Internet registry APNIC announces governance and election reforms

Addresses criticisms raised by sections of the community and recent controversies

The Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC), the regional internet registry for 56 economies across the region, has announced significant governance changes.

APNIC’s structure has seen its director general serve as its sole legal director, and also as trustee of the only share in APNIC Pty Ltd. The director general has been unable to do anything with the share without the approval of the org's Executive Council (EC) – an elected body with the status of a board even if its members are not formally directors.

The changes mean EC members will become actual directors of APNIC Pty Ltd. A new not-for-profit company, called APNIC EC Limited, has been established to hold the single share in APNIC Pty Ltd in trust for the APNIC EC. The principle that nothing can be done with the share without the approval of the elected EC remains in place. EC members will be the directors and members of APNIC EC Limited.

A post penned by APNIC EC chair Kenny Huang announcing the changes explains they're felt necessary as "The prior governance structure served APNIC well for more than 25 years and it was deemed to be legally sound. However, the structure was somewhat unusual, and the EC was aware it could be misunderstood or misrepresented, particularly in recent years."

Sections of the internet governance community have suggested the director general's previous role represented a dangerous concentration of power over internet governance – an assertion APNIC rejected – and called for APNIC to consider similar reforms. APNIC itself has been conducting a governance review since 2021.

Another reform, outlined here, changes the threshold required for members to vote for changes to APNIC's by-laws from a two thirds majority among all members to two thirds of all votes cast.

"In the past 25 years, the ability for APNIC members to update the by-laws has become virtually impossible due to the growth of the membership and the very high threshold for a successful vote," wrote APNIC EC chair Huang.

"The EC believes it is in the best interest of APNIC members to have practical power to make changes to the by-laws."

The new voting threshold will be put to the test in September at the APNIC 56 conference, at which proposed by-law reforms will be up for votes.

The reforms, which were developed in response to community feedback received during the APNIC 55 EC election process, suggest substantial changes to APNIC elections – among them the creation of an independent body to oversee votes and campaigning.

APNIC's most recent EC elections saw a bloc of candidates endorsed by a lobby group, and findings that APNIC's election code of conduct was breached.

The reform proposals include changes to eligibility requirements for election to the EC – among them a "corporate diversity" requirement that would allow only one person from a "company, organization, or related bodies corporate" to be elected to sit on the body.

The proposal also calls for changes that would require EC candidates to be a citizen of, or have their principal place of residency in, an economy within the APNIC service region at the time of their election. If those criteria can't be met, candidates will be required to have "substantial ties to the APNIC community, for example a demonstrated long-term working history in one or more APNIC economies or significant and long-term engagement with the APNIC community."

The reforms also propose excluding candidates with a conflict of interest – including those "currently involved in litigation with APNIC or who represent a company, organization, or related body corporate of such, which is currently involved in litigation with APNIC."

On The Register'’s reading of the proposed reforms, they appear likely to preclude some of the tactics employed at APNIC's most recent EC election, and avoid some of the criticisms of its conduct.

APNIC has commenced a consultation process on the proposed changes. ®

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