Guidelines for High Level Government Meetings
Last updated: April 2016
Note: The present document, 'GAC Guidelines for High Level Government Meetings,' is a living document. The present version was last modified in April 2016. HLM hosts are encouraged to work with the GAC on updating those guidelines based on their experiences after each event.
Approximately once every two years one of the GAC Members hosts a High Level Government Meeting (HLGM) in conjunction with an ICANN meeting and in addition to the usual GAC meeting.
The HLGM provides the opportunity to:
- Reaffirm the critical role that governments play in providing advice to the ICANN Board on public-policy issues as it relates to the secure and stable functioning of the Domain Name System.
- Enable all parties to gain a clearer understanding of the role of governments in ICANN processes, including the GAC.
- Discuss current public policy issues and challenges at very senior level. These discussions can occur between government and government, as well as between governments and the ICANN leadership group.
- Expose very senior administrative officials and senior elected officials (Ministers, members of legislative bodies) to ICANN, allowing them to gain a greater understanding of the organisation and the issues it deals with. In turn, this may lead to better support for and resourcing of GAC representatives within their home administrations.
- Reach out to administrations and governments who are not yet, or not currently, represented on the GAC or in other ICANN forums.
A list of all High Level Government Meetings held so far can be found at Appendix A of this document.
The High Level Government Meetings provide an opportunity for ICANN and the GAC to act on the recommendations of ICANN’s first (2011) and second (2013) Accountability and Transparency Review Teams.
ATRT1 Recommendation 14:The Board should endeavor to increase the level of support and commitment of governments to the GAC process. First, the Board should encourage member countries and organizations to participate in GAC deliberations and should place a particular focus on engaging nations in the developing world, paying particular attention to the need to provide multilingual access to ICANN records. Second, the Board, working with the GAC, should establish a process to determine when and how ICANN engages senior government officials on public policy issues on a regular and collective basis to complement the existing GAC process.
ATRT2 Recommendation 6.7: Recommends that the Board work jointly with the GAC, through the Board-GAC Recommendation Implementation (BGRI) working group, to regularize senior officials’ meetings by asking the GAC to convene a High Level meeting on a regular basis, preferably at least once every two years. Countries and territories that do not currently have GAC representatives should also be invited and a stock-taking after each High Level meeting should occur.
The GAC has subsequently agreed in principle to convene a High Level Government Meeting on a regular basis, aiming for once every two years. Each HLGM will be hosted, organised and implemented by a GAC Member in conjunction with the GAC and ICANN.
Before each meeting
HLGMs must be planned well in advance. Ideally a host GAC Member will self-nominate and inform the GAC one year before the likely HLGM date. The host Member will:
- Be strongly committed to the HLGM and have the ability to handle complex logistic arrangements.
- Liaise with ICANN to ensure the appropriate meeting facilities and resources can be made available and to identify the respective responsibilities and tasks in sufficient detail. Exceptional need for facilities and foreseen changes in ICANN meeting model (for FY 16 and beyond) will have to be taken into consideration as well and may require a long planning horizon.
- Liaise with previous HLGM hosts in order to learn, in detail, from their experiences.
- Travel support: Arrange travel support opportunities, including support for visa requests as needed. Some of those who are invited, particularly if they are from a developing nation, may require financial assistance in order to attend the HLGM. The host member may wish to liaise with ICANN to arrange funding (well in advance, prior to budget finalization for the relevant ICANN fiscal year), or may itself provide travel support to HLGM delegates. Such funding arrangements should be agreed and organised as soon as possible. Ideally, travel support information should be sent out along with the invitations. Liaise with ICANN’s Global Stakeholder Engagement team to make appropriate use of their regional networks.
- Invitations: Send invitations to governments as early as possible, paying special attention to administrations and governments who are not yet, or not currently, represented on the GAC. This will likely occur in consultation with the host Member’s relevant foreign affairs agency. It should also occur in consultation with GAC representatives (who may have useful information about where to send an invitation and to whom). Very senior officials and senior elected officers need plenty of lead-time in order to arrange travel to a HLGM. Coordinate the timing of invitations with GAC and ICANN staff. Liaise with ICANN’s Global Stakeholder Engagement team to make appropriate use of their regional networks and send them a copy of invitations sent. Also remember to mention on the invitations that all HLGM participants need to register via the ICANN meeting website in addition to responding to the host country.
- Participant list: Create and keep up-to-date a participants list in English, in liaison with ICANN staff, in particular the relevant regional staff. The list should identify heads of delegation as well as high-level participants (notably those with ministerial or equivalent status). Close to the time of the event, make sure to communicate expected number of participants with ICANN (the meetings team registration staff) so as to plan adequate seating and catering in the venue. The participants’ list will also be needed by GAC and ICANN staff to coordinate badges for head of delegations and high-level delegates. All participants must also be registered on the ICANN meeting website. Since the London 2014 and Morocco 2016 HLGMs were open to all participants, not just to governments, dedicated space was planned for non-governmental attendees.
