26 January 2022
Mirjam welcomed over 20 attendees to the session and went through housekeeping matters. She introduced the agenda and noted that the discussion would begin during the session and would continue on the RIPE List. She also noted that the redline version of the Policy Development Process (PDP) was available.
Mirjam presented a summary of the PDP revision process so far, noting that the current PDP document was published as ripe-710 and changes were last made to the document in 2018. In 2019 there was an appeal on a decision for a policy proposal and an extensive review of the appeals procedure and evolution of the PDP followed. The two documents were published as ripe-760 (Review of RIPE appeals Procedure) and ripe-761 (Evolution of PDP).
Based on the review, Mirjam noted that there were areas of improvement to make to the current PDP document and sent two mails to the RIPE List in April 2021 with questions and suggestions. Then in October 2021, she sent proposed changes for the PDP to the RIPE List and a discussion took place at RIPE 83, where participants asked for more time to discuss the changes. Mirjam noted that this was why the workshop had been arranged. She clarified that the session was not a decision-making meeting and that it was organised to gather feedback and allow more discussion on the background and motivation for some of the proposed changes.
Mirjam noted proposed text changes around ownership and authorship. The current PDP stated that ‘The RIPE Chair is the author and owner of the policy development process’. In the new version, Mirjam proposed that they clarify that the community owns the PDP with the RIPE Chair acting as author to maintain the document and oversee the community consensus process.
Jordi Palet Martínez replied that he thought the author of the PDP should be the RIPE community. He noted some RIPE policies had authors and some did not and reference should be made to an editor since it is a community effort with a lot of people contributing.
Randy Bush noted that he thought the proposal was fine since they were talking about the author of the PDP and who owns it, not other policies. He noted that all proposals and the PDP require community consensus so the community does own them.
Peter Koch added that there was a long history of discussing editors versus authors and that for this document in particular, it was not too important.
Daniel Karrenberg also added that every RIPE document should have an author or a number of authors and if it is signed off by community consensus then it should be mentioned in the document. Randy supported Daniel’s comment.
Herve Clement asked whether it should be RIPE Chair or RIPE Chairs as a RIPE Vice Chair was now in place. Mirjam confirmed that this was a good point since there hadn’t been a Vice Chair in place for older versions of the PDP.
Mirjam noted that the current version of the PDP included a very long introduction defining what it was not, including general RIPE NCC practices and operational information. She proposed clarifying with the PDP dealing solely policy. RIPE NCC business practices, procedures and operations would be out of scope. She added that comments had been made on the RIPE List that too much information had been removed, such as the values and principles for developing policies and suggested to keep that section in the document.
Cynthia Revström suggested that it should be made clear in the PDP itself that the items listed were out of scope and not leave them out without an explanation. Mirjam confirmed that the proposal said this and that the PDP only applied to policy.
Mirjam noted that changing the PDP was not defined in the current PDP. She added that this was perhaps intentional because if it was not defined, it would automatically use the established RIPE consensus building process. She said the proposal sought to clarify this to avoid misunderstandings. In the past, multiple methods were used to change the PDP, from consensus building in meetings to an administrative decree by the Chair so there was no clear method to change the document. She added that the proposal was to add a last section in the document explaining that the PDP was a RIPE community governance document changed by community consensus.
Jordi expressed his concern and disagreed with the proposal. He said that if they were defining timings in relation to changes to the document then they should define timings for all discussions in the document. He added that it was simpler for the community to have a single method to change governance documents and policies, as it is done with the other four RIRs.
Daniel added that RIPE had always done very well by applying minimal formalism and that they should continue to do so for a number of reasons. He highlighted Niall O’Reilly’s history of the PDP and noted that the motivation behind the PDP was due to governments and regulators informing the community that they needed to fortify the way they made address policies since resources were in the public interest.
He continued to add that they should use lightweight methodologies and be very careful to limit the scope of what the PDP applies to and not to apply the PDP to the PDP. He added that they should always use the minimum amount of formalism that is necessary and should have a good discussion about whether more formalism is necessary in time.
