[discuss] Why oversight? (was Re: Opportunity for input on the development process forIANAoversight transition plan)

parminder parminder at itforchange.net
Wed Apr 2 10:58:38 UTC 2014

On Tuesday 01 April 2014 06:28 PM, Andrew Sullivan wrote:
> On Tue, Apr 01, 2014 at 04:31:55PM +0530, parminder wrote:
>> What is really needed is an external, arms length, oversight over
>> the working of this 'technical community', without  interfering in
>> its day to day functions.
> Why is that needed?  Why do some think it would help?  What problem is
> it trying to solve?

The problem can be seen at two related levels.

One, ICANN's board as ICANN's decision making body is not constituted in 
a manner to be able to given a sovereign role or status, that is, there 
be no authority at all over it to check abuses etc.

Secondly, on a related note, while many functions of a technical nature 
may be delegated to specialised bodies by the larger public, and its 
legitimate political authorities, these functions must always remain 
subject of oversight in relation to coherence to larger public policies. 
Such is the necessary relationship between delegated technical functions 
and legitimate public policy bodies.

> One answer I've seen in these discussions seems to rest on
> "legitimacy", but that seems to me to be a false claim.  I do not
> understand how an external body that does not understand the problem
> it is ostensibly governing is somehow more legitimate.  Perhaps
> "legitimacy" has some technical meaning I don't understand.

Yes, legitimacy, as in democratic legitimacy, has a technical meaning. 
It is not based to expertise or knowledge, which are often spurious 
terms masking self-interest. It is based on necessary political equality 
of all people, which means a fully equal right and role of all people to 
decide on issues of common/ public interest. This ideal is sought to 
realised through political institutions, which remain imperfect and 
evolving, but always guided by this basic basic principle. That is 
> Another answer I've seen appears to have to do with represtantivity or
> something like that.  As I've argued in another thread, however, if
> people feel their issues are not being addressed when technical
> solutions are proposed, it would be much more effective simply to
> participate to get those issues addressed.  This is tricky, of course,
> but many of us are willing to help and the technical communities
> mostly have, as far as I can see, processes that are designed to
> enable such participation.  (To the extent not, let's work on _that_,
> and not invent a new layer.)

I read mails here, for instance one from Stephan Farell, on 31st March, 
that IETF is *not* meant to take into account public policy concerns in 
any systematic way. IETF and other such technical processes are not 
developed to understand political equality, representation, democratic 
legitimacy, and such things. They are based on very different kinds of 
principles which may well be best for their delegated technical functions.

> A third answer I've seen appears to be that we need a place for
> governments to supervise everything.  I think that view is
> antithetical to the multi-stakeholder approach we're supposedly using.
> If people are really opposed to that approach, they should say that.

Anything that is constituted as legitimate public policy authority will 
be called government - so it is bit of a circular argument..... In that 
sense yes, legitimate public policy bodies definitionally cannot have 
the same role *with regard to public policy making*  as non-legitimate 
actors seeking to make public policy... There is no equality in that 
sense between governments on one hand and businesses or civil society 
actors (who are self appointed) on the other.
> A fourth answer appears to boil down to, "I want this."  There are
> lots of things I want, too, but alas I don't get everything I want.
> So this needs a better argument.

This part is of course either rhetorical or condescending and thus not 
worth responding to.

> If there is some other reason that this external party is needed, I
> don't understand it, so I'd like to be enlightened.
> Best regards,
> Andrew

More information about the discuss mailing list