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

Salle VIII


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: Tulika Bansal, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Michael Karanicolas

Online Moderator

Bruna Santos


Louise Marie Hurel


Round Table - 60 Min


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.
  • TULIKA BANSAL (Danish Institute for Human Rights) has extensive experience developing new HRIA methodologies (specifically company-led HRIAs, sector-wide impact assessments, and collaborative HRIAs) in various sectors such as food and beverage, extractives, and energy.
  • 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.
  • COLLIN KURRE (ARTICLE 19) co-chairs the Cross Community Working Party on ICANN and Human Rights, and leads A19’s project to develop new models for assessing the human rights impact of Internet infrastructure providers, including internet registries, registrars, and ICANN.

A timer will be used during this session to maximize exchanges among participants. Each speaker will have 7 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. In the Q&A intervals that follow each section, questions will be limited to one minute and answers to 90 seconds in order to maximize audience engagement and promote a constructive flow of exchanges. Following the final intervention in Part IV, the floor will be opened once more for a final round of questions from the audience and comments from round table participants.


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.

This round table will be divided into four 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.

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.

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.

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.

  • 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 (7 minutes)
    • Audience Q&A (5 minutes)
  • PART II: How can we assess the impact of the Internet?: Contextualizing the Internet industry in the wider context of business and human rights (7 minutes)
    • Audience Q&A (5 minutes)
  • PART III: Putting the theory of Multistakeholder HRIAs into practice: Discussion on the process, benefits, and lessons learned from a Multistakeholder HRIA from a business perspective (7 minutes)
    • Audience Q&A (5 minutes)
  • PART IV: Developing impact assessments for the ICANN Community: Overview of progress made toward developing new HRIA models, including challenges faced and solutions to overcome them (7 minutes)
    • Final Audience Q&A (15 minutes)
Session Time
Session Report (* deadline 26 October) - click on the ? symbol for instructions

- Session Type (Workshop, Open Forum, etc.): Round table (60 minutes)

- Title: A Multistakeholder Approach to HRIAs: Lessons from ICANN

- Date & Time: Wednesday 14 November at 12:30pm

- Organizer(s): Collin Kurre, Bruna Martins dos Santos, Louise Marie Hurel

- Chair/Moderator: Bruna Martins dos Santos

- Rapporteur/Notetaker: Louise Marie Hurel

- List of speakers and their institutional affiliations (Indicate male/female/ transgender male/ transgender female/gender variant/prefer not to answer):

  • 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: Tulika Bansal, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

- Theme (as listed here): Human Rights, Gender, and Youth

- Subtheme (as listed here): Other - Human Rights Impact Assessments

- Please state no more than three (3) key messages of the discussion. [150 words or less]

This panel explored the intersection of business, human rights and multistakeholder internet governance. Conversations centred on the topic of multistakeholder Human Rights Impact Assessments (HRIAs), which are currently being trialed for the first time ever within the ICANN community. Key messages:

  • It’s more difficult for companies operating in the digital space to assess how their operations will impact people than, say, mining or textile companies because it’s harder to define communities, pinpoint rights-holders, and predict how technology will evolve.

  • Nevertheless, tech companies and standard-setting bodies should have built-in processes to ensure accountability and human rights due diligence.

  • Multistakeholder impact assessments are an iterative, collaborative, and practical way to frame conversations, inform policy, and mitigate negative impacts.

- Please elaborate on the discussion held, specifically on areas of agreement and divergence. [150 words]


The challenge of defining rights-holders amongst internet users was highlighted by many, yet yet there was broad support for companies and standard-setting bodies to introduce and act upon human rights commitments. One area of divergence related to which subset of rights should be prioritized, e.g. children’s, cultural, or LGBTQI rights. Examples were given to demonstrate that impact assessment methodologies can be tailored to address specific, or various, categories of rights. As a result, participants suggested that such tools can make the subject of human rights more practical and tangible, or allow people with divergent positions to engage in a constructive way.

- Please describe any policy recommendations or suggestions regarding the way forward/potential next steps. [100 words]

Several individuals offered to contribute to ongoing efforts to carry out impact assessments on DNS policy in the ICANN community. A few DNS companies also expressed interest in incorporating human rights due diligence into their internal processes. There was widespread, multistakeholder support for organizing a High-interest Cross-community Session on the subject of human rights during ICANN64 in March 2019. Potential co-coordinators suggested were the GAC Public Safety and International Human Rights Law Working Groups, the NCSG Cross-Community Working Party on Human Rights, and the NCUC.

- What ideas surfaced in the discussion with respect to how the IGF ecosystem might make progress on this issue? [75 words]

A recurring theme throughout the session was the benefit of bridging the Internet Governance community with the Business and Human Rights field. The IGF ecosystem provided a unique and efficient platform for generating actionable project ideas on this subject. As conversations progress, the IGF community could continue serving as connective tissue between these fields and assist with prioritizing which types of assessments could be applied to internet companies and policy — gender impact, regulatory impact, human rights, etc.

- Please estimate the total number of participants.


- Please estimate the total number of women and gender-variant individuals present?


- To what extent did the session discuss gender issues, and if to any extent, what was the discussion?

Specific impacts of DNS policy on LGBTQI and children’s rights were briefly touched on as elements that can and should be assessed. However, the session was primarily focused on the introduction and operationalization of human rights considerations more broadly.