Civil Society in ICANN’s Multistakeholderism: The GNSO Case

23 October 2013 - A Workshop on Bali,Indonesia


There is a need to move past general rhetoric and empirically assess how different models of multistakeholderism actually work in settings devoted to decision making rather than just dialogue.  How well do different models structure interaction, enable and constrain stakeholder participation, promote collective learning and mutual understanding, and incentivize actors to negotiate successful outcomes?  In particular, how do these models work with respect to global civil society, the stakeholder group with the fewest material resources and institutional capacities to draw on in pressing its views?  This workshop will explore these and related questions by focusing on a key case study: the role of civil society actors in ICANN’s Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO).  The GNSO community drives the Policy Development Process for generic top level domains, and its Council votes and takes decisions to manage that process.  
The three lead proposers of this workshop---The Noncommercial Stakeholders Group, and its two constituencies, the Noncommercial Users Constituency and the Not-for-Profit Operational Concerns Constituency---together comprise over 300 organizational and individual members, and they elect six members to the 23-member GNSO Council.  These Councillors coordinate with the membership, propose and vote on motions, and negotiate with the Councillors representing the registries, registrars, intellectual property interests, business users, and Internet service providers.  In addition, members of the NCSG and its constituencies adopt position statements and participate in GNSO Working Groups, Public Comment Periods, other avenues of engagement within ICANN.  
This workshop will provide an overview and assessment of the institutional structures, processes, and outcomes of noncommercial actors’ participation in the GNSO. A multistakeholder dialogue involving ICANN participants from civil society, business, government and the Board of Directors will consider the ways in which the ICANN model enables and constrains civil society participation in decision making, both generally and with respect to particular key initiatives like the New gTLD Program.   The workshop also will outline the opportunities available to newcomers who might like to get involved in ICANN, particularly from developing countries; and consider whether the GNSO experience offers any generalizable lessons for civil society participation in global Internet governance processes more generally.