The APNIC consensus process is a multistakeholder approach to decision-making. The process is used by the Asia Pacific Internet community to develop the best possible resource management policies for the region.
The consensus process begins when somebody proposes a new policy. The Chair(s) send the proposal to the Policy SIG Mailing List and invite participants to discuss it. Participants must be subscribed to the mailing list to comment on the list.
This discussion phase begins on the mailing list and continues during the SIG session at an APNIC Conference. These Open Policy Meetings (OPM) are held twice a year and offer remote participation for those who are not able to attend in person.
During the meeting, the proposal author will present their idea and the community will be invited to ask questions or make suggestions to improve the proposal.
Anybody may speak about a proposal by waiting for their turn at the microphone or by sending a text message to be read out if they are not present. The Chair will ask speakers to register their support for, or objection to, the proposal.
If there are objections, the Chair will consider whether the objections are minor or major objections.
A minor objection is one where the objector believes some problems may occur for some participants in the group if the proposal goes forward.
The SIG participants should work together to see if the proposal can be modified to overcome minor objections.
However, it is not always possible to overcome these objections. If this is the case, the Chair may ask the objectors if they are prepared to acknowledge that the overall advantages of the proposal outweigh their objections and are willing to stand aside.
Major objections are more serious and indicate a belief that if the proposal goes forward major problems will occur for parts of the community; therefore, the proposal cannot be adopted in its current format.
The Chair should devote sufficient time for participants to discuss ways to overcome major objections.
As with minor objections, participants, including the proponent, should work together to develop solutions that overcome major objections.
Consensus is reached on a proposal if the community is able to successfully work through all objections in this way. It is not necessary that everybody agrees with the proposal. ‘Rough consensus’ is the point where all objections have been resolved or given due consideration and the community believes the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.
During the meeting the Chair(s) may ask for a show-of-hands, or they may use the APNIC CONFER tool, to gauge support for a policy proposal. The use of CONFER or show-of-hands is not a vote. It is a way of broadly measuring opinion and the Chair(s) final decision takes many additional factors into account, including earlier discussions on the mailing list.
The aim of the Policy SIG to carefully consider all opinions before making a decision. At the end of the discussion, the Chair will decide if the SIG has reached consensus.
Consensus is achieved when everyone consents to the decision of the group. The decision may not be everyone’s first preference, but is acceptable to all participants.
If there is little or no support for a proposal, the Chair may decide to abandon it and stop further discussion.
If there is some interest in the proposal, but no agreement, the Chair may return the proposal back to the mailing list to continue discussion until the next meeting, or refer it back to the author for further consideration and changes to accommodate community objections.
Policy discussion etiquette
If all comments are in favour of the proposal and there are no objections, the Chair could easily declare consensus. However, most often, some participants will have some concerns about the proposed change.
It is important to understand that SIG participants represent a range of stakeholder groups from economies that may be very different to your own. They all share the similar interest of wanting to improve the Internet and bring increased fairness and equity to the policies.
Policy discussions are very informal.
However, in the Asia Pacific, participants come from a range of cultures and speak a variety of languages. For this reason, it’s important to observe these basic courtesies when participating in Policy SIG discussions.
Speaking at the OPM
Keep the discussion friendly, fair, and on-topic. Maintaining professionalism by being polite and considerate will ensure a productive and enjoyable policy discussion.
APNIC uses real-time transcription services to aid remote participation and to assist understanding in the room. It also provides an archived record of the session for the APNIC website. Please keep the following in mind when you speak at the OPM.
- Each time you speak at the microphone, state your name and organization (affiliation). This allows the stenographers to record who is speaking.
- Speak slowly and in plain English. Many of the participants are not native English speakers.
- Respect your colleagues’ point-of-view, level of experience, and familiarity with past policy discussions. If you disagree with somebody, you should still be polite and diplomatic.
- Keep in mind the limited time and try to make your comments as relevant as possible. Policy discussion can become long-winded and unproductive if debate strays from the content of the proposals.