- Agenda: Liaise with the GAC and ICANN to establish the agenda and desirable outcomes for the HLGM. Most senior figures will want to know the agenda before deciding whether or not to accept the invitation.
- Stakeholder events: Liaise with the GAC and ICANN to propose options for meetings with other stakeholders in addition to the main meetings of the HLGM (these would not be "obligatory" but all HLGM participants would be invited). This would help to raise awareness of the senior government officials of the issues/concerns of other stakeholders but not divert from the main object of the HLGM.
- Briefings: Prepare briefing opportunities for governments that wish to learn more about ICANN and the GAC prior to the HLGM. This may occur, for example, via the host Member’s embassy network or through the organisation of formal briefing sessions.
- Related opportunities: Develop a list of other, related opportunities likely to interest HLGM delegates (for example bi-lateral meetings, relevant conferences, etc). Some delegates will need to travel a long way and the offer of multiple opportunities may be more enticing than a single HLGM meeting.
- Participants’ dossier: in liaison with support staff, plan the contents of a possible participants’ dossier. Please note that ICANN typically has material in US letter format whereas many countries operate with A4 format. If relevant make sure to ask ICANN for A4 format material (e.g. binders) giving as much notice as possible (material is often shipped to meeting venues 2 months in advance or more).
- GAC preparatory session: If the GAC will be meeting on days either side of the HLGM, then a session prior to the HLGM will likely be dedicated to briefing GAC Members about the pending HLGM. Briefing sessions may also be required during earlier GAC meetings leading up to the HLGM.
- Seating plan: For the 3 first HLGMs, seating plans were established using the alphabetical order of the heads of delegation’s last names (rather than country names), with Ministers in the front of the room and other heads of delegation seated in the remaining seats (often with one or more seats for an aide or other members of a delegation). The seating plan should if possible be communicated to GAC members the day before the meeting in order to help delegations locate their designated seats. Welcoming staff from the host country and from ICANN should have the latest seating plan so that they are able to direct people arriving to their seats.
- List of speakers: Consider preparing an initial list of participants who wish to take the floor to kick-start discussions. If possible, consider limiting the number of interventions by each delegation to try to ensure all those who wish to take the floor can do so in their preferred session or a second session choice, with some time left for discussion or comments from the floor. Encouraging delegations to send the text of their interventions to ICANN staff greatly helps the interpreters in providing accurate translations.
During each meeting
The host Member will need to consider arrangements for:
- Briefing the HLGM Chair (and the GAC Chair, if they are not the same person)
- Seating arrangements
- Remote participation, live transcription and translation
- Lunch and any post-meeting functions
- Publication of the HLGM Chair’s Report, providing a summary of the meeting.
After each meeting
Minutes, transcripts and the HLGM’s Chair’s Report need to be published as soon as possible.
The GAC will likely dedicate a session within its meeting to a stocktaking discussion of how the HLGM went in terms of attendance, discussion topics, and outcomes.
The GAC Support team may be able to track and report back on any increase in GAC Membership enquiries resulting directly from the HLGM.
The experiences of hosts of past HLGMs are reflected in the text of this document. Each host member is welcome to enrich the HLGM guidelines in order to increase the robustness of the exercise overtime on the basis of the gained experience.
To date, High Level Government Meetings have been (or will be) hosted by the following GAC Members.
Meeting: ICANN45 Toronto
Date: October 2012
Host: United Kingdom
Meeting: ICANN50 London
Date: June 2014
Contact: Mr Mark Carvell
Host: Kingdom of Morocco
Meeting: ICANN55 Marrakech
Date: February 2016
Contact: Mr Redouane HOUSSAINI
ICANN50 was held in June 2014, in London. A High Level Government Meeting was convened during ICANN50 and was hosted by the United Kingdom.
To follow is a report from the UK GAC Representative, outlining some of the issues, processes and lessons learned. Any GAC Member who may be involved in hosting a HLGM is encouraged to contact Mr Mark Carvell, the UK GAC representative, for further information.
As the host ministry of the second High Level Government Meeting at the London ICANN meeting in June last year, it may be helpful to colleagues to recount some of the key management decisions we took and aspects of the preparatory modalities, most of which are well reflected in these GAC guidelines.
