"The beating heart of this community is our continued dialogue: an open, respectful discussion on matters of importance to the African Internet community. Our strength comes from the range of experience, views and knowledge that all participants bring to the table. The code of conduct is there to safeguard not only the individuals involved in policy discussions and the staff that implement these policies but also the consensus-based policy development process itself." Eddy Kayihura, AFRINIC Chief Executive Officer
The Regional Internet Registry (RIR) system is a successful model of industry self-regulation that is open to all interested parties. The process for developing Internet Number Resource related policies utilises open, public meetings and mailing lists. As such, the policy development process used in the RIR system is inclusive, transparent and accountable.
The policies developed under this rough consensus-based model are implemented by the relevant RIR. These policies are what dictate the operations of the RIRs and can only be amended through the same process. Constant feedback from the community via publicly available channels is key for the system to maintain its openness, inclusiveness and transparency. The RIRs receive feedback and input from the community and their members via a number of mailing lists. Members are also responsible for choosing their respective Executive Board through regular elections.
The open, inclusive and transparent RIR model has been the bedrock for the success of the Internet both in Africa and throughout the world. It has enabled the technical community to coordinate the development of the networks, technologies and processes upon which the Internet is built. At the same time, it enables the active participation of both public and private sector bodies, as well as civil society.
But for such a model to function effectively, there are certain safeguards upon which all RIR communities have agreed. One such safeguard is the code of conduct, which ensures that discussions are kept professional and that individuals are protected against defamatory, derogatory and personal attack.
2. Upholding the AFRINIC code of conduct
As with the other RIRs, AFRINIC has a code of conduct that specifies the processes for dealing with situations that occur during discussions at public meetings, in the Resource Policy Development (RDP) Process and on all the other mailing lists.
2.1 PDWG Co-chairs
The Co-chairs of the AFRINIC Policy Development Working Group (PDWG) is responsible for enforcing the code of conduct on the community’s Resource Policy Development (RPD) list. They can be contacted regarding any suspected breach of conduct. If they deem such a breach has occurred, they are then responsible for taking appropriate action. This may include the individual who broke the code of conduct being ejected from a meeting or unsubscribed from the RPD mailing list.
2.2 AFRINIC CEO and staff
The other community and member lists are the responsibility of the AFRINIC CEO or staff designated by the CEO. If a complaint is made about a possible breach of conduct, AFRINIC can take the appropriate action including referring the complaint to the Governance Committee. Under its Terms of Reference, the Governance Committee can examine any matter referred to it by AFRINIC and can advise accordingly.
2.3 Governance Committee
The role of the Governance Committee is to advise the AFRINIC Board, the Membership, and the community on governance matters. The voting members of the Governance Committee and the AFRINIC Board themselves are periodically elected by the AFRINIC members. This ensures that the bodies responsible for matters of governance, including the code of conduct, are not only accountable to the AFRINIC members but are also selected by the members themselves.
The Governance Committee was first requested by the community in 2014 and has been formally established since 2016. On 31st August 2020, AFRINIC referred a possible breach of conduct to the Governance Committee concerning mails sent to the community mailing list.[https://afrinic.net/govcom/request#GC2020.04]
3. Safeguarding the strength of community
The beating heart of this community is our continued dialogue: an open, respectful discussion on matters of importance to the African Internet community. Our strength comes from the range of experience, views and knowledge that all participants bring to the table. The code of conduct is there to safeguard not only the individuals involved in policy discussions and the staff that implement these policies but also the consensus-based policy development process itself. This is a process that, as we have seen throughout the global Internet community, has made the Internet the success that it is today.
The AFRINIC staff implement the policies developed by the community and deliver a range of critical services to the membership. Working as a neutral party in close cooperation with the community and the members, the AFRINIC staff fulfil a role that is essential to the continued development of a secure and stable Internet in the region. AFRINIC holds its staff accountable to the highest levels of professional integrity and offers them the strongest support in the community-driven work that they do. In the event they are subject to abuse or unsubstantiated accusations, AFRINIC staff receive the full support of the organisation to the full extent of the law.
4. Future developments
The RIRs regularly review and update their codes of conduct to ensure that they are fit for purpose. As such, the AFRINIC CEO has referred to the current AFRINIC code of conduct to the Governance Committee to determine if any updates are needed [https://afrinic.net/govcom/request#GC2020.05]. This process is entirely transparent with the Governance Committee’s specific recommendations published for discussion by AFRINIC’s membership and the community.
5. Further reading - RIR codes of conduct