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[rpd] Way forward as we approach AFRINIC-34 Public Policy Meeting.

Owen DeLong owen at
Thu Sep 2 20:22:24 UTC 2021

> On Aug 30, 2021, at 22:20 , PDWG Chair <dacostadarwin at> wrote:


> Dear PDWG,


> As at 4 August 2021, there are 8 Draft policy proposals under discussion, of which 3 are technical policies and 5 are related to the PDP (Section 3 of the CPM). Four of these 5 proposals expire before the upcoming PPM scheduled for 15-18 Nov 2021, unless they are reviewed.


> However, the Policy Development Working Group (PDWG) needs to bear in mind that competing policy proposals will only increase the load on the PDP and defeats the consensus basis well before any discussion happens on the RPD mailing-list and at the Public Policy Meeting (PPM). We are also aware of the Working Group’s calls for clear problem statements that authors could then collaborate and draft solutions to. The PDWG is also divided as to whether the CPM Section 3 needs to be reviewed with the submission of multiple proposals or through one proposal.

I take issue with this statement. In a marketplace of ideas, study after study has shown that the more options and the more ideas for solving a problem that are presented, the better the solution eventually adopted tends to work.

As such, I think that competing proposals can only benefit the community and that discouraging them is contrary not only to the spirit of an open bottom up consensus-driven policy process, but also counter-productive and therefore ill-advised.

Consensus is a process, not a destination. If there is a sufficiently good idea among the competing proposals, that idea will gain wide enough acceptance that the inferior ideas will fall by the wayside. When we reach a point where all inferior ideas have been pared down and only the best alternative remains, that’s consensus. It’s not always easy, it’s not always pretty, and it’s certainly not clean. If you prefer to eat the sausage without knowing the details, then policy development probably isn’t your cup of tea. OTOH, if you can stomach the process of making the sausage, then you can make sure that what comes out has a flavor you like. That’s the way it works.

> Based on the foregoing, preparations for the upcoming Public Policy Meeting which is scheduled for 15-19 November 2021 has to be kickstarted.


> In regard to all the proposals aimed at updating AFRINIC’s Policy Development Process , we invite the authors of the 5 proposals[1] to:


> Focus and come up with clear problem statements related to Section 3 of the CPM,

IMHO, this is vital to any policy development. In fact, I would argue that it would be a good exercise if the authors would (by collective agreement and in a coordinated process that does not repeat the broken promises of the past) withdraw their proposals to be redrafted once the community can come to consensus on a common and agreed problem statement. If we cannot reach a point where we agree upon the problem to be solved, then any effort to write text to solve it is surely doomed to failure, or worse, to fail the community through its tragic adoption.

> To ensure that the problem statements don’t overlap and thus the need for the authors to collaborate,

Overlapping problem statements are fine. In fact, they’re desirable. Where problem statements overlap, it provides an opportunity towards easy consensus on the definition of the problem. Where they differ is room for addition (author group A didn’t think of author group B’s identified problem, but agrees it is a problem) or negotiation (author group A doesn’t see it as a problem, but author group B considers it vital) or subtraction (author group A feels that something isn’t a problem, and author group B can agree that the status quo is acceptable if not ideal). This is the nature of a collaborative approach which I think would serve the community far better than an adversarial one here.

> The problem statements to be shared with the PDWG for inputs and refinements,

This really ought to go without saying, but it’s probably good to say it anyway.

> Each group of authors to then come up with a draft policy proposal that addresses their respective problem statement,

As I have said above, I think that trying to achieve a common definition of the problem(s) that need to be solved would be better than competing problem statements. It might not be possible, but I think it should be attempted first.

If a common problem statement can be achieved, then it may still be that we have competing proposals for how to solve the problem(s) in question, but I think it will improve the quality of the proposals and also make it easier to merge them into something that can achieve consensus in a collaborative manner.

> The PDWG to objectively and constructively discuss the proposals with the aim of improving the text, which should ultimately lead to a better Policy Development Process.

While I agree with the spirit of this, I want to make it absolutely clear that so long as it is accompanied with reasons and rationale for opposition, it is perfectly valid to criticize any portion of any policy proposal or even a proposal in its entirety. Not all proposals deserve to become policy and arguing for abandonment or elimination of part or all of a proposal rather than suggesting edits is a perfectly valid thing to do.

> Based on our assessment but subject to the PDWG’s and authors’ collective agreement, we have identified the following problem areas which need to be refined:


> Policy Development Process,

> PDWG Chairs (eligibility, selection & roles),

> Conflict Resolution.

I would propose another (though related to 3):
4. The PDWG should take control of the ToR for the Appeal Committee and they should become a policy under the control of the PDP, just as the PDP itself is.


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