At the ICANN GAC (Government Advisory Committee) and Board meeting this week in Nairobi, the first topic was the GAC Secretariat. The question was ‘how can the GAC get more secretariat and policy support for its work?’. For a dry and dusty sounding question, it actually touches on crucial issues of the role of governments in coordinating the domain name and numbering systems. Today I can happily report that last night, GAC moved much closer to pooling funds for secretariat and policy support. Brazil and the Netherlands are already committing funds to the project. This will be a very important step for the GAC as it will help it to be more effective within ICANN, and also demonstrates governments’ real commitment to the process.
The big reason GAC needs to beef up its support system is so it can do real work between ICANN meetings. Right now significant intersessional work, such as that on the GAC’s principles on IDN ccTLDs, is the exception and not the rule. The GAC wants to have input on the public policy aspects of big ICANN decisions, but it moves too slowly to play its full and expected role.
Asking everyone else to slow down to GAC’s pace just doesn’t cut it. The delays caused create ill will amongst the rest of the community and mean the GAC has less clout than it thinks it should have. Or, as non-GAC people might put it, the GAC wakes up towards the end of a long and public policy process and tries to insist on fundamental changes. As Ray Plzak – co chair with Heather Dryden of a Board/GAC working group – said, the GAC has learnt the hard way that “the longer you wait in a process, the stronger your statement has to be.” And the harder it is to have any impact, and the less your peers in other stakeholder groups think of your ability to be a team player.