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IGF 2018 WS #349 A Multistakeholder Approach to HRIAs: Lessons from ICANN


Round Table - 60 Min



Organizer 1: Michael Karanicolas, Mr
Organizer 2: Louise Marie Hurel, Naval War College
Organizer 3: Bruna Santos , Coding Rights

Speaker 1: Jorge Cancio, Government, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 2: Michele Neylon, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Collin Kurre, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 4: Aubry Manon, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Human Rights Impact Assessments (HRIAs) are a useful and increasingly widespread tool to inform private actors of the potential negative impacts of their policies, and to help mitigate their consequences. Prior panels, including at IGF, have been instrumental in developing best practices for HRIAs in the ICT sector This round table aims to further advance the discussion by introducing new HRIA models emerging from ICANN’s multistakeholder process, including valuable lessons which can be scaled out to improve HRIA models more generally.

In 2016, ICANN added the Core Value of “respecting internationally recognized human rights as required by applicable law” to its bylaws. The provision was made at the time, however, that the new human rights bylaw would remain dormant unless and until a framework of interpretation was developed and approved by the ICANN Board. As of March 2018, the framework of interpretation has been finalized and is awaiting approval, which has in turn led to new work within ICANN’s advisory and policy-making bodies to devise means of incorporating the new Core Value into their processes. Thus far, multistakeholder human rights impact assessments have gained the most traction as a potential compliance mechanism.

Multistakeholder impact assessments are premised on meaningful inclusion and stakeholder engagement throughout the process, with representatives from companies and communities coming together to jointly develop and undertake impact assessments. Such a collaborative approach has the potential to achieve a more accountable process, while generating trust among participants. Multistakeholder impact assessments also overcome the perceived biases of strictly company-led HRIAs, which are often conducted internally with little consultation from civil society or affected communities, and community-led assessments, which may lack crucial information about decision-making processes.

In impact assessments, the term “communities” generally refers to groups of people living in the same locality. When applied in the ICANN context, however, the term “community” expands exponentially to encompass the entirety of Internet users, as well as other companies, academia, technical operators, and even governments. Multistakeholder HRIAs in ICANN benefit from the differing perspectives and skill sets of these stakeholder groups, thereby resulting in an impact assessment that is potentially more comprehensive, actionable, and technically sound.

This round table will be divided into three parts, looking at the origins, influences, and progress of multistakeholder HRIAs in ICANN. Q&A intervals will follow each section to maximize audience engagement and promote a constructive flow of exchanges.

Session Content: 

Introduction (2 minutes)

Part I: Origins and drivers of HRIAs in the ICANN context: Corporate Social Responsibility, the Human Rights Bylaw, and its Framework of Interpretation (5 minutes)

Audience Q&A (5 minutes)

Part II: How do you assess the impact of the Internet?: HRIA case studies from Internet registries, registrars, and hosting providers (10 minutes)

Audience Q&A (8 minutes)

Part III: Multistakeholder HRIAs, a new way forward: Overview of ongoing efforts to devise new HRIA models for the ICANN community; conclusions and lessons learned from pilot assessment (15 minutes)

Audience Q&A (15 minutes)


Session speakers have been selected to represent a diversity of backgrounds, experiences and stakeholders groups, yet each of the speakers set forth in this session is uniquely qualified to speak on the subject at hand:

- Jorge Cancio (Swiss Federal Office of Communications) has steadily contributed to human rights-related discussions in ICANN since their inception, and was an active participant in the group which developed the Framework of Interpretation for ICANN’s human rights bylaw.

- Michele Neylon (Blacknight) is a longstanding leader in the ICANN community, and recently conducted a joint human rights impact assessment for his company’s registrar and hosting services in partnership with regional civil society organizations. - (Ideally, another representative from a technical operator in the DNS space who has also completed an HRIA will join the discussion to offer an additional perspective on the process.)

- Collin Kurre (ARTICLE 19) co-chairs the Cross Community Working Party on ICANN and Human Rights, and leads A19’s work to develop new models of assessing the human rights impact of Internet infrastructure providers, including ICANN.

(- Manon Aubry (Oxfam, Sciences Po - TBC) leads Oxfam International's work on the UN Treaty on Business and Human Rights and has published extensively on HRIAs, including on the development of new HRIA methodologies.)

A timer will be used during this session to maximize exchanges among participants. Each speaker will have 5 minutes to introduce and develop their perspectives during the appropriate phase of the agenda. Planned interventions will be capped at time in order to permit fruitful exchanges with other attendees. A brief, moderated exchange among speakers will follow the final intervention in Part III, then the floor will be opened once more for questions and comments from round table participants. In the Q&A intervals that follow each section, questions will be limited to 30 seconds and answers to one minute in order to maximize audience engagement and promote a constructive flow of exchanges.


The organizing team, moderators and panelists are all gender balanced, and the panel includes a mix of participants from the private sector, civil society, and government. The proposer and two of the three members of the organizing team are under 30, and the team includes participants from three continents. Although the topic of digital rights impact assessments is still very niche, the diverse speakers and members the organizing team all have an active level of engagement with the proposed subject. Finally, the organizing body for the session — ICANN’s Noncommercial Users’ Constituency, or NCUC — is a global organization which includes representatives from 161 countries. The NCUC’s global membership participated in developing this proposal, and the organizers will continue to engage with the NCUC community in the run up to the session to respond to questions and gather feedback from its global network.

Online Participation: 

The opportunity for Q&A will extend to remote participants, who will be given the opportunity to ask questions through the IGF's dedicated online forum. Both the onsite moderator and remote moderator have abundant experience managing remote participation in the ICANN context and take seriously the need for remote inclusion. However, due to time constraints, only questions — not comments or observations — from remote participants will be introduced as interventions. The organizing team will advise remote participants at the beginning of the meeting that questions should be clearly indicated as such, starting with "QUESTION:" in the chat. The remote moderator, assisted by the rapporteur, will then be responsible for monitoring at what point remote questions enter the queue, signalling to the onsite moderator, and reading the questions out loud in a dedicated microphone.

In addition to the aforementioned fora, we will also promote a dedicated hashtag (#ICANNHRIA) so that the panelists, audience members, and online participants can discuss the issues raised in real time on a more widely accessible medium. A collaborative document will gather records of questions, as well as comments, observations, and other remarks made during and after the workshop, so that they can later be integrated into the report.

Discussion Facilitation: 

The structure of this round table is intended to foster an inclusive conversation and promote constructive exchanges between discussants and other round table participants, both onsite and online. Prior to the event, preparatory documents will be circulated to speakers and at least one coordination call will he beld to ensure that each speaker is prepared and secure in their interventions. During the session, online participation will be facilitated as mentioned above in order to promote constructive exchanges among participants, bridging onsite and online contributors.

Contact Information

United Nations
Secretariat of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

Villa Le Bocage
Palais des Nations,
CH-1211 Geneva 10

igf [at] un [dot] org
+41 (0) 229 173 678