Help Us Shape The Internet's Future

Accountability/Transparency Background


  • End users are an integral part of ICANN’s multistakeholder community. Through the At-Large Community, they play an important role in holding ICANN accountable.
  • Their contributions are essential, especially since they are the primary affected party in matters of public interest. Working within ICANN and other Internet Governance fora, they are frequently able to propose innovative solutions.
  • In the Internet Governance ecosystem, ICANN is the only organization where end users form a critical element within its structure and have an influential voice. End users cannot effectively impact the evolution of the Internet if ICANN loses credibility and ceases to exist.
  • End users’ participation will ensure the legitimacy in the process of enhancing ICANN accountability. Their participation will also strengthen an inclusive, transparent, global, and collaborative model of governance fit for our present and future. 

What is accountability? What is transparency?

Accountability is defined as "the obligation of an individual or organization to account for its activities, accept responsibility for them, and to disclose the results in a transparent manner" (reference). Transparency, on the other hand, is defined as "lack of hidden agendas or conditions, accompanied by the availability of full information required for collaborations, cooperation, and collective decision making" (reference). 

The concepts of transparency and accountability are closely linked: transparency is supposed to generate accountability.

What are accountability and transparency at ICANN?

The mechanisms through which ICANN achieves accountability and transparency are built into every level of its organization and mandate - beginning with its Bylaws and Affirmation of Commitments. They can be grouped in 3 categories;

  1. Accountability Mechanisms:
    • Reconsideration is the process by which any person or entity materially affected by an action of ICANN may request review or reconsideration of that action by the Board.
    • Ombudsman is an independent, impartial, and neutral officer of ICANN. The Ombudsman`s function is to act as an Alternative Dispute Resolution office for the ICANN community who may wish to lodge a complaint about a staff or board decision, action or inaction.
    • Independent Review Process is an independent third-party review of Board actions alleged by an affected party to be inconsistent with the Articles of Incorporation or Bylaws.
    • ICANN's Documentary Information Disclosure Policy (DIDP) is intended to ensure that information contained in documents concerning ICANN's operational activities, and within ICANN's possession, custody, or control, is made available to the public unless there is a compelling reason for confidentiality.
    • Here are some examples of transparency and other mechanisms:
      • Quarterly Stakeholder Calls. They update on the latest policy and implementation developments, ICANN`s operational achievements and financial standings.
      • Open Participation in ICANN Activities. ICANN's Supporting Organizations (SOs) and Advisory Committees (ACs) publicly post detailed information about their activities and deliberations, along with clear instructions on how one can participate.
      • Public Comment. It provides information on the issues ICANN stakeholders currently have posted for public comment, with opportunity for all stakeholders to provide input and feedback.
      • Language Services. While ICANN’s working language is English, multilingualism is essential for a global multistakeholder organization. In order to facilitate access to ICANN and broad participation in its work, it is the policy of ICANN to provide language services (including translation and interpretation) in the six United Nations languages where appropriate, while taking into account budget constraints.
      • Implementation of Review Recommendations. Once recommendations resulting from AoC and Organizational Reviews are accepted by the Board, the implementation of these recommendations is publicly tracked with periodic status reports posted.
      • Organizational Effectiveness Committee of the ICANN Board. It oversees the Bylaws-mandated organizational reviews.
      • Project Portfolio Management System. It provides visibility into ICANN's workload, progress and status of projects underway.
      • KPI Dashboard. It shows how the organization is progressing on its five objectives and sixteen goals per its strategic and operating plans.
  2. Organizational Reviews*
  3. Affirmation of Commitments (AoC) Reviews*

*Organizational Reviews and AoC Reviews are discussed in the Reviews/Improvements section in detail. For more information please visit here.

Why ICANN accountability and transparency matter to you?

ICANN uses a variety of tools and processes to enhance its accountability. As they become aware end users have the option to utilize them effectively. To give an example any end user who is interested in ICANN`s performance in achieving its objectives and goals may go to organization`s web site and check KPI Dashboard or attend Quarterly Stakeholder Calls to see whether ICANN is attaining its goals or not.

Similarly end users who are not capable of speaking English still have the option to follow most of the meetings at ICANN, thanks to language services provided. Moreover they can provide input (meeting participation, public comment) in one of the UN languages in most cases.

Moreover in case of a dissatisfaction end users have the possibility to complain about staff, board decision, action or inaction by contacting the Ombudsman.

Accountability and Transparency have become hot topics in ICANN community recently due to Cross-Community Working Group on Enhancing ICANN Accountability as part of the IANA transition process. Any end user interested in joining this group`s work as an individual participant or mailing list observer is also welcome by contacting