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As the UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) approaches its final
meeting, political oversight of Internet governance has become the paramount issue. It
has also proven to be a politically charged and divisive issue, making it impossible for the
3rd Prepcom to reach an agreement.
In this document we attempt to provide conceptual clarity on issues relating to political
oversight. We first define political oversight and briefly assess why it might or might not
be needed for international Internet governance. Next, we make an important distinction
between narrow oversight (of ICANN) and broad oversight (of all Internet public policy
issues), and explain why WSIS must separate discussion of these two types of oversight.
We then examine in detail the existing mechanisms of political oversight over ICANN.
We note that unilateral U.S. oversight is troublesome and needs to be changed. But there
are two very different ways to do this. One way is to bring more governments into the
supervisory process. Another way is to remove the U.S. government from the picture. In
other words, one can de-nationalize ICANN and find ways of making it accountable that
do not require traditional inter-governmental supervision.
The paper concludes that de-nationalization is probably a better option than
internationalization. Moreover, the existing mechanisms of U.S. political oversight can be
modified to move toward de- nationalization without threatening the effective operation or
freedom of the Internet.
Source: Internet Gouvernance Project