Introducing ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC)
What is the GAC?
The GAC is an advisory committee to ICANN, created under the ICANN ByLaws. It provides advice to ICANN on public policy aspects of ICANN’s responsibilities with regard to the Internet Domain Name System (DNS).
The GAC is not a decision-making body. It advises ICANN on issues that are within ICANN’s scope.
GAC advice has a particular status under the ICANN ByLaws. Its advice must be duly taken into account by the ICANN Board, and where the Board proposes actions inconsistent with GAC advice it must give reasons for doing so and attempt to reach a mutually acceptable solution.
The GAC appoints a non-voting liaison to the ICANN Board. This is normally the GAC Chair.
Who are the GAC’s Members?
The GAC elects a Chair and Vice Chairs from its membership. The GAC Chair is Mr Thomas Schneider from Switzerland, and the Vice Chairs are from Argentina, Spain, Namibia, and Thailand.
GAC membership consists of national governments and distinct economies recognized in international fora; and, usually in an observer capacity, multinational governmental and treaty organisations and public authorities (including all the UN agencies with a direct interest in global Internet governance such as the ITU, UNESCO and WIPO). There are currently 171 GAC Members and 35 Observers.
Why does ICANN have a Governmental Advisory Committee?
ICANN is a multi-stakeholder entity in which governments need to participate alongside the domain names industry, the technical community, business and non-commercial users, and civil society. The GAC was established in 1999, in parallel with ICANN’s first public meetings, and has operated continuously since then.
ICANN looks to the GAC for advice on public policy aspects of specific issues for which ICANN has responsibility. This is an important dimension of ICANN’s work.
How does the GAC operate?
The GAC determines its own operating procedures and these are set out in the GAC Operating Principles. GAC face-to-face meetings are held in conjunction with ICANN meetings, which currently occur three times a year.
Advice from the GAC to ICANN is determined on the basis of consensus. Advice is conveyed to the ICANN Board, usually in the form of a communiqué issued at the end of each GAC meeting. Each communiqué and the minutes of GAC meetings are made available online.
The GAC works inter-sessionally on priority issues, usually via teleconferencing. In addition, working groups are used to focus on particular areas such as working methods and issues for future gTLDs.
The work of the GAC is supported by a dedicated Secretariat provided by ACIG (an independent consulting firm) and by ICANN staff.
What are the benefits of GAC membership?
The Internet domain name system is a key part of critical Internet infrastructure for the global digital economy. Government and IGOs who participate through the GAC benefit from:
- The opportunity to provide advice direct to the ICANN Board on public policy aspects of the operation of the Internet domain name system.
- Contributing at an early stage of ICANN’s policy development processes to ensure consistency with laws and public interest.
- Access to face to face meetings and online discussion with other GAC members and observers, including national governments and inter-governmental organisations, which inform development of GAC advice.
- Access to relevant subject matter experts within the GAC and across ICANN, enabling GAC members to remain informed about technical innovation in the domain name system and its future evolution.
- Support from a professional full-time Secretariat.
- Substantive policy outcomes, including
— The 2007 new principles for generic top level domains (gTLDs)
— New gTLDs scorecard, which was important to the new gTLDs program and widely hailed as a major success and model for the future
— ICANN’s acceptance of safeguards for new gTLDs to reflect law enforcement and consumer protection concerns.
— WHOIS principles, including bringing law enforcement to the ICANN table to address cybercrime
— Maintaining security and stability of the DNS
— Delegation and administration of country code domains (ccTLDs)
- Structural and process outcomes, including
— Greater accountability and transparency of all areas of ICANN (including the GAC itself)
— Liaison with the ICANN Board, through the GAC Chair’s membership and a formal register of GAC advice and actions taken
— Cross-community activities between GAC and ICANN policy-making bodies such as those dealing with generic and country-specific top level domain names.
— Operation of a travel support program to assist developing countries to participate in GAC meetings.
Interviews of GAC representatives at ICANN 53, Buenos Aires
Alice Munyua, African Union Commission: https://youtu.be/WmOIpmGVUK8
Tracy Hackshaw, Trinidad and Tobago: https://youtu.be/DQl0SfbPen8
Wanawit Ahkuputra, Thailand: https://youtu.be/FyK7GycxLQ0
Olga Cavalli, Argentina
Please address any questions about the GAC to email@example.com