituents who elected or appointed the Councilors and Liasons,
expecting that they (and only they) would serve as those constituents’
representatives on Council.
fair to the general public whose only opportunities for input to Council are
via the Constituencies, Working Groups or public comment periods.
Particularly not fair to the general public that does not speak English, or
who cannot attend the sessions, as they have no equal ability to participate
vis a vis the “Shadow Council”.
fair to the Staff nor the Council as a whole, whose only opportunity to
communicate face-to-face is during these meetings.
The GNSO Council is a representative body. The
representative Councilors and designated Liaisons must be allowed to do their
jobs, which absolutely requires face-to-face interaction with Staff and with
each other -- without constant ‘clarifying questions’, ‘points of order’,
comments or questions from the public. To my knowledge, no
other SO, nor the GAC nor the Board – nor any other council, committee or
board anywhere in the world -- ever allow such privilege to observers.
Such points should be raised through Council representatives, or during any or
all of the many opportunities for public comment into the Council
processes. Indeed this is the reason-for-being of the Constituencies
themselves, of Working Groups, of public comment periods in general, and of
the public comment periods allowed at the Council’s face-to-face meetings
(which can also be used in our weekend sessions, if time
Therefore, beginning with the newTLD session today, I
request that observers be disallowed equal access to the Council table and
microphones, just as they are disallowed such access at our larger public
meetings and in our conference calls. The material presented by Staff in
the session today will doubtless be repeated during a public session later in
the week, which is a perfect opportunity for anyone to ask their questions or
make their points directly to the Staff, without wasting tremendously valuable
and scarce face-to-face Council/Staff time. As we have seen, too many
people are abusing the privilege of open access to raise points that they then
raise again and again at every opportunity throughout the ICANN meeting,
and/or to communicate their particular, non-representative interests.
They are abusing a privilege that they should not have in the first place,
because it is not fair.
Does anyone have an argument as to why the current
privilege should be allowed to continue? Is anyone aware of any other
council, board or committee, anywhere in the world, that allows such a
privilege to observers?
Otherwise, I hope the privilege will be discontinued
immediately, and request Avri to confirm via reply to this list. If not,
my next effort to stop this will be an Ombudsman complaint, on behalf of the
entire community, so that this practice is investigated by a neutral party and
discussed formally at the Council and/or Board level(s). I also request
that the relevant OSC team discuss this and recommend appropriate provisions
in our Council Rules of Procedure to ensure that nobody is given undue and
disruptive access to Council, Liaisons and Staff during our meetings.
Each and every member of the community – other than the
“Shadow Councilors” and their specific organizations -- suffer from the
continuation of this unwarranted and unseemly privilege that offered to just a
few, at the expense of the many.