ICANN relies on certain advisory committees to receive guidance and advice related to the interests and needs of stakeholders who are not able to directly participate in the Supporting Organizations; one of these advisory committees is the Governmental Advisory Committee, which is composed of representatives of national governments from all over the world.
The GAC provides its advice and guidance upon request. One of its most important responsibilities is its duty to analyze ICANN's activities and policies as they might influence governments, especially with regards to the interaction between ICANN's policies and national laws or international agreements.
The GAC has the duty to incorporate the diverse opinions and perspective of its members when supplying advice to ICANN, and it's imperative that its members stay informed about new Internet trends and pending policy issues.
The GAC is constantly looking for new members, especially from developing countries in order to increase global awareness, increase participation, and make sure that ICANN reflects global diversity.
The GAC has more than 100 members; and three of its important organizational features are:
- GAC structure consists of elected officers, a Chairman and 3 Vice-chair which include:
- GAC has its own GAC Secretariat
- GAC organizes at least three meetings on a yearly basis which are held in conjunction with ICANN's meetings.
Other such advisory committees which are important for ICANN are:
- ALAC (At-Large Advisory Committee)
- Root Server System Advisory Committee
- SSAC (Security and Stability Advisory Committee)
- TLG (Technical Liaison Group)
Over the years, GAC is proud of accomplishing the following:
- Setting up the principles for ccTLD management and delegation;
- Setting up the principles for public policy for delegation, introduction, and gTLD operation;
- Setting up the principles for public policy of gTLD Whois services;
GAC Working Style
On January 11, 2012, the ninth version of the Applicant Guidebook was released one day prior to the opening window of ICANN's new gTLD program. The new version gave greater power to the GAC in forcing the ICANN Board to manually review any application that the committee found problematic. Exactly how many GAC members it would take to cause this review is vague, but it could be as little as one nation's objection. This is a significant change given that the ICANN Board had no requirement to heed any GAC objection in the previous guidebook; the board is still able to over-rule any GAC objection.
GAC Advice on .xxx TLD
On March 17, 2011, GAC through its' Chairman Heather Dryden reiterated to ICANN Chairman Peter Dengate Thrush that the Committee has no active support for the implementation of .xxx TLD. GAC also informed ICANN that some governments might prevent access to the TLD, which could harm the global interoperability and stability of the internet. Furthermore, the Committee also pointed out the possibility for ICANN to assume management and oversight role regarding internet content on the proposed ICANN-ICM Registry Agreement. Despite GAC's position, the ICANN Board approved .xxx TLD to the during the ICANN 41 Meeting in San Francisco on March 18.
ATRT Final Report on GAC's Role & Interaction with ICANN Board
The Accountability and Transparency Review Team (ATRT) was one of the four Review Teams created by ICANN to comply with the requirements set forth by the Department of Commerce (DOC) in the Affirmation of Commitments. The primary objective of ATRT is to provide evaluation mechanisms and report ICANN's progress on ensuring accountability, transparency and the interests of global Internet users. ATRT is composed of volunteer members; 1 from both ASO and ALAC, 2 from ccNSO, 4 from GNSO, 4 from governments including 2 ex-officio members, the chair of the ICANN Board and 1 or 2 independent experts. GAC's representatives to the ATRT include Manal Ismail, an ex-officio member who is the designated nominee of former GAC chairman Janis Karklins and vice-chair of RT, Fabio Colossanti from EU and Xinsheng Zhang from China.
On December 31, 2010, ATRT submitted its Final Report to the ICANN Board with 27 recommendations. The final report identified four areas to improve ICANN's accountability and transparency which include:
- Board governance, performance, and composition
- GAC's role, effectiveness and Interaction with the Board
- Public input and policy development processes
- Review mechanisms for Board decisions
Under GAC's role , effectiveness and interaction with the Board, ATRT recommended the following:
- The GAC-Board Joint Working Group needs to clarify what constitutes GAC public policy "advice" under the Bylaws by March 2011.
- After establishing the formal context of GAC public policy "advice," the ICANN Board should develop a more formal documented process to notify and request for GAC advice regarding public policy issues by March 2011. ATRT recommended for ICANN to be proactive in requesting GAC advice in writing. In addition the team also recommended the development of a data base to be able to document every request and advice received by ICANN from GAC.
- The Board and GAC should work together to ensure that GAC advice is provided and considered on time. ATRT also suggested the creation of an independent review joint working group and a formal documentation process on how ICANN responds to GAC advice by March 2011. The process must require ICANN to provide specific information on a timely manner regarding its position whether it agrees or disagrees with GAC advice and for both parties to find mutually acceptable solutions in good faith. The Board and GAC must also establish strategies to ensure that the provisions in Bylaws regarding GAC advice is met.
- The Board should develop and implement mechanisms to engage GAC earlier in the policy development process.
- The Board and GAC should work together to create and implement actions to ensure that GAC is well informed regarding ICANN's policy agenda. Both parties should also consider creating/evaluating the role and necessary skills of the ICANN Support Staff to ensure that effective communication will be provided.
- The Board is encouraged to increase the level of support and commitment of governments to the GAC process by encouraging member countries and organizations particularly developing countries to participate in GAC deliberations, provide multilingual access to ICANN records and to develop a process to identify how and when ICANN deals with senior government officials on public policy issues on a regular or collective basis to complement the GAC process.
GAC Participation at ICANN 43 Meeting in Costa Rica
GAC-GNSO Joint Meeting
On March 2012, GAC had a joint meeting with the GNSO regarding the plan to extend the special domain name protections for the Red Cross and the Olympics, the on-going amendment negotiations to the Registrar Accreditation Agreement and the Human Rights Council discussion on freedom of expression over the internet. GAC informed the GNSO that it supports the domain name protection extension for Red Cross and the Olympics but it is not a consensus view. The Committee supported the issue on freedom of expression over the internet and acknowledge the progress of the RAA and requested for a timelime.
Discussion on New gTLDs
- Defensive gTLD applications
- Root zone scaling
- Batching of applications
- Applicant support program
- Early warning system
- Second round of application
- Cross ownership of registrars and registries
- Trademark clearinghouse
- ↑ GAC Definition
- ↑ GAC considerations
- ↑ GAV accomplishments
- ↑ GAC working groups
- ↑ GAC Gets More Power to Block Controversial gTLDs, DomainIncite.com
- ↑ GAC Statement on .xxx
- ↑ Conference summary: ICANN San Francisco
- ↑ Affirmation of Commitments – Reviews
- ↑ Accountability and Transparency Review Team Composition
- ↑ Final Recommendations of the Accountability and Transparency Review Team
- ↑ Final Recommendations of the Accountability and Transparency Review Team
- ↑ GAC-GNSO Joint Meeting
- ↑ GAC Discussion on New gTLDs