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Remarks of Assistant Secretary Kneuer at the Welcome Ceremony of the 30th International ICANN Meeting

October 29, 2007

30th International ICANN Meeting - Welcome Ceremony
October 29, 2007
John M.R. Kneuer
Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information

Good morning.  It's a real pleasure to be able to join you at the outset of ICANN's 30th meeting.

This particular meeting represents a milestone in ICANN's development.

Vint [Cerf] will be stepping down after eight years as ICANN's chairman of the board at the end of the week.  As we all know, this particular span of eight years represents almost the entirety of ICANN's life cycle and arguably can be defined as the formative stage in ICANN's development. 

Many of you in this room have been actively engaged in ICANN since its inception and are no doubt personally familiar with the challenges confronting ICANN in its early days.  There have also been more recent challenges that we have all faced together, and we can all agree that Vint's steady and farsighted leadership have played a critical role in meeting and overcoming these challenges. 

Many people far more esteemed than I have already paid tribute to Vint.  In 1997, President Clinton ordered Vint the National Medal of Technology.  And in 2005, the current President, George Bush, awarded our nation's highest honor to both Vint Cerf and Robert KAHN for their work, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 

We don't have awards of such stature or similar awards at NTIA, which is a small agency.  All I can really offer is my personal gratitude and thanks for your leadership and hard work and your friendship over these years.  So thank you.

The combination of Vint's technical expertise, business experience, and global stature has been exceptionally well suited to this unique enterprise that ICANN represents.

Over the course of the past eight years, ICANN's model of full participation by all interested stakeholders in decisions and policy-making has progressively evolved and strengthened.  As I look out into the audience today, it is clear to me that the expertise and resource commitments you all represent are a testament to the validity of the ICANN model. 

During my tenure at NTIA, I worked directly with Vint and Paul Twomey to continue this transition to the private sector management of the Internet domain name and addressing system.

As Vint was pointing out, it occurred to me this morning that I've been at this for roughly four years, almost half of ICANN's existence.  If my own short experience represents half of ICANN's existence, it really underscored to me how relatively young this institution is, given the enormously important work it is called upon to perform.  While there have been the inevitable growing pains to be expected in any lasting institution, there's also been great progress.  I think, in particular, the agreement that we executed in 2006, the Joint Program Agreement, was an important step forward and reflects maturity of the ICANN model.

These aren't just my views.  These are the views that were largely shared by the over 700 contributions that we received when we had an open process around the time of the execution of the new JPA. 

As you know, our public consultation process revealed broad support for the continued transition to the private sector.  The majority of interested stakeholders endorsed the original principles put forward to guide this transition, stability and security, competition, bottom-up policy coordination, and broad representation.

Equally importantly, the consultation revealed very strong support for further institutionalizing transparency and accountability.

While our public consultation was very, very important, I think just as important was the ultimate result and the end product of that consultation.

The new JPA included ten milestones to be achieved.  And significantly, these weren't milestones or measures that were determined by the Department of Commerce.  These were milestones that ICANN and the ICANN board adopted in response to the input of the community.

Its continuing evolution is shaped by the affirmation of these responsibilities in the resolution.  Although this is still a work in progress, it is fair to say there has been dramatic progress towards meeting the responsibilities outlined by the board.

There will be an opportunity to review ICANN's progress towards becoming a more stable organization with greater transparency and accountability in the very near term.  As you know, both ICANN and the Department agreed to a midterm review of the Joint Program Agreement, which will be in March of 2008.  To assist us in conducting this midpoint review of ICANN's progress, we intend to undertake a similar exercise that we did when we originally signed up the JPA.  I expect we will issue a Notice of Inquiry publicly very soon that will encourage all the relevant stakeholders to share their views with us.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance the Department attaches to hearing directly from all interested parties involved in the ICANN community.  We feel strongly that our review and the resulting report must be informed by your experiences with ICANN and perspectives regarding this evolution.  I fully expect we will be working together with ICANN and with the board and with the community. 

As I said, the important measurements are the ten criteria that were adopted by the board resolution.  Those were commitments that ICANN made to its board, and the board will ultimately be the judge of whether or not ICANN is meeting those responsibilities. 

So, clearly, working collaboratively together as a community, bringing our various interests and equities to this process, I'm confident this will be one more step forward to ensuring that ICANN serves as this enduring institution that we all rely upon to execute these very critical functions.

We'll also be hosting a public session on the results of the Notice of Inquiry in the first quarter of 2008.  We will have more detailed information about that as time progresses.  But, again, I want to encourage your active participation in this.

In closing, I think we can all agree that effective leadership is critical to the success of any enterprise, and I'm pleased to join all of you in recognizing Vint Cerf's invaluable contributions to ICANN.  I would like to congratulate the new members of the board who are joining at this meeting.  And I'm sure that Vint would agree with me that it is the continued active support by all of the members of the board that are fundamental to the continued success of this institution. 

 So I wish you all very productive meeting, I thank you for having me, and good morning.