WIPO Members Greet New Cabinet As Some Seek Better Regional Presence; Idris End Date Unclear 23/06/2006 by William New, Intellectual Property Watch Leave a Comment IP-Watch is a non-profit independent news service, and subscribing to our service helps support our goals of bringing more transparency to global IP and innovation policies. To access all of our content, please subscribe now. You also have the opportunity to offer additional support to your subscription, or to donate. The World Intellectual Property Organization Coordination Committee this week welcomed new appointees to the highest policy echelons of WIPO, but some governments added calls for broader regional representation in the organisation. In addition, a question remains as to whether WIPO Director General Kamil Idris must step down in 2009. Of the four newly named deputy directors general (second only to Idris of the Sudan), three are from WIPO’s Group B of developed countries: Australia (Francis Gurry), France (Philippe Petit) and the United States (Michael Keplinger). The final DDG is from India (Narendra Sabharwal). (IPW, WIPO, June 1, 2006). The assistant directors general (ADGs) are from China (Wang Binying), Nigeria (Geoffrey Onyeama), and Uruguay (Ernesto Rubio). Wang Binying was given a newly created position to last until 2009. She will hold the highest position of any Chinese national in WIPO since it joined the organisation in 1980, the Chinese delegate told the meeting, according to the draft secretariat report. The appointees were approved at the 19-20 June meeting of the WIPO Coordination Committee. All member states paid particular tribute to outgoing DDGs Geoffrey Yu and Rita Hayes. New appointees will take their posts in December 2006. Idris’ 2009 Departure an Open Question All of the appointees are understood to be in office until late 2009, when Idris’ current term ends. But according to a WIPO source, Idris’s departure at that date is not imminent. If Idris were to choose to continue as director general, blocking it would require three-quarters of the WIPO membership to complete their domestic processing of an amendment to WIPO rules, the source said. At least 129 members (as there were 171 members at the time of the 1999 amendment) would have to accept an amendment to the WIPO Convention limiting the number of mandates a director general may serve to two six-year terms. As of 15 January 2006, about 50 WIPO members had notified WIPO of their acceptance of the amendment, according to a WIPO status report on treaties. This did not include the United States. Acceptance comes after countries have gone through their domestic constitutional requirements, which for the United States is the advice and consent of the Senate, the source said. Idris’s predecessor, Árpád Bogsch, was director general of WIPO for some 24 years, from 1973 to 1997. Idris took over in 1998. That year, the WIPO General Assembly (the annual gathering of member governments) agreed to an amendment setting term limits. As Idris appears to have emerged unscathed from some concerns raised last year about WIPO’s financial and personnel practices (though a Swiss federal investigation is ongoing), some have speculated about whether he might wish to stay on past 2009. Preventing it would require a majority of developing countries to oppose his continuation, which could be politically sensitive, according to some sources. Idris is from the Sudan. Fair Geographical Distribution at the Top? On geographical distribution, Peru, speaking at the Coordination Committee on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States (GRULAC), praised the appointments but raised concern that neither its group nor the African Group has an official at the DDG level. Both GRULAC and the Asian Group, represented by Thailand, stressed the importance of geographical distribution and gender balance. The delegation of Croatia, which had unsuccessfully put forth a candidate for an ADG position, said the Group of Central European and Baltic States had been marginalised in terms of appointments in WIPO’s structure, citing low representation among its employees. In its statement, Russia said it supported China’s original proposal to have a DDG position, and was surprised to see that China was proposed for an ADG. The economies in transition, such as China, Russia and the Central Asian countries, need representation at the DDG level, the Russian delegate said. Switzerland, speaking on behalf of Group B, said the selection of strategic appointments should be based on merit, and held by staff with technical expertise and appropriate qualifications, according to the draft report on the meeting prepared by the WIPO secretariat. In answer to the statements, WIPO said the director general gave statistics from document WO/CC/54/2, which showed that the number of member states represented in WIPO staff rose from 68 in 1997 to 94 in May 2006. The proportion of women in the professional and above categories increased from 30 percent (63 out of 209) to 42 percent (184 out of 433) in that period. He mentioned the criteria behind appointments and expressed openness to discussing the issues raised. Group B Stresses Desk-to-Desk Review in WIPO In their statement, the Group B developed countries supported the director general’s confirmation that the new positions would be subject to the ongoing desk-to-desk review of human and financial resources at WIPO, recommended by the UN Joint Inspection Unit in February 2005. A WIPO summary of the Swiss delegate’s remarks on behalf of Group B said the delegate said the review “had to be carried out as soon as possible starting with the review of the top management of WIPO and that it would offer a unique opportunity for the organization to get a clear picture in order to be able to make the necessary adjustment of human and financial resources, in order to make the International Bureau even more efficient and effective for the benefit of all member states.” The independent review is expected to be submitted to the 2007 annual General Assembly of WIPO members. The delegate from the United Kingdom laid out the timeline for the review, beginning with an agreement on the terms of reference that the WIPO Audit Committee will need to make in July 2006. This would have to be accepted by the September General Assembly, which also would have to appoint the independent consultants. The review would then have to be submitted in April 2007, agreed upon in July 2007, and sent to the General Assembly in September 2007, the delegate said. Indemnity Proposal Already Covered in WIPO Rules, WIPO Insists In addition to approving the appointments, the Coordination Committee also addressed a proposal that “an indemnity be offered to those staff members mentioned above who held permanent contracts with the organisation before their appointments through the Coordination Committee and who will not have reached the age of retirement at the expiry of the said appointments.” This was specified to be in keeping with the existing WIPO staff regulations on indemnity. The director general withdrew this proposal under paragraph 18, plus paragraph 21, which spelled out the action to be taken on indemnity after resistance from committee members. WIPO officials emphasised to Intellectual Property Watch after the meeting that the paragraphs taken out would have reflected existing WIPO rules. Also in the director general’s proposal, WIPO officials say the disputed last sentence of paragraph 17 remains despite earlier reporting in Intellectual Property Watch that some officials said it had been removed. The sentence states: “The director general further proposes that, without prejudice of any new appointment through the Coordination Committee, no outgoing deputy director general and assistant director general shall remain in the service of the organisation upon the expiry of their appointments.” Some members have opposed its inclusion as it would appear to prevent appointees from returning to jobs within WIPO, even if they are still of working age. In the secretariat report, the WIPO legal counsel was quoted as saying that paragraph 21 was the action for paragraph 17, so with paragraph 21 removed, the last line of paragraph 17 could remain as a “mere proposal” and the Coordination Committee would not take any action on that proposal. But an African Group source said on 23 June that some countries were left with the understanding that the sentence will be removed as a consequence of the removal of paragraph 21. “It is the African Group’s belief that the last sentence paragraph 17 stands as amended, that is, removed,” the official said. Others possibly supporting its removal included China, Italy, Mexico, and the United Kingdom, the source said. The 82-member Coordination Committee consists of members of three bodies: the executive committee of the Paris Union (protection of industrial property; 41 members), the Executive Committee of the Berne Union (protection of literary and artistic works; 37 members) and one-quarter of the states that have signed up to the WIPO Convention but that are not members of any of the WIPO unions, according to WIPO paper A/41/9 Rev from the 2005 General Assembly. In addition, Switzerland as a host state is an ex officio member of the committee, WIPO said. The members of the Coordination Committee are elected every second year at the General Assembly, according to the WIPO paper, adding that 82 members will serve until September 2007. It also has administrative tasks such as preparing the draft agenda for the WIPO General Assembly. WIPO currently has 183 members. 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