ICANN to “stand up” to Russia at the ITU
ICANN is a non-political organization, but it cannot tolerate the platform of the Russian standing to be the secretary-general of the International Telecommunications Union.
CEO Göran Marby took a fairly bellicose tone in denouncing the platform at two sessions of ICANN 75 in Kuala Lumpur yesterday, warning that the election of Russian nominee Rashid Ismailov could not only destroy ICANN’s multistakeholder model but also internet interoperability in general.
Russia is pushing a position under which the powers of organizations such as ICANN, the Regional Internet Registries and standards-setting groups would be consumed by the ITU and managed in an multilateral, rather than multistakeholder, fashion.
Marby was asked a question about the election, due to take place at the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference in Bucharest starting next week, during an open-mic Q&A with the community yesterday.
“We are not campaigning against, but we are reflecting on the fact that one of the candidates does not like what you do here, your ability to walk up to the microphone and ask that question. You can’t do that in the UN setting,” he said.
“There’s a really really big risk that we will lose that ability for you,” he said, adding that he is concerned “that people around the world might not be able to connect to one single interoperable internet”.
“We are strictly neutral when it comes to who becomes the Secretary General,” he said. “We vividly oppose one of the platforms, that the Russian potential Secretary General stands for.”
“We are not a political organization, but we stand up one time… when we see proposals that would disconnect people from the internet or actually make it impossible for you to be here and make policies, that is when we go out and react. That’s the only time,” he said.
During remarks earlier in the day at the ICANN 75 opening ceremony, Marby addressed the same topic in slightly more evocative terms.
“What we do is like fighting for peace. You don’t fight for peace when war has broken out, you fight for peace before. We have to continue to work for the multistakeholder model now before it’s challenged too much,” he said.
Was this a deliberate allusion to the Russian invasion of Ukraine? Marby and/or his speechwriter can’t have been blind to the connotations.
Ismailov’s opponent in the election is Doreen Bogdan-Martin, an American with a much more acceptable policy platform.
ICANN earlier in the year published a paper (pdf) analyzing Russia’s stance on global internet policy. Marby’s remarks this week echo a warning he gave a year ago at ICANN 72.
In an explicit response to the opening ceremony remarks, on Tuesday Russia’s representative on the Governmental Advisory Committee offered a passionate defense of the Russian candidate, telling the GAC and ICANN’s board that his platform is about the “harmonization of ICT”.
He said that the role of the ITU secretary general is a neutral one, and not representative of any particular state.
During the same session Ukraine pleaded for more support, specifically in the form of satellite internet terminals, following ICANN’s donation of $1 million to support infrastructure projects in the war zone.
A million people are without internet access, he said, and rebuilding fiber networks destroyed by Russian missiles will take months because the fields are often mined.
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