ICANN72: Why every ccTLD should care about the ccNSO guidelines review

Blog 28-10-2021

Until a few years ago, one needed to climb an impossibly steep learning curve when engaging in the country code Names Supporting Organisation (ccNSO).

These days, thanks to the excellent work of the secretariat, it is much easier to join the discussions. There are now good prep materials, live note-taking and perfectly supported online meetings and recordings. All the information we need is at our fingertips.

But still, the activity ratio within the ccNSO membership remains low.

At the last members’ vote in July, heaven and earth was moved just to reach the quorum that allowed a vote on the retirement of country codes. And the two files that are coming up next are important enough to merit every single ccTLD’s attention.

First, there is the Review Mechanism Working Group which will recommend a policy for review mechanisms for decisions by the ICANN Board that affect ccTLDs. These decisions are: the delegation, revocation and retirement of ISO 3166-1 listed countries and territories. It’s hard to imagine that there is even one ccTLD that wouldn’t care about a mechanism that might decide on its mere existence.

And secondly, there is work being undertaken on the selection and deselection of IDN ccTLDs. For more than a decade the ccTLD community has been relying on the IDN fast track mechanism, which introduced new top level domains long before the new gTLD round took place in 2004. The group defines the criteria, process and procedures for (de)selecting Internationalised Domain Name country code Top Level Domain strings. The results of this work will eventually replace the IDN ccTLD Fast Track Process.

So, how is it possible that ccNSO members seem not to care enough to vote?

The ccNSO has grown significantly since it developed its own internal rules in 2004. The ccNSO currently has 172 members (up from 45 in 2004) and it has become more and more difficult to get the necessary quorum and votes to move forwards on some of the crucial positions.

Of those members, only a small group is actively engaged and knowledgeable enough about the procedural issues at stake to cast a vote confidently and in a timely manner. And this isn’t just a problem for the few policy development processes mentioned above. Since 2004, the ccNSO has also been named in new ICANN processes such as the accountability framework where the role of the ccNSO as a decisional participant is specified.

At ICANN 72, the ccNSO Guidelines Working Group presented their proposal (version 7, October 14, 2021) to address this procedural issue without creating a democratic deficit.

In a well-attended session, the working group presented their proposals for change and took the temperature of the room. The proposals include a review timeline for the internal rules, establish procedural minimum timelines and set out principles that should govern the relationship between the ccNSO council and the ccNSO Community. They also include a list of decisions that the Council can take without being subject to members’ votes, transparency and publication obligations and fine tuned electronic voting procedures. Finally they suggest revised quorum rules for members’ votes. Overall their proposals were broadly supported and set the course for the dearly needed review.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed that enough members will see the need to support this change when the final proposal is subjected to their vote. The irony of failing to do so would signal systemic failure.


This blogpost was written by Peter Van Roste, General Manager of CENTR. It is part of a series of blogposts CENTR will be publishing on the ICANN72 meeting.

Published By Peter Van Roste
Peter Van Roste is the General Manager of CENTR, overseeing all of CENTR’s activities and liaising with governments, institutions and other organisations in the internet ecosystem.