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Is AFRINIC Going to Become a “Specialized Agency“ of the United Nation?

Updated: Jul 23, 2023

To all our readers from all over the world, this featured article is one of the most important things we have released. Please read this with your undivided attention and all the way to the end.

NRS has learnt of a plot by the 4 CEOs of RIRs to make AFRINIC a specialized agency of the United Nations - the exact same type of organization like International Telecommunication Union(ITU), This is wrong and not only does it threaten the independence of the RIRs, it raises more questions, with the first one being; why? But before these questions can be answered, let's go back to the start.

The History of the RIRs

The RIRs (Regional Internet Registries) were first created to manage, distribute and register Internet number resources, such as IP addresses and autonomous system (AS) numbers. Such functions made them a vital cog in the running of the internet. The first RIR was created in 1992 and there are now five RIRs in existence; RIPE NCC for Europe, APNIC for the Asia-Pacific Region, ARIN for America and Canada, LACNIC for the Caribbean and Latin America, and AFRINIC for Africa.

These RIRs were created brilliantly on the backbone of openness and transparency, based on the multi-stakeholder model that is bottom-up and community-driven, to bring the internet closer to the end-users. For years, the RIRs became bookkeepers and kept accurate records of IP addresses, and because at their founding, the RIRs were small clubs with a few members, communication was easy and efficient across the board. Things worked well, and policies and how to operate were fair, open, and transparent.

However, in previous months, things have suddenly changed. The brilliant RIR system was created brilliantly on the backbone of openness and transparency, but the lack of an oversight body has given room to corruption, and illegal activities, endangering the very foundation of the multi stakeholder model that it was once built on.

Unanswered Questions

Months ago, the 4 CEOs released a letter to the Mauritius government. This letter was meant to coerce and influence the decision-making of a sovereign nation and was met with disapproval across the internet community. The larger internet community saw this as an infringement on rule of law, meddling an unwanted pressure from the CEOs of the RIRs to the Mauritius government. These CEOs are Paul Wilson from APNIC, John Curran of ARIN, Oscar Alejandro Robles Garay of LACNIC and Hans Petter Holen of RIPE NCC.

This, however, proved to be just a prelude to the real problem that was brewing under the surface.

A key part in the letter in which I quote:

"It is our understanding that AFRINIC has repeatedly asked for recognition from Mauritius as an international organization. We understand this is both appropriate for AFRINIC to obtain this status, and that if granted, it might lead to more appropriate outcomes"

  1. What is an international organization here refer to?

  2. Why was the letter addressed to the foreign minister of Mauritius? if the intention as made clear in the letter was to try to influence the rule of law, shouldn't it be more appropriate to address the chief justice or at least the attorney general?

  3. How is this status of international organization going to help AFRINIC to avoid rule of law?

Many members of the community have asked these questions and speculated the answers, the follow-up answer provided by the CEOs who signed this letter was extremely evasive and unclear, leaves the community in the dark and the very questions remain unanswered.

Now, this letter issued by the MU government unravel the malicious intention lied in the answers to the above questions.

A Problematic Letter

According to the letter issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, AFRINIC's application "to be recognized as an international organization under the international organizations and conferences (privileges and immunities) act of the republic of Mauritius, cannot be entertained". (Full letter attached in the bottom)

"I refer to your email dated 7 March 2022 and the ensuing exchange of correspondence between the AFRINIC and this Ministry regarding the renewed request for AFRINIC to be recognized as an International Organization under the International Organizations and Conferences (Privileges and Immunities) Act of the Republic of Mauritius.

I wish to inform you that, following the consideration of the request by the competent authorities, the above mentioned request cannot be entertained.

Please accept, dear Sir, the assurances of my high consideration.

V. A/Luchoomun for Secretary for Foreign Affairs"

And according to the definition pulled directly from the Mauritius's International Organizations and Conferences (Privileges and Immunities) Act, an "International Organization” is defined as follows:

Interpretation


In this Part—


“Convention” means the General Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 13 February 1946;

“Court” means the International Court of Justice;

“Organization” means the United Nations Organization.

Interpretation In this Part—

“Convention” means the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the Specialised Agencies of the United Nations adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 21 November 1947;

In other words, the request from the 4 RIR CEOs (Paul Wilson, John Curran, Oscar Alejandro Robles Garay and Hans Petter Holen) to make AFRINIC an international organization is essentially making it a "specialized agency of United Nations Organization". This answers a lot of questions - why did the CEOs use this specific term instead of any other term? Here's a simple explanation. The ITU (International Telecommunication Union) is itself an United Nations Organization - is defined as a "specialized agency of the United Nations" responsible for many matters related to information and communication technologies - it is by definition according to this very law AFRINIC apply immunity to, "an international organization".

