The head of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers on Wednesday urged governments and civil society organizations to support renewal of the IANA functions contract with the U.S. Department of Commerce.

International stakeholders should support renewal of the IANA contract, which is up for renewal next March, ICANN President and CEO Rod Beckstrom said in an address to the ongoing U.N. Internet Governance Forum in Nairobi. The contract is "an instrument for international participation in charting the future of the Internet," he said.

"The IANA contract is the next critical step in the evolution of the multi-stakeholder model and the best vehicle for its expansion," he said. "Many parties around the world now seek clear progress on the structure of the contract; the credibility of the multi-stakeholder model will be judged by how well this evolution occurs."

The forum brings together more than 1,000 ICT experts, civil society organizations and policy makers interested in Internet development and management. It was started after the 2005 World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) after some governments expressed dissatisfaction with the U.S. government role at ICANN. That a U.S. government agency oversees the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority has also stirred debate. The IANA is in charge of global Internet Protocol address allocation, root zone management in the DNS (Domain Name System) and autonomous system number allocation, among other tasks.

Some critics have said that ICANN does not involve enough governments and have pushed for Internet resources to be managed by the U.N. To counter the arguments regarding lack of inclusion, Beckstrom took time during the opening ceremony to explain the many ways ICANN has been inclusive to all stakeholders.

"In the past two years, ICANN has undergone tremendous positive change, its oversight moved from one government to the world through the Affirmation of Commitments; that agreement includes significant reforms, overseen by ICANN's global multi-stakeholder community," Beckstrom said.

"The Governmental Advisory Committee assumed a much more prominent role in ICANN, an extensive and constructive consultation between the GAC and ICANN's international board advanced and improved the new generic top-level domain program," he added.

Governments have also expressed unease with cybersecurity and would like more power to enforce laws, especially when it relates to offensive content hosted in other countries. Beckstrom said the security of the Internet was enhanced with implementation of DNSSEC (DNS Security Extensions).

Beckstrom maintained that ICANN presents the best multi-stakeholder model and the IANA contract presents a collaborative global community process.

"We need to make continued progress to avoid putting the multi-stakeholder model at risk, otherwise a small number of stakeholders who do not represent the global public interest could step into the breach. This could stifle the voices of those whose contributions have led to the unified and open Internet that the world enjoys today," he said.