Interview with Olga Cavalli: what is the GAC and what is its role within the ICANN structure?


Olga Cavalli is the co-founder and academic director of the South School on Internet Governance, Dominios Latinoamérica and ARGENSIG. Since 2006, she has been an active participant in ICANN. Currently, in her role as advisor to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Argentina, she is the Argentine representative at the ICANN GAC.

In this interview, Olga tells us how ICANN's Governmental Advisory Committee is organized, who participates in it, and what issues are currently being addressed.

Olga CavalliWhat is the GAC?

The GAC is the ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee. The Committee's mission is to advise the ICANN Board on issues that are relevant to governments. Mainly, it addresses the regulations and public policy issues related to the activities that fall within ICANN's competence.

Who participates in this Committee? How is it organized? Does it have a representation system?

The GAC is one of the stakeholders in the ICANN multistakeholder model. Among its participants are the governments representatives who act as active members and different international and regional organizations that participate as observers.

The full list of active members and observers of the GAC can be found on its website.

The GAC has a leadership consisting of one Chair and five Vice-Chairs. Currently, the GAC Chair is Manal Ismail (Egypt). At the ICANN63 meeting in Barcelona, the five Vice-Chairs were renewed for the period from March 2019 to March 2020: Chérif Diallo (Senegal), Pär Brumark (Niue), Thiago Jardim (Brazil), Olga Cavalli (Argentina) and Luisa Paez (Canada).

GAC leaders are elected by governments. When the number of candidates exceeds the vacant positions, the Committee carries out an election. Although the GAC is not organized regionally, the leadership roles are expected to reflect the participation of the different regions and cultures, in addition to the gender balance.

Which are the GAC main responsibilities? What is the scope of the work developed by this Committee?

The GAC main tasks are to evaluate the activities that ICANN carries out and develop its advice, called “GAC Advice”, in order to be presented to the ICANN Board. Unlike other ICANN support organizations, such as the ccNSO or the GNSO, the GAC does not develop policies or rules.

Generally, the GAC prepares its “advice” at the end of each ICANN public meeting. However, if necessary, this Committee may produce and issue its advice to the ICANN Board between meetings.

The GAC works in plenary or through Working Groups. The Working Groups are formed in order to address in detail the different topics of interest, agree conclusions and prepare documents. These topics of interest are subsequently discussed in plenary sessions by all GAC members.

What are the main discussions that are currently being addressed?

At present, the issues that are being addressed are the use of two characters strings at the second level of the new generic top-level domains (gTLD), the impact of the new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on the WHOIS service, the follow-up on the New gTLD Subsequent Procedures Policy Development Process, and the use of geographic names.

Does the GAC interact or work in conjunction with other ICANN committees or support organizations?

During ICANN public meetings, the GAC meets with other ICANN constituencies, such as the GNSO, the ccNSO, ALAC and also with the ICANN Board.

Currently, all GAC meetings are open to the community, either onsite or remotely. Additionally, most of these meetings have simultaneous translation to the six languages of the United Nations plus Portuguese. All the information on the sessions, transcripts, videos and audios in the different languages are available on the ICANN public meeting corresponding website.

In addition, the GAC has developed its new website with information available for the entire community: