Americans often quote, or allude to, the French expression "Le Roi est mort, vive le Roi!" But few realize that this apparent paradox was meant quite literally by the French:From its first official proclamation in 1422 upon the coronation of Charles VII to 1774, when Louis XV finally died, the term expressed the abstract constitutional concept that sovereignty transfered from the old king (the first "Le Roi") to the new king (the second "Le Roi") the very instant the old king died. Thus, France was literally never without a king until until the monarchy was finally dis-established in early 1793. When Louis XVI was guillotined later that year, his death was acclaimed simply with "Le Roi est mort!"
Yesterday, September 30, ICANN's Joint Project Agreement with the Department of Commerce finally terminates. "Le JPA est mort!" But a new agreement (the "Affirmation") took its place, apparently providing more accountability than the JPA ever did. Vive l'Affirmation! There may come a day when, like Louis XVI, ICANN's JPA-like agreement with Commerce terminates and nothing is there to replace it, but that day has not yet come.
Grant Gross has a great piece on this new agreement. Grant extensively quotes my PFF Adjunct Fellow (my ICANN mentor and former ICANN board member) Mike Palage, who explained that the JPA's successor (JPA II?):
will tell [ICANN] what it should do, but it can't legally bind them [much like past agreements]... It gives the appearance in the global community that the U.S. government has recognized that ICANN has done what is was supposed to do. What it's also doing is ... it's putting in some accountability mechanisms."
Now while the devil will be in the detail, the only concern I have is that the private sector be on equal footing with the public sector in being able to hold ICANN accountable... If ICANN is to remain a public-private partnership that is founded on the principles of openness, transparency, inclusiveness, accountability and bottom-up coordination, then both the private and public sectors should have equal confidence in the accountability mechanism available to them.