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ICANN is a global organization that connects technical, government, academic, and businesses in a multi-stakeholder model to help manage and guide the internet via policy and technical guidelines for domain names and more. It’s a fascinating conference to attend because of this, and unparalleled in its ability to bring people together from so many countries and backgrounds that have a real and foundational impact on the underpinnings of what makes the internet work.

This November, over 2,500 participants from 130 countries attended ICANN66 in Montreal, Canada, including NetActuate’s CEO and CFO. Canada has been a strong supporter of ICANN and the internet for over two decades and ICANN66 took place in the beautiful city of Montreal.

Previous ICANN meetings have been held in Toronto (ICANN45), Vancouver (ICANN24), and ICANN17 was also held in Montreal. Canada is one of the first countries to have a ccTLD with .ca, and was one of the first members of the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC). You can read a great post on the ICANN blog details Canada’s rich and forward-thinking contributions to ICANN and the internet as a whole.

At this meeting, ICANN66 saw a leadership transition, with Chair Cherine Chalaby passing the baton to Maarten Botterman. Chalaby, an expert in the field of banking and technology, led the assembled group through the transition. Chalaby then went to discuss ICANN and its stability, and confirmed that the ICANN strategic plan for fiscal years 2021 to 2025 had been formally adopted by the ICANN Board.

“With regard to the uncertainties of the future, we acknowledge that in the next five years, ICANN will face more external challenges than ever before, such as the exponential growth in security threats and the increasing risks of Internet fragmentation. But we have developed a bold and decisive strategic plan that responds to these challenges so that we can take ICANN where we want it to be,” said Chalaby.

The new strategic plan for ICANN plan will:

  • enhance and streamline the large number of ICANN reviews conducted each year;
  • address abuse to the Domain Name System;
  • develop a new governance structure for the DNS Root Server System;
  • address human rights and anti-harassment issues;
  • and evolve the multi-stakeholder model.

Chalaby then provided an emotional eulogy for Dr. Tarek Kamel. Kamel was an Egyptian politician and computer engineering expert on issues relating to global internet governance. In August 2012, ICANN appointed Kamel as a senior advisor to its president and Senior Vice President of Global Government and IGO Engagement, making him the first national of a developing country to fill one of ICANN’s senior management posts. In these roles, Kamel led the development of the ICANN organization Government Engagement team and spearheaded efforts to strengthen relationships between ICANN and governments, ministries, and IGOs.

The group also honored the passing of lawyer and consultant Don Blumenthal, who was an expert in law, technology, and policy development, particularly data security and privacy issues, electronic data discovery, cyber crime and civil fraud, Internet evidence development, spam, and malware. During his lifetime, Blumenthal was an active participant in the ICANN community, representing PIR at the GNSO’s RySG. He was also a member of various Working Groups, including the Joint DNS Security and Stability Analysis (DSSA) Working Group, GNSO Whois Survey WG, and Security and Stability Advisory Committee (SSAC).

The session continued with remarks from Lisa Setlakwe, Assistant Deputy Minister for Innovation, Science and Economic Development in Canada. Setlakwe’s responsibilities include innovation, trade, telecommunications, Internet policy, marketplace frameworks, and much more.

Lisa Setwalke presenting at ICANN66

Setlakwe spoke at length about Canada’s involvement in creating ICANN and Canada’s technical contributions to global internet. She emphasized how important government and policy makers are in these processes. Setlakwe remarked that governments can often seen as slow and cumbersome tools, but when aligned in the right direction, they can be a powerful force to help shape a sustainable future for everyone, especially as society becomes more and more technical.

“At a time when the new wave of Internet users are coming online, it is crucial to take advantage of the multistakeholder model in order to increase geographic representation and the effective engagement of all countries in the ICANN ecosystem,” said Setlakwe.

The session closed with a touching moment when Chalaby was joined by his wife onstage and was presented with the newly-created ICANN Leadership Award. Thank you Cherine Chalaby for your contribution to ICANN, the Internet, and as you like to say, the world’s single largest peace project. Maarten Botterman has big shoes to fill.

Chalaby receiving the ICANN Leadership Award

“Our community is also special. A diverse community comprised of people who are motivated by their commitment to do the public good and by their duty to do what they believe is right for the billions of Internet users and future generations. I consider myself a very lucky person to have had the opportunity to be part of this community and serve the global public interest,” said Chalaby.