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Wednesday, February 15, 2006
EURALO: "It looks like a coup"
Comments from Wolfgang Kleinwächter to the “Principles Paper towards a “European Regional At Large Organisation”, released by former and current European ALAC Members on January, 17th, 2006
1. I do not understand why some (former and current) European members of ALAC have started the initiative for an EU-RALO now. The call for an EU-RALO is on the table since three years. The arguments in 2003, 2004 and 2005 not to start with the EU-RALO have been that the number of ALS was seen as too small and not representative enough. “Give us more time for outreach” was the answer when I raised this issue in AL meetings in Capetown (December 2004) and Mar del Plata (March 2005). In September 2004 there were seven accredited ALS in Europe. Now, after another 17 months, we have eight members plus one pending application from a rather unknown Italian group “tldworld.info”. I can not see that this is a new quality, more representative than it was two years ago. In contrary, it is a big shame that within the last 17 months the European ALAC members have been unable to attract more European Internet user groups and organisations.
2. With regard to the accredited eight ALS, I have no problems that these groups are mainly ISOC chapters. The problem is that the big European ISOC chapters – like UK, France or Germany – are not accredited members. Also other big European consumer and user organisations, representing national organisations with much more members than some of the accredited ISOC Chapters, have ignored so far the ALAC invitation. As I said in an earlier mail, to establish an EU-RALO under this circumstances is like organising the Champions League without the Champions. The risk here is that governments will take this as a joke when EU-RALO will speak “on behalf of the Internet users in Europe”. You feed arguments by governmental representatives that the governments represent the interests of the European Internet users and not the user groups themselves. To be frank, I like FITUG, but Michael Leibrand, the German GAC member, will not be impressed by statements coming from this group. Why FITUG was unable to attract ISOC Germany, CCC and all the other Internet User groups with thousands of members, coming together to dozens of meetings every year? Why FITUG as the only German User groups so far, does not come to the Domain Pulse meetings, organized by the German speaking ccTLD Registries (where the majority of Internet end users in Germany, Austria and Switzerland have their registration) and is advertising the At Large idea?
3. What I miss totally in the proposed draft is a chapter which defines the aims and principles of an European RALO. Para. 3 in Chapter II says only that the purpose of the EU-RALO is to provide a “channel for participation by the European individual Internet users into the activities of ICANN”. This is only a formal and procedural point. Why you did not define some content and value related criteria which would make Internet user involvement different from the involvement of other stakeholders? I think there is a need to describe more in details the special role and responsibility of Internet users and their organisations in the ICANN context from a European perspective.
4. While I fully support to have two categories of members – institutional and individual - I do not see a right balance between the two categories in the proposed draft. As it stands now, individuals are rather marginalized in the proposed “Executive Board” (EC). What will be the outcome if the EU-RALO would be established now? We have now 8 (or 9) ALS that means each would get one seat in the EC. With the low level of outreach so far I would be surprised to see more than 20 or 30 individual members within the next three months. With other words, the EC would have ten members, nine from the accredited ALS. This looks like a closed club which does not like “foreign members” but want to give the impression that they are “open”. Such a structure is exclusive, not inclusive. It keeps people out and decourages individuals to join.
5. My counter proposal is to establish a Council with ten seats, five filled by the institutional members, five filled by the individual members, based an the principle of geographical diversity, that would mean two members (one individual and one institutional) form Western Europe, two from Northern Europe, two from Eastern Europe, two from Southern Europe and two from Central Europe.
6. I strongly disagree that the officers of the EU-RALO (including the ALAC members) are selected by the Executive Council. This opens the door for a “friend of my friends network” and allows all tricky games behind closed doors. Civil society and At Large stands for bottom up, open and transparent processes. But this is closed, intransparent and top down. This is totally unacceptable. And it is the result of the failure of Chapter II of the proposed draft, where the mission is defined in “technical terms” only and excludes all values and content related orientation.
7. I support in Chapter VI - Funding Mechanism - that the EU-RALO should be in the first 24 months supported by the ICANN budget. But as it stands now, it looks like the former and current ALAC members are asking for money for a half day job for one person in Brussels (selected by the EC) and to guarantee financing of Travel and Accommodation for EC selected people for two years. There is no paragraph which says, that money should be used for local seminars and workshops for further outreach or human capacity building. If money comes from ICANN it should not be spent in five star hotels but to help people on the ground to understand better the challenges of Internet governance from a user perspective.
8. The dateline for Comments – February 15, 2006 – is totally unacceptable. Giving the low level of outreach and publicity, the call for comments has got so far, this can not be taken seriously. The authors of the draft should use the forthcoming IGF consultations in Geneva, February 16 – 17, 2006, to inform about the efforts to build a EU-RALO and to get feedback from the different constituencies, which will come to Geneva. It looks like a coup to create facts before the IGF consultations.
9. So my final recommendation is that the paper should be immediately withdrawn and the former and current members of the ALAC should present a clear and workable plan for outreach and capacity building, based on defined aims, values and principles which serve the interest of the Internet end-users in Europe.