Jim Reid agreed with Daniel, adding that they should keep the level of the documentation down to the barest minimum that covers the essential points and not get too focused on minutiae of detail. He added that other RIRs following a process shouldn’t be a compelling reason for them to do the same.
Rüdiger Volk said that the change process would need to be carefully managed and made public like other open policy projects, including web documentation and the state of the document. He added that dates for making some decisions could use a bit more emphasis in the PDP change process.
Mirjam noted that the discussion phase of the PDP used to be a more informal way for testing the waters to see if there was any interest or traction in a proposal. They would then begin the formal process after this discussion. The recommendation was to re-introduce this informal step before starting a formal policy proposal. She added that at the moment it was not mandatory, but it was strongly suggested as it could save a lot of time and effort for everybody involved.
Cynthia replied that this seemed like a good recommendation and that it should probably not be mandatory if it’s informal.
Peter added that this was an important step to change and that it should be made clear in the PDP that there should be a gathering of support first and a phrasing of common sense, and that it was really important and crucial to make this point.
Mirjam noted that some areas of the appeals procedure were not clear and that the proposal was to ask the WG Chair Collective to choose a facilitator among themselves or choose an external facilitator. The proposal also included the use of a separate communications channel for appeals discussions, to establish a quorum and create a separate operational guideline maintained by the RIPE NCC Policy Officer.
Mirjam noted that in the current version of the PDP, there were deadlines defined for some steps but not all. She proposed adding deadlines but with some flexibility. In the new version, the proposal would seek to clarify the deadlines at each step including submitting an appeal, decision about the appeal, escalation in case of further dispute and for the final decision by the RIPE Chair.
Mirjam noted that the current PDP only stated that ‘interested parties’ should recuse themselves. She added that the proposal would seek to clarify and make it more explicit as to who would need to recuse themselves and would also include a non-exhaustive list of those who should recuse themselves. The proposal also included a clarification that the process is only being reviewed, not the content of the proposal.
Peter replied that his medium term goal was not to use the WG chairs collective as an entity in the appeal procedure. He added that a better way could be to pick people from the community, considering some chairs had been chosen by drawing straws and some appointed by the RIPE Chair. He added that the current situation opened up interesting conflicts of interest.
Brian added that usually in small communities of people, the people who want to be involved are usually the ones who ended up getting involved. He added that he would be interested to see what a proposal could look like if they did choose people at random but he was unconvinced how it would work under the way the community currently operates.
Daniel noted that the appeals procedure should be well defined. He added that this part of the PDP did need legalese, deadlines and formalism since it was the safeguard for when someone felt they had been treated unfairly and an appeal gave them a hearing. The appeals procedure needed to be stringent, he said, but they needed to be careful that they still had people who could discuss an appeal and willing to put in the effort and take the risks to be part of the appeals body.
For recusals, he added that it would be a mistake to make an exhaustive list of people who should recuse themselves. He also said that they would need to be careful as it could become increasingly difficult to find appeals bodies because people would fear for their reputation in case someone constructs a conflict of interest or improper behaviour later.
Mirjam clarified that the proposal was for a non-exhaustive list of people who would recluse themselves as the current version of the PDP only stated ‘interested parties’. She noted that most of the WG chairs said they participated in the proposal discussions so felt that they were interested parties. She also noted that the WG Chair Collective was used because they didn’t have another body set up to act as an appeals body and WG chairs tended to have experience of the PDP.
Lastly, Mirjam noted proposed editorial changes clarifying who was responsible for which tasks and guidance for WG chairs when it came to each phase in the PDP. She noted that a proposal could be proposed by more than one person and that the proposal also added clarification of what a problem statement was and the possibility of an abandoned proposal.
Mirjam thanked everyone for participating and providing feedback. She noted the minutes, slides and video would be made available and that the discussion would continue on the RIPE List.
End of Session.