DCA participated in the recent ICANN Public Forum organized on Thursday 27th October 2011 and used the opportunity to express its opinion on a range of issues that are of concern to the ICANN global and African publics.
DCA was also a silver-level sponsor of the ICANN-42 Dakar Meeting.
Ms. Sophia Bekele, Executive Director of DCA's Yes2dotAfrica Campaign had seized the same opportunity to further clarify the position of her organization, and make some inputs into the debate on topical issues relating to the multi-stakeholder Internet governance model and government/inter-government relations with ICANN regarding the new gTLD programme. She also presented some burning questions requiring urgent answers to ICANN executives regarding the possibility of adding a prospective new gTLD string to the List of Reserved Names, and the implication this would have for the current version of the gTLD Applicant's Guidebook, and ultimate governance authority regarding the delegation of new generic top level domains.
In terms of providing relevant background, the African Ministerial Roundtable Meeting of Experts had recommended the inclusion of DotAfrica, DotAfrique, and DotAfrikia, all string similar names, in the List of Reserved Names for the benefit of the African Union Commission. Such a proposed move, if accepted would immediately make these strings unavailable in the current new gTLD application round, but provide special legislative protection to enable the AU separately oversee the negotiation and delegation of these name strings outside the ICANN new gTLD process. The Meeting of Experts Resolution was presented to the Ministerial Meeting for adoption, and later submitted to ICANN as part of the African Agenda. DCA had vociferously disagreed with the position adopted by the Meeting of Experts and their proposal.
DCA's official position, which it maintained throughout the deliberations, is that DotAfrica, DotAfrique, and DotAfrikia should not be on the List of Reserved Names, since this will likely necessitate a change to the already approved gTLD Applicant's Guidebook. It is against this background that Ms. Sophia Bekele then took up the matter at the ICANN Public Forum, to:
a) Further clarify its official position on the matter for the record, and warn about the negative backlash this would have on ICANN's leadership of the multi-stakeholder model should the desires of governments/inter-governmental organization be imposed upon, and be used to over-ride, the current new gTLD programme; and,
b) Present direct questions on these matters for an immediate unequivocal response to be obtained from ICANN Executives and Leaders.
In addition to these questions, Ms. Sophia Bekele in her own words, concluded her statements by making a direct plea urging "ICANN and the global community not to entertain any requests to include DotAfrica on the list of reserved names" and re-stated her firm opinion that "DotAfrica and similar name strings should only be applied for through the ICANN new gTLD program."
ICANN's CEO Mr. Rod Beckstrom used the opportunity of the Public Forum to make certain clarifications in response to Sophia Bekele's questions. The ICANN CEO clarified that:
a) ICANN will stick to the letter of the Applicant Guidebook that has been approved by the Board of ICANN until and unless otherwise noted.
b) Admitted that ICANN had indeed received a communiqué from the Ministerial Meeting, and that ICANN will provide a response to that communiqué, and that response will be a public response.
c) The ICANN Board has the ultimate authority to make any adjustments to the Applicant Guidebook and reserves the final right for decisions on strings.
Mr. Rod Beckstrom then closed his brief remarks by unequivocally stating that "the rules are published and quite clear."
DCA representatives had left the ICANN Public Forum meeting with the understanding and belief that its official position (for which reason it sought direct answers in the first place) are in complete concordance with the clarifications provided by ICANN at the Public Forum meeting to the extent that published rules should be respected and accepted by one and all based on due process. Accordingly, DCA believes that its abiding support for the ICANN process and broad agreement with ICANN policy and standardized objectives regarding the new gTLD programme; and of ICANN's leadership of the Global Internet Governance process is amply justified.
Thus DCA remains vindicated that this course of action, if similarly followed by all those with an interest in DotAfrica would represent the best possible and most beneficial outcome for all Africans and other global DotAfrica stakeholders in a very transparent and unimpeachable manner.
Accordingly, DCA's official position is presented below for the record:
"DCA would like to thank the Chairperson, Board Members, Executives and Staff of ICANN for organizing yet another successful meeting. DCA congratulates the host country Senegal and the MINISTRY for providing a great platform for a very successful meeting and its gracious hospitality; including giving DCA a voice that it desperately needed during the pre-ICANN Ministerial Round Table meeting, and DCA is grateful for this.
DCA is not comfortable with the proposal to include DotAfrica, DotAfrique and DotAfriqia in the List of Reserved Names and make these strings unavailable during the gTLD application round. DCA believes that the DotAfrica name string is not at risk and as such does not need any special legislative protection to preserve it for the African Union or any other prospective applicant. The new gTLD Applicant's Guidebook does not in any way indicate that DotAfrica will be unavailable and included in the List of Reserved Names. If we knew that the DotAfrica gTLD string was going to be unavailable, DCA would not have expended great efforts and huge amounts of money over many years to actively campaign and promote DotAfrica globally.
We therefore urge ICANN and its global community not to entertain any request to include DotAfrica on the List of Reserved Names. DotAfrica and similar name strings should only be applied for through the ICANN new gTLDs programme.
"We believe that the DotAfrica issue is a battle test-ground for ICANN's leadership and oversight of the Global Internet Governance process. If AU imposes its will on ICANN, and prevails on this issue it will set a bad precedent that will be detrimental to ICANN's ability to control the multi-stakeholder process".
Any government or inter-governmental organization that passes a resolution and imposes such on ICANN will set a bad precedent, and cause other organizations to always point to such a precedent and also pass a resolution and ask ICANN to accept and approve such. This will cause great confusion and undermine the entire multi-stakeholder model; including even undermining ICANN's standing/position in these matters.
Therefore, DCA hereby insists that the new gTLD programme of ICANN is a transparent globally-accepted process that should not allow any intergovernmental or governmental organization to pass a set of resolutions and impose it on ICANN as a "Separate Agenda" such as the one attempted by the "African Agenda."
What is transparent for the world should be transparent for Africa. We cannot request exceptions to satisfy the "opaque agenda of a few people" that is NOT representative of all of Africa. Even in this African Ministerial Round-Table, there was no representative quorum in terms of attendance. Such proposition of a "Separate Agenda" would be against all what we have worked on at ICANN for the past 6 years, and a threat to the multi-stakeholder model that most in the Internet governance world cherish, and ICANN should take heed of such".