Summer interview 2014 – Tarek Kamel, Senior Advisor to ICANN’s President for Government Engagement and Head of ICANN Geneva office

Tarek Kamel is the Senior Advisor to ICANN's President for Government Engagement. He also heads ICANN's newly created office in Geneva. In this interview, he tells us about the role of ICANN's office in Geneva and his focus during the summer.


August 2014


What are you working on this summer?

Let me first start by introducing ICANN in Geneva. ICANN established the office in Geneva a few months ago in cooperation with the Canton of Geneva and Swiss authorities. We are very grateful to both of them for the support provided. The office is not, at the moment, a big office, but it will expand in the future.

Our President and CEO, Fadi Chehadé has a clear strategy for the globalization of ICANN that includes offices outside the US. The objective is to widen our presence internationally and our engagement with various stakeholders. I am, in this respect, responsible for governments and international organizations engagement on a global level and as well, acting head of the newly established Geneva office.

At ICANN, we have taken enormous steps in global engagement over the last two years. We now have more international staff in offices globally, with operational hubs in Los Angeles, Istanbul and Singapore, and engagement offices in China, Seoul, Brussels, DC, Montevideo and Geneva to improve our reach-out and get closer to our stakeholders.

It made sense for ICANN to open an office in Geneva since most international organizations, such as the ITU, WIPO, WTO and other organizations, working in the area of IG, like the DiploFoundation, the Internet Society and the WEF are also based here. Our presence here also allows us to reach out to ambassadors and permanent missions of the United Nations. Although we already have contacts with governments through ICANN's Government Advisory Committee (GAC), being in Geneva offers us the possibility to be in contact with government representatives from the ministries of foreign affairs as well. This is very important for us, as the debate on Internet governance becomes less technical and more and more geopolitical, social and economic. We need to widen the dialogue about the role of ICANN, managing the technical identifiers to secure one stable, unified open Internet globally. An open Internet will surely reflect on the global economic development of many countries.

So, this summer we will start a series of briefings for the permanent missions to the UN in Geneva. These briefings will present the IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) stewardship transition which follows the historic announcement by the US government last March, that it is ready to hand over the stewardship of IANA to the global community. This is a vital process because many countries and many governments requested this transition, since the WSIS, in 2003/5. During the briefing, we will also present an update of our new gTLD programme (generic Top Level Domains). The objective is really to inform the permanent missions to the UN in Geneva, about the latest developments at ICANN and invite them to participate in the evolving global multi-stakeholder model of Internet Governance.

We are also engaging with international organizations, especially the ITU, CERN, WTO and Red Cross and responding to their questions about the new gTLD programme.

Holiday plans?

Actually not! Since March 2014 my wife and I live in Geneva, but our children are studying abroad. They are coming to Geneva this summer and we want to stay together as a family. I might take some days off, here in Geneva, to visit the surrounding area with them. I've been to Geneva at least 30 times before, but it was always for short visits; for conferences and meetings. So I never got the opportunity to really discover its full beauty.

What do you take the opportunity to do in Geneva during the summer?

Now that I live in Geneva, I see it with different eyes. It is really a beautiful city with a very high standard of living, but expensive! It is also a truly international city, which gives me a very good feeling of social integration. A lot of people are visiting Geneva, for work or holidays, so I have a lot of friends, colleagues and professional contacts calling to see me! I try to find the time to see them. When the weather is fine, we also take the opportunity to go swimming in the various swimming pools Geneva offers or to take a boat trip up the lake to the various beautiful little cities.

Do you have a place you really love, in Geneva or in the surrounding area?

I love the Salève, you have an excellent view and it is really a beautiful place. The park des Eaux-Vives is also a very nice place. I really like the fact that the parks are open at night during the summer; seeing the people picnicking and having fun. This is really nice and gives me a feeling of safety for my family.

How about a summer book recommendation for our readers?

I come from the Middle East region, Egypt. The Middle East is currently full of turbulence. So most of my reading has been political in the last couple of years; trying to analyze what is happening in the region. These books analyze the structure of the society in Egypt and in the region and tackle the social reforms that are needed in the society. The readings are in Arabic, so it is difficult to recommend something for your audience!

And on the music scene?

I like Arabic and classical music, in particular Oum Kalthoum in Arabic and Beethoven. I went to a German school in Cairo and have done my PhD in Germany, so I very much like Bethoven and listen to it very often. 


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