Firstly, with regard to the agenda, we considered it important to ensure this would suit a strategic forum involving Ministers; it should not be a "high level GAC meeting" with an agenda of selected issues from the then current GAC programme of work which would have basically constituted another channel of advice to the Board as its primary outcome. We took an early decision therefore as meeting host to lead on the agenda setting, to define the key strategic issues for discussion - and then consult with GAC colleagues and ICANN leadership on that basis in order to finalise the scope of the meeting and its programme. We also believed it was important not to overload the meeting with a wide range of specific topics and to ensure that the issues we prioritised would engender meaningful discussion: the agenda had to allow sufficient time for the active participation of as many participants to be maximised (attendees may recall the strenuous efforts by our Minister as meeting chair to achieve this on the day).
We knew that the timing of the London meeting was a critical one in terms of its coincidence with significant developments in the Internet governance eco-system which impacted on ICANN and the GAC notably the US Government's decision to transfer stewardship of IANA to the global community, and the outcomes from “NETmundial” meeting in Sao Paulo. These major developments informed our proposals for the agenda.
Our key objective for the London meeting was to converge these issues with the strategic developments emerging from ICANN itself, notably the enhancement of the role and effectiveness of the GAC through implementation of the ATRT 1 and 2 recommendations, and the Report of ICANN’s High Level Panel on Global Internet Cooperation and Governance Mechanisms. We were confident we could in this way construct an agenda for a milestone event in Internet governance which would attract the participation of many Ministers and senior representatives in a single global forum.
Awareness-raising and Outreach
As the GAC Guidance recounts very effectively, we committed to rolling out a preparatory programme of outreach to embassies and high commissions both in London and in other countries. This was vitally important to ensure that the aims and value of the meeting, and the reasons to attend. were fully understood. This was particularly so with regard to engaging administrations which were at that time not represented as members of the GAC. We had some success in that regard but I would emphasise that this is perhaps one of the greatest challenges and requires a concerted resource effort. It was clear in some cases that we had to overcome lack of knowledge and recognition of ICANN's critical importance in the global digital economy and unfamiliarity with the modalities of multi-stakeholder policy development and the role of governments. While not all of our efforts to engage non-GAC members paid off with representation at the meeting, we can reflect on the value of promoting awareness at least.
Conduct of the Meeting
I recall there was an expectation by some administrations that the London High Level Governmental Meeting would be a closed meeting. However, we took an early decision in consultation with our Minister to have the meeting open for all stakeholders to attend - primarily to enhance its resonance within the ICANN framework and in particular to provide perhaps a rare physical opportunity to hear at first hand how governments were engaging on policy issues of direct strategic relevance to the ICANN community and how the ICANN leadership were engaging with them on these issues.
We believed it was also important to secure the participation of the ICANN leadership in the person of the CEO and Chair of the Board for as much of the programme as possible, i.e. the "high level" should by definition extend to ICANN. We knew this would be a challenge given the wide range of competing demands on their time during the ICANN meeting. However, in our exchanges with ICANN we stressed the criticality of their active participation and attendance and that ministers and senior officials would expect the opportunity to engage them. As I recall, they both attended most of the meeting.
We took an early decision that the host minister (Ed Vaizey) would chair with support from the GAC Chair as meeting vice-chair. For each topic the Minister was briefed to introduce the session theme before proceeding to invite a lead person closely associated with the issue to make a short scene-setting and updating presentation, prior to opening the meeting for contributions and questions from the attendees.
The option for additional side meetings set out in the European Commission's amendment to the Guidelines is not one that we considered in London. It will have resource implications for all concerned but increasing the opportunity for interaction with ICANN stakeholders is certainly a valuable objective to take into account in the programme planning.
We also had expectations that the meeting's outcome document - the Minister's report as meeting Chair - would reflect some significant areas of agreement as well as range of views on some points. We had not intended that the outcome should be a negotiated text but nonetheless we believed that given the substantive agenda issues to be discussed, and the level of participation, the outcome document had the potential to be regarded as an important contribution to wider discussions on Internet governance following NETmundial. We were also mindful in particular of the first stages of the UN's 10 year review of the implementation of the outcomes of the 2003-2005 World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).
ICANN & GAC support
We anticipated that delivering on the logistics for such a major meeting within the context of an ICANN public meeting at the same venue, with a target level of participation of 100 governments and administrations could not be achieved by us in the Department alone (especially at a time of austerity cutbacks in resourcing!). We realised early on that we would need the support of ICANN staff and the GAC Secretariat in preparing the physical meeting as well as posting agendas and information on the ICANN and GAC information media. We appreciated very much their commitment and level of support - especially on the day of the meeting (including interpretation and catering including the ministerial lunch). We could not have realised our ambitions and expectations for the meeting without them! Prospective hosts should therefore factor their potential contribution into the event planning, communications strategy and the logistical heavy-lifting.
United Kingdom Representative on the Governmental Advisory Committee of ICANN
4 February 2015