In the months leading up to the ICANN meeting in Nairobi, majority of discussions and conference calls were dominated by security concerns and emergency meetings with some people wondering whether the meeting will take place or not.

Eventually some people decided to stay away. Yes, security is a concern but for everyone and no one can blame anyone for choosing safety over risk. Well, I had my opinions about the security debate, which have been expressed in blog posts scattered online.

However, it was nice to hear an admnission from Rod Beckstrom, ICANN president and CEO that perhaps the whole security debate was not handled well.

At a meeting with the Government Advisory Committee, Rod said that ICANN is striving to balance transparency and diplomacy and in this case, that balance may not have been well struck.

He was responding to the statement by Alice Munyua, CCK board, who alluded to the fact that the whole security saga may not have demonstrated respect to the local organizing committee and that the debate was dominated by security and not by serious issues.

Here is the verbatim GAC speech by Alice:

We thank the ICANN board and the ICANN community for resolving to get on with the meeting in Kenya despite the challenges and note that the geographic rotation of meeting locations is an important feature unique and special to ICANN.

However, we need to ask ourselves “what do these ICANN meetings leave behind in the various regions and/or countries?”

Kenya had ideals regarding the possible domino effect/impact that this meeting would have had in the EA region in terms of understanding ICANN, increased participation in ICANN and understanding of Internet policy and Internet governance generally (as you probably know, Kenya has offered to host the 2011 IGF). But we spent most of the months leading up to the meeting occupied and dealing with the meetings security issues due to the badly handled communication around it.

And this is not to deny that there were credible fears around the meeting security, particularly when it touches on the world’s common terrorism incidents, but communicating these same fears and efforts being made to ensure everyone’s safety could have been handled more diplomatically and respectfully for  Kenya as host country, as a recognition   the hard work by the local organisers and ICANN staff.

We note that nearly all of the contracted parties (registries, registrars) are missing (physically) and have chosen to have parallel meetings in NY and Washington. What does this say about the ICANN processes? Has ICANN’s foundation commitment to the introduction of competition and diversity in the DNS on the decline? If all of the registries and significant majority of registrars are based in North America what does this say? Is there a competition framework? Is it time to begin to explore the possibilities of a global one perhaps?  What will happen to the new gTLD’s with registration costs that are prohibitive for most developing countries’?

Finally, we congratulate ICANN commitment to the principle of transparency, with the very active use of society networking tools, like twitter but we do believe that issues that affect a country’s prospects should be handled more sensitively and respectively because they do tend to have an impact on not only  general effectiveness and efficiency of organising these kind of meetings but the  impact is broader than  the
internet and includes  issues of investment, tourism among others.

If the intentions, with the various processes including the AOC are to work towards internationalising ICANN, then ICANN must respect diversity and work more towards understanding other perspectives and interests.