International Law and the Global Public Interest: ICANN’s Independent Objector as a Mechanism of Responsive Global Governance

Rachovitsa, A., 30-Sep-2018, Non-State Actors and International Obligations : Creation, Evolution and Enforcement . Summers, J. & Gough, A. (eds.). Brill

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The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is the informal, privately run body that manages the Domain Name System. ICANN has launched the new generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) Programme and it has already introduced more than 1,000 gTLDs (e.g., ‘.CHURCH’, ‘.HEALTH’). In this context, ICANN decided to protect certain interests and rights within the new gTLD programme by providing the opportunity for third parties to submit an objection to gTLD applications on specific grounds. This paper focuses on the limited public interest objection, according to which an applied-for gTLD string will not be registered if it is contrary to generally accepted legal norms of morality and public order recognised under the principles of international law. The limited public interest objection is notable not only because ICANN introduced an international legal standard to evaluate the applied-for strings but also because ICANN created a novel institution to support the objection procedure: the Independent Objector acting solely in the best interests of the general public.

The paper argues that the Independent Objector is a novel mechanism with the potential to enhance ICANN’s responsiveness to global public interest considerations (and not merely private or functional interests). The discussion addresses the question of whether the institution of the Independent Objector can mitigate accountability and legitimacy concerns entrenched in global governance. The analysis critically assesses how Professor Alain Pellet, who served as the Independent Objector from 2012 to 2014, developed the limited public interest objection. The discussion also explores the potential and limitations of international law to articulate and protect the public interest at a global level. The paper concludes by making a series of recommendations with regard to improving the future implementation of this mechanism.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNon-State Actors and International Obligations
Subtitle of host publicationCreation, Evolution and Enforcement
EditorsJames Summers, Alex Gough
ISBN (Print)978-90-04-34023-7
Publication statusPublished - 30-Sep-2018


  • ICANN, global public interest, public interests, public international law, General principles of international law, MORALITY, Public order, global governance

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