11. Interpretation In this Part— “Convention” means the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the Specialized Agencies of the United Nations adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 21 November 1947; “organization to which this Part applies” means—

(a) the International Labour Organisation;

(b) the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations;

(c) the International Civil Aviation Organisation;

(d) the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation;

(e) the World Health Organisation;

(f) the Universal Postal Union;

(g) the International Telecommunications Union;

(h) the World Meteorological Organisation; (i) the International Maritime Organisation.

So essentially, the CEOs are asking that the Mauritius government recognize AFRINIC the same way it recognizes the ITU, which is an international organization as the specialized agency of the UN.

Destroying the Fabric of the RIRs

It is quite telling, bothersome and unfortunate that the remaining 4 CEOs leaders (Paul Wilson, John Curran, Oscar Alejandro Robles Garay and Hans Petter Holen) unanimously agreed to recognize AFRINIC as a specialized agency of the United Nations. These CEOs are voting on allowing AFRINIC to become a sister organization like ITU which is ironic because that is the very thing they have rejected and have been against for decades. The sole reason for the existence and the creation of the RIRs besides allocating IPs and keeping accurate records is to bring the policy of making accessible and open to all Internet users. To create a bottom-up approach where everyone is given a voice, given a chance to be heard and creating a community where ideas are discussed, policies are created and innovation is encouraged. That was the purpose.

But by going this route, the CEOs are no longer serving the best interests of the community, it has now become top-down and authoritative with little to no concerns for the community members that are there to be served and listened to. By asking for AFRINIC to become a specialized agency of the UN, they are betraying over 30 years of hard work and goodwill the RIRs have worked for simply because they now want to become an inter-governmental body. The CEOs are sacrificing their independent status and they are doing this simply because they were challenged by the community they were created to serve.

Challenge is good, challenge is fair, and challenge must be done with the RIRs' best interests in mind and this is what happened when the members asked for an election. This wasn't an election based on emotions or feelings but an election the members are entitled to as per the bylaws of the very organization itself. Rather than give the community members what is theirs and what they asked for according to the laws of the organization. The four signing CEOs have rather chosen to cower in fear and do everything they can to hold unto power. This gory episode shows that the CEOs have never cared about the resource members, never cared about the community, and only cared about their status and maintaining power for as long as possible.

The Ultimate Truth

The four signing CEOs have turned a blind eye to the requests made by resource members to protect a corrupt leader within AFRINIC, and by doing so, they forfeited AFRINIC members' rights to reconstitute AFRINIC into a functioning body - a legitimate election.

Such an act by the CEOs hugely undermines the bottom-up principle on which the RIR system was built. Furthermore, the letter issued was done without consulting the opinion of its members and communities. Accordingly, there is ZERO representation of the community members' interest in the CEOs' issued letter. The decision to post the letter without consulting the community is a quintessential example of a top-down approach. Instead of strengthening the RIR's central bottom-up principle, it was disappointing to see that the CEOs are violating the very foundation of the RIR with their desperate attempt to make AFRINIC an intergovernmental organization.

Final Response

The CEOs' letter is nothing but a desperate attempt to defend a discredited CEO at the cost of eschewing its own principles that have been religiously followed by previous leaders and pioneers in this industry. Not only is this a pathetic attempt to protect one of their own, but this is also, a total betrayal of the community-driven approach that once placed an emphasis on being fair, transparent, honest and trustworthy. A model that was built and created to avoid situations exactly like this., This is a total betrayal of the multi-stakeholder model. Paul Wilson, John Curran, Oscar Alejandro Robles Garay and Hans Petter Holen must be stopped at all costs necessary. If this is allowed to happen, the future of the RIRs is forever destroyed. The CEOs will have complete autonomy and power to do whatever they deem fit with nothing and nobody able to stand in their way; it is no longer the bottom-up, community-driven system as it was created. 30 years of hard work were sabotaged by the unwise decision made by the 4 CEOs.

However, Paul Wilson, John Curran, Oscar Alejandro Robles Garay and Hans Petter Holen must know one thing; the members and the internet community are resilient and what they have shown throughout this tough period is they are not willing to take such abuse of power and unlawful letters without making their own voices heard. If the CEOs and the NRO think that this will be easy for them to destroy the very multi-stakeholder model that built the internet today by asking to become part of an intergovernmental body, they should think again.


Official Statement from the Mauritius Government:-


Official Statement from Mauritius Government
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Download PDF • 317KB

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