ICANN Considers Seeking International Immunity - Run Away
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I’ve already mentioned that the Bush administration is not likely to smile on ICANN’s desire to become an international private organization. Other countries might not care for that either. It wasn’t so long ago, after all, that some observers expressed the view that the United Nations should take over ICANN.
A blog entry from ICANNWatch quoted Ambassador David A. Gross from the U.S. Department of State on the issue of ICANN becoming an independent international organization. It was most instructive: “While cautioning that he had not read the strategy paper, and thus couldn’t comment on it directly, Ambassador Gross said that both the US and many other governments would find any proposal which did not have a role for any governments akin to that which the US currently plays as ‘very unsatisfactory.’”
So if the U.S. would not be happy with ICANN gaining the status of an international private organization, and other countries would be displeased as well, where does that leave ICANN? Quite possibly in Switzerland. While it seems to imply in the strategy paper that it would prefer to remain in the U.S., it hasn’t ruled out moving elsewhere, and Geneva is home to a number of organizations with the status ICANN seems to want. It’s apparently easier to get that kind of status in Switzerland.
There are reasons to argue against it. ICANN has shown that it is slow to respond to the needs of users; it is unwise to make such an organization immune to the very things that could move it. And yet, with the current pressure it is receiving from the Bush administration, it is hard to say that such a move would be a complete disaster. As Dana Blankenhorn put it in his blog, the real tragedy of this situation is that “Because of the Bush Administration, no one trusts the U.S. with anything important anymore.”
The Internet may have been created over here, but its reach extends throughout the world. Does it make sense for ICANN to be closely controlled by agencies in a single country? That’s a question that might have been easier to answer under a different president. Now, there is no easy answer.
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