Community Reference - Overview

Last Updated: 9 January 2013

The ICANN Board has approved a comprehensive set of recommendations to improve the structure and operations of the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO). This effort is part of ICANN's own ongoing commitment to evolve and improve, and follows extensive independent review efforts and extensive public consultation.

The GNSO is the primary engine in the ICANN community for fashioning, recommending changes, and making modifications to generic top-level domain policies. At its core, the objective of the GNSO review process has been to identify ways to improve the inclusiveness and representativeness of the GNSO's work while increasing its effectiveness and efficiency.

The multi-year GNSO review process has been guided by several key objectives, including:

  1. maximizing the ability for all interested stakeholders to participate in the GNSO's processes;
  2. ensuring recommendations can continue to be developed on gTLD "consensus policies" for Board review, and that the subject matter of "consensus policies" is clearly defined;
  3. ensuring policy development processes are based on thoroughly-researched, well-scoped objectives, and are run in a predictable manner that yields results that can be implemented effectively; and
  4. improving communications and administrative support for GNSO objectives.

The GNSO Improvements approved by the Board, and being implemented by the GNSO, fall into five main areas:

Adopting a Working Group Model: A working group model should become the focal point for policy development and enhance the policy development process by making it more inclusive and representative, and – ultimately – more effective and efficient. This approach can be a more constructive way of establishing areas of agreement than task forces, where membership is limited and discussion can become polarized along constituency lines. It also enables key parties to become involved in the beginning and work together to address complex or controversial issues. Appointing skilled chairs and drafters, as well as proper scoping of the WG's objectives, will be integral parts of development of a successful model. Steps should be taken immediately to move to a working group model for future policy development work, developing appropriate operating principles, rules and procedures that can draw upon expertise gained from policy development in the IETF, W3C, RIRs and other organizations.

Revising the PDP: The PDP needs to be revised to make it more effective and responsive to ICANN's policy development needs. It should be brought in-line with the time and effort actually required to develop policy, and made consistent with ICANN's existing contracts (including, but not limited to, clarifying the appropriate scope of GNSO "consensus policy" development). While the procedure for developing "consensus policies" will need to continue to be established by the Bylaws as long as required by ICANN's contracts, the GNSO Council and Staff should propose new PDP rules for the Board's consideration and approval that contain more flexibility. The new rules should emphasize the importance of the preparation that must be done before launch of a working group or other activity, such as public discussion, fact-finding, and expert research in order to define properly the scope, objective and schedule for a specific policy development goal, and the development of metrics for measuring success.

Restructuring the GNSO Council: The Council should move away from being a legislative body concerned primarily with voting towards becoming a smaller, more focused strategic entity, composed of four broad stakeholder groups, with strengthened management and oversight of the policy development process, term limits for members of the Council, the elimination of weighted voting and a training and development curriculum for Council members. In addition, as the Council moves from being a legislative body to a strategic manager overseeing policy development, the current emphasis on formal voting should be significantly reduced. The BGC WG deliberated extensively as to the most appropriate way to restructure constituency representation on the Council, but was unable to develop a proposal that enjoyed widespread support from the community. Ultimately, the Board directed the formation of a special Working group on GNSO Council Restructuring (WG-GCR) to resolve the matter. The WG-GCR developed a bicameral voting model that featured four major Stakeholder Groups, maintained a significant role for Nominating Committee Appointees (NCAs), established voting thresholds, created a new leadership structure and made allowances for significant constituency independence while reinforcing Bylaw principles of openness, transparency and fairness.

Enhancing Constituencies: Constituency procedures and operations should become more transparent, accountable and accessible. The Board should ask the GNSO constituencies to work with staff to develop participation rules and operating procedures for all constituencies that set certain minimum standards regarding the importance of transparency and accountability. The criteria for participation in any ICANN constituency should be objective, standardized and clearly stated. In addition, Staff should work with each of the constituencies to develop global, targeted outreach programs aimed at increasing participation and interest in the GNSO policy process, including information on the option to self-form new constituencies.

Improving Communication and Coordination with ICANN Structures: There should be more frequent contact and communication between the GNSO Council, GNSO constituencies and the members the Council elects to the Board, and among the Chairs of the GNSO, other Supporting Organizations (SOs) and Advisory Committees (ACs), especially in advance of each ICANN Meeting. The Council and the GNSO constituencies should consider additional ways in which the GNSO can further improve communication, cooperation and coordination with other ICANN structures.

We also suggest that new visitors wishing to learn about the GNSO Improvements effort read:

  1. A comprehensive summary of GNSO Improvements Approved by the ICANN Board
  2. Slide presentations summarizing GNSO Improvements are available at the links below.
  3. About > Background

Please contact ICANN Policy Staff if you have questions or need more information.