Francis Gurry Of Australia Wins Nomination To Be Next WIPO Director GeneralPublished on 13 May 2008 @ 7:54 pm
Intellectual Property Watch
By William New
By one vote, Francis Gurry of Australia tonight won a hard-fought election to be the next director general of the World Intellectual Property Organization.
The historic election at WIPO, only the third in its history, was decided today by a 42 to 41 margin in a secret ballot.
“This was an extremely close contest. I don’t want to go through too many similar experiences in my life,” Gurry told members in what amounted to a victory speech that sought to stress inclusiveness. “I want to assure the membership that as of conclusion of this process my mind will be set on all members. I’m very much aware of the diversity of the organisation.”
The busy campaigns of the 15 original candidates lasted for months, beginning last autumn, and in some cases as far back as last summer, when it became apparent that a concerted effort would be made to convince the current director general to leave early out of concern for confidence in his leadership. Director General Kamil Idris agreed to leave the position one year early, on 1 October 2008.
But in the end, Gurry, considered a favourite as one of the most senior officials in the organisation who had nevertheless crafted a reputation for relative independence from the existing administration, prevailed. Gurry is the deputy director general in charge of patents, Internet domain names, and other matters, and previously served as WIPO general counsel. His biography is available on the WIPO website, click here.
In the end, it was a duel of insiders, as José Graça Aranha of Brazil also has been with the organisation for years. But Gurry may have managed to swing just enough developing country votes to take it. He also seemed to have support among some staff in the organisation. After the result, one staff person took to the hallways, shouting, “Viva Gurry!”
Progressive voting results were posted to www.ip-watch.org.
Gurry said WIPO is first a “service” organisation, and must be state-of-the-art in what it does. But it also is “extremely important for this organisation that the Development Agenda be robust,” he said. That agenda, passed by WIPO members last autumn, is expected to ensure activities at WIPO are equally reflective of developing country interests. The Development Agenda was initiated by Brazil and Argentina.
The United States, which led the push to remove Idris, said it was pleased with the outcome. “The much-needed healing at WIPO can begin,” said US Ambassador Warren Tichenor.
The Brazilian ambassador took a conciliatory tone with reporters, saying that the “only way to rebuild the organization is to build respect.” He highlighted the closeness of the vote.
The voting was expected to last into another day or two, but moved quickly after Gurry, Graça Aranha and Masood Khan of Pakistan emerged as clear leaders in the second round, leading all other remaining candidates to withdraw. The 13 May voting was only among the 83 governments of the total WIPO membership of 184, which make up the Coordination Committee, the WIPO executive body. The final nominee for director general will be sent to the annual WIPO General Assembly for final approval of the full membership in late September. It is expected to be approved, according to sources.
Hilde Skorpen of Norway, the Coordination Committee chair, in an interview attributed the fast outcome to the “many rounds” of consultations before the meeting, and the inclusiveness. “This was a process that everybody had been part of,” she said. “The whole process went better than our greatest hopes.”
Gurry also signalled awareness of the suggestion some have made that WIPO may be losing its global competitiveness.
“It’s interesting times for intellectual property,” Gurry said. “Many challenges.”
William New may be reached at email@example.com.