WIPO Appoints New Top Officials, Readies Policies On Conflicts Of Interest, Staff CutsPublished on 15 June 2009 @ 3:01 pm
By William New, Intellectual Property Watch
The member governments of the World Intellectual Property Organization’s executive body on Monday approved a set of seven most senior officials at the organisation to join the director general late this year. Monday’s Coordination Committee meeting also will address new policies on financial disclosure and conflicts of interest among top WIPO officials, and voluntary staff departures in the face of smaller budgets.
The new deputy directors general are: Geoffrey Onyeama (Nigeria), Cooperation for Development (including Development Agenda and WIPO Academy); James Pooley (United States), Patents; Wang Binying (China), Trademarks, Industrial Designs and Geographical Indications; and Johannes Wichard (Germany) Global Issues (including enforcement, arbitration/mediation, communications, and the committee on genetic resources, traditional knowledge and folklore).
The new assistant directors general are: Ambassador Trevor Clarke (Barbados), copyright and related rights; Ambi Sundaram (Sri Lanka), administration and management; and Yoshiyuki Takagi (Japan) global IP infrastructure.
The officials were proposed for committee approval by Director General Francis Gurry (who took office on 1 October 2008) after months of private consultations with member governments. The Coordination Committee decision is the final approval. They all will take office on 1 December 2009 for five years until 30 November 2014. This includes Pooley, who was offered by the secretariat to start earlier to fill the patent role left open by Gurry’s election last year, as he could make the move to Geneva sooner, according to sources.
The morning session saw a succession of member statements raising some concerns but in every case supporting the director general’s nominations.
“It was a positive process,” a WIPO official said afterward. “It was not necessarily expected to be a positive process.”
Among the concerns raised either in the plenary or in consultations leading up to the meeting, according to sources, was that some countries like the United States appear to have an appointee every time there is a rotation of top officials, while most others do not have direct representation at all.
Pakistan, supported by others, praised the “inclusive and transparent consultative mechanism,” but restated a point the delegate said had been made to Gurry in informal consultations that the rotation of governments and regions should apply to all posts of deputy and assistant directors general.
Pakistan also suggested that the WIPO Development Agenda activities fall directly under the director general’s responsibility, and that the “right person” should be in charge of each issue the organisation deals with. This would help ensure movement on policy issues that have been deadlocked for years such as the Intergovernmental Committee on Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC). Under the new WIPO structure, IGC issues, which are of great importance to developing countries trying to better protect their resources, fall under the German official, Wichard.
In addition, it was raised during the process that none of the new appointments are representatives from Spanish or French-speaking countries despite their large presence in the WIPO membership.
And some raised concern over term limits of five years instead of the customary six. The shorter terms were proposed by the secretariat to keep the cabinet appointments in line with the six-year term of the director general. Gurry took office one year before the end of the current outgoing DDGs and ADGs after previous Director General Kamil Idris left a year early under pressure.
The final regional representation includes three from the same regional group, the Group B developed countries. The broader Asia-Pacific region overall also holds a high number of strategic positions, with the Director General (Australia), Chef de Cabinet (India), and three of the seven new appointees.
The breakout is as follows: Barbados (Group of Latin American and Caribbean countries), China (its own regional group), Germany (Group B developed countries), Japan (Group B), Nigeria (African Group), Sri Lanka (Asian Group), and the United States (Group B).
Onyeama is currently WIPO assistant director general for external relations, industry, communications and public outreach. Pooley is a partner at law firm of Morrison & Foerster, and founder and chair of Silicon Valley Lawyers for Obama during the 2008 election. Wang is WIPO assistant director general for administrative support services and General Assembly affairs. Wichard is deputy director general for commercial and economic law at the German Federal Ministry of Justice, and worked in the arbitration and trademark sections at WIPO from 1998-2006.
