WIPO Development Agenda: Developing Countries Submit New Proposals

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On the eve of high-level meetings next week on development and intellectual property, the fourteen co-sponsors of the proposal for the World Intellectual Property Organisation’s new Development Agenda today submitted detailed elaborations of their proposals for incorporating development into WIPO’s work.

The fourteen so-called Friends of Development asked the WIPO Secretariat to distribute the proposal to all WIPO Member States for consideration at two meetings to be held next week: an April 11-13 Inter-sessional Intergovernmental Meeting on the Development Agenda (IIM) and an April 14-15 meeting of the Permanent Committee on Cooperation for Development Related to Intellectual Property (PCIPD) .

In a press release issued today, WIPO highlighted that the meetings next week follow the decision adopted by member states in the 2004 General Assembly debate “to convene inter-sessional intergovernmental meetings to examine the proposals contained” in the original Development Agenda proposal introduced last fall by Argentina and Brazil (and co-sponsored by an additional twelve developing countries), “as well as additional proposals of member states.”

Under the rubric of “promoting development and access to knowledge for all”, the co-sponsors offered concrete recommendations on four aspects of their original Development Agenda proposal.

First, the co-sponsors argued that reform of WIPO’s governance structure is a necessary prerequisite for promoting development in its work. They proposed amending the WIPO Convention to make it more consistent with WIPO’s mandate as a UN specialised agency, strengthening the role of Member States in guiding WIPO’s work, establishing an independent Evaluation and Research Office, and ensuring wider participation by civil society and public interest groups in WIPO discussions and activities.

Second, the Friends of Development proposed principles to ensure that development objectives are central to all processes and outcomes of WIPO norm-setting activities, including greater Member State involvement in devising WIPO’s work plan, comprehensive assessment of the sustainable development implications of any proposed new laws; deeper consideration of the rights and interests of a broad range of stakeholders with respect to intellectual property; and stronger efforts to ensure that proposed standards support the objectives and provisions of other international instruments (such as the Millennium Development Goals).

To ensure these guidelines have practical effect, the co-sponsors recommended independent, evidence-based “Development Impact Assessment” (DIA), the incorporation of provisions to recognise the difference between developed and developing WIPO Member States, and greater public consultation prior to any norm-setting discussion in WIPO.

Third, the submission proposed mechanisms to ensure WIPO’s technical assistance and capacity building responds to the development goals of developing countries. The co-sponsors argued for the adoption by the 2005 WIPO General Assembly of a commitment to technical assistance programmes that are: development-focused, comprehensive and coherent; neutral, unbiased, and non-discriminatory; and tailor-made to respond to the expressed and distinct needs of a range of stakeholders. They argued that special attention should be paid to the different levels of development of various countries and fostering “the technical capacity of countries to fully use in-built flexibilities in international agreements to advance national pro-development policies.”

In order to make “good use of the limited resources allocated to intellectual property technical assistance in WIPO”, the Friends of Development recommended concrete measures to implement and monitor adherence to these guidelines, such as measures for improved information-sharing, a code of ethics to assure the independence of technical assistance providers, the development of indicators and benchmarks for evaluation, and greater transparency about the design and implementation of technical assistance programmes. The proposal also called for analysis of options for separating WIPO’s technical assistance function from its norm-setting function.

Fourth, the submission argued that WIPO should contribute to international discussion of what developed countries can do to facilitate the transfer and dissemination of technology to developing countries and recommended several new initiatives at the multilateral level.

In their submission, the Friends of Development emphasised their view that “the development dimension of intellectual property is not the same thing as technical assistance.” They affirmed that they attach importance “to the role of intellectual property in the path towards development” and stressed their belief that “WIPO could have a new role…if it incorporates the development dimension into its work”.

The proposal also responded to the question of where best to locate the Development Agenda discussion in the long-term. The co-sponsors stated that the Development Agenda “cannot be limited to or contained within the work of any specific subsidiary body within WIPO” but must be pursued “in all areas of WIPO’s activities, including in the work of all standing committees and other subsidiary bodies”.

Finally, indicating that more is still to come, the Friends of Development noted that their proposal is not exhaustive and they “reserve the right to make additional contributions to the debate as discussions continue”.

Sisule Musungu of the South Centre, a key developing country inter-governmental think-tank, today applauded developing countries for their collaborative effort to give practical effect to the Development Agenda and to bolster the work of WIPO. Proactive proposals from developing countries, he argued, help WIPO realise its long-stated goal of making its approach to IP relevant and supportive of development. In addition, he said that the “issues raised in the proposals cover not only the concerns of developing countries but also the interests of key constituencies (such as consumers) in the North.”

A developing country official highlighted that the new submission should put to rest claims by some developed countries that they “do not understand” the original Development Agenda proposal. The Development Agenda discussion, he said, brings WIPO up-to-date with other international organizations—from the World Bank to the WTO—which have undertaken similarly useful processes of introspection to ensure their actions achieve development-oriented results.

The WIPO Secretariat noted today that it had also received submissions from Mexico (on Intellectual Property and Development) and the United States (on the Establishment of a Partnership Program in WIPO) related to next week’s discussions.

Sources in Geneva predict strong reactions and a lively debate among the Secretariat, WIPO Member States, and other stakeholders on these proposals in the coming days.

The Friends of Development Group comprises the co-sponsors of the original proposal to establish a WIPO “Development Agenda” (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Iran, Kenya, Peru, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania and Venezuela).

The WIPO Secretariat also drew attention today to an International Seminar on Intellectual Property and Development to be held on May 2 and 3, 2005 (co-organized by WIPO with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and World Trade Organization (WTO)). According to the Secretariat, this event is open to all interested parties, including the press.

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