Developed Countries Seek Clarification Of Idris’ Alleged Age Discrepancy15/05/2007 by William New, Intellectual Property Watch 2 CommentsShare this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Much of our best content is available only to IP Watch subscribers. We are 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.By William New Citing concerns over accountability and leadership at the World Intellectual Property Organization, the United States, United Kingdom, Japan and Switzerland are pushing for answers to allegations that WIPO Director General Kamil Idris purposely misrepresented his age on official documents for years.“We are by no means losing interest in this issue,” a US official said this week. “We want to retain pressure on the director general on these allegations which are seriously undermining the credibility of the organisation.”Members of the Geneva Group (the biggest United Nations funders) raised the issue at their most recent high-level group meeting in late April, and have issued a letter recalling that at the meeting, “Directors agreed that Geneva Group members would need to take a robust line on the issue in the WIPO General Assembly in September,” a source said. The directors are above ambassador level.The confidential letter recapped a variety of issues, the official said, such as membership of the group as well as “issues happening at WIPO.” The discussion included the General Assembly and what is coming up at WIPO. It also included, the official said, a discussion of an internal audit report on Director General Idris’ alleged misrepresentation of his age, leaked earlier this year. The report gave documented evidence of decades of Idris’ signing documents for himself with different birthdates. (IPW, WIPO, 20 February 2007).The Geneva Group letter also mentioned that WIPO External Auditor Kurt Gruter, who is director of the Swiss Federal Audit Office, has written to WIPO General Assembly Chairman Enrique Manalo, the Philippines ambassador, urging that the director general be asked to respond to allegations and clarify the situation.The issue may become somewhat divisive at WIPO, as Idris, who is from Sudan, has strong support from the African Group at WIPO. African Group Coordinator Idriss Jazairy sent a letter of support to the director general dated 8 March after a meeting with Idris the day before. Jazairy, the Algerian ambassador, said the letter was written on behalf of Chekitan Servansing, the Mauritius ambassador who chairs the African Group. The African letter, obtained by Intellectual Property Watch, was circulated widely among the top officials at WIPO.“The purpose of our visit was to express to you the total confidence and full support of the African Group for your outstanding leadership…,” they wrote. “We thus reassert the positive assessment of your stewardship which was expressed by the international community at large when it decided to re-elect you unanimously to your high office in 2003.”“While concerned by the recent smear campaign targeting you which seems aimed at impeding the effective performance of the duties for which member states have thus re-elected you, we encourage you to pursue your excellent work without being distracted by it in any way.” Earlier this year, the WIPO secretariat also referred to reports on the age discrepancy as a smear campaign and suggested racial issues as a factor.But it appears that Idris, who is in office at least until 2009, has not let the issue distract him, as he has not given a public explanation nor raised the issue publicly, while spending the recent months in a volley of international visits to promote WIPO technical assistance and intellectual property rights protection. In the weeks that followed the leak of the confidential internal report on the issue in February, WIPO issued a series of positive announcements about honours received by Idris and cooperative agreements he has struck with a variety of developing and least-developed countries.But several key members of the Geneva Group – the United Nations members who contribute more than one percent of the UN budget – have not let the issue slip away after contemplating for some time their options for addressing the internal auditor’s report, which was not intended to be formally shared with governments.In addition, the United States is raising concern that Idris knowingly falsified US visa documents. The letter to the Geneva Group said: “The group discussed allegations about the director general repeatedly falsifying information on US visa applications. The US noted its strong concerns, has supplied information about the director general’s visa applications to the WIPO internal auditor, and is considering whether past falsifications are sufficient grounds for denying future visa applications,” according to a source.The US official confirmed the existence of the letter from the co-chairs of the Geneva Group, the United States and the United Kingdom, recalling an informal discussion held at a 26 April lunch held during a recent Geneva Group meeting.WIPO forced Intellectual Property Watch to take down a link to an electronic copy of the internal report in early March (IPW, WIPO, 1 March 2007). But it has made a copy of the internal report available for viewing by member states, and a number appear to have looked at it, according to a government official.“This is not thunder and lightening striking, but it is another issue” that should be raised, the official said, adding that it is of particular interest to the developed countries which own most of the world’s intellectual property rights and therefore are the source of most of WIPO’s funding, which largely comes from fees. The official acknowledged that the effort to pursue the issue was not unanimous among member governments. William New may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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