Of the ADGs, Clarke is Ambassador of Barbados to the UN and other international organisations in Geneva, plus chair of the WIPO Committee on Development and IP, and chair of the World Trade Organization special session on a geographical indications register. He previously had a 41-year career as an engineer and executive at Cable & Wireless. Sundaram is director of the World Health Organization Department of Operational Support and Services, and was raised in Geneva. Takagi is WIPO executive director responsible for global IP infrastructure, the WIPO Academy and information technology.
Click here for photographs of the new officials.
100 Staff Cuts by 2010?
The Coordination Committee on Monday also began addressing a potentially difficult secretariat proposal that could help the fee-based organisation’s bottom line during the global economic crisis, and clear the way for new positions to be created or filled by trimming some of the existing staff. In order to gain acceptance for his cabinet recommendations, Gurry may have suggested to member states that other opportunities in the organisation could arise. But he would need to create some room for incoming people as the budget is tight.
This also could serve to encourage the departure of staff seen as working against the current leadership or the general well-being of WIPO during the bitterly divided recent past years, some sources suggested. Conversely, if the departure package is sufficiently attractive, it might also lead to the loss of some talented officials WIPO might have wished to keep, others said.
WIPO staff in recent years generally have not appeared to be eager to leave. An average of nine staff persons per year have left WIPO in the past 5 years, according to the secretariat. Under the proposed pre-retirement and voluntary separation programmes, approximately 100 personnel are expected to leave by end of June 2010, it said.
The separation programme stems from pressure to reduce staff in light of the economic downturn, and recommendations provided in 2007 by consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
“The organisation is under increasing pressure to reduce the overall number of employees at a more rapid rate than can be achieved through projected retirements and natural attrition,” the WIPO secretariat said in a 29 May report prepared for the Coordination Committee meeting.
PwC’s desk-to-desk report of employment at WIPO found (IPW, WIPO, 10 July 2007) that WIPO has a shortage of key skills, including “languages, management competences, information technology and specialist areas of intellectual property,” WIPO said.
The organisation must fill the gaps by hiring skilled staff and replacing staff whose skills no longer match the organisation’s needs and who could not be reskilled or redeployed. This was confirmed by the “strategic realignment process” of the past 6-8 months under Director General Francis Gurry, who took office in October 2008.
With the expected dropoff in filing fees at WIPO in the next few years due the economy, WIPO is looking to shed unnecessary jobs faster, despite being approved by its membership to create 22 new posts in 2009. As confirmed by PwC, the rate of attrition through retirements from the organisation is low. So the “most acceptable and humane” way to get more staff to leave sooner than they have to is to give more attractive termination conditions than they would otherwise get.
Interested employees must apply by end of September 2009, with decisions made by end of December 2009.
Financial Disclosure and Conflicts of Interest
The Coordination Committee also is to approve an incremental plan to require senior WIPO officials to disclose any interests, financial or otherwise, in issues of consideration at WIPO. The secretariat proposal would apply to the “director 1” level and above, of which there are currently 54 people, as well as personnel in the financial sections of the organisation. It is unclear how the plan applies to consultants at WIPO.
The proposal includes the disclosure policies of several other international organisations, such as the International Criminal Court, World Health Organization, and International Monetary Fund.
The WIPO declaration also would require staff to disclose any gifts, honours, political or other activities outside the organisation, and forbids staff in the International Bureau from seeking or accepting instructions from any government or other authority outside the bureau.
The secretariat also plans to propose the Coordination Committee approve the new United Nations code of ethics for personnel, once it is approved by the UN General Assembly in September. The code would provide additional “overarching guidelines” for the organisation, the secretariat said.
The Coordination Committee also will be asked to designate a chair of the WIPO Appeal Board. The chair since late 2007 has been Francisco Verros, the permanent representative of Greece to the United Nations, who has announced he will relinquish the responsibility. The proposed new chair is Dominick Devlin, a United Kingdom national who has been legal adviser to the International Labour Office in Geneva, as well as a legal officer at other UN agencies like the World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization.
William New may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.