As WIPO Director Reports On Development Agenda, Developing Countries Demand Full Implementation

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A World Intellectual Property Organization committee meeting this week to assess the development dimension of WIPO activities heard the progress report of the director general. Developing countries took the opportunity to claim that the mandate of the committee was not completed, in particular because the development dimension was kept out of two important WIPO bodies.

Yesterday, delegates participating in the 7-11 May, Committee on Development and Intellectual Property (CDIP) gave their comments on the director general’s report [pdf] on implementation of the WIPO Development Agenda.

Developing countries were especially vocal and although they welcomed and acknowledged progress made in the implementation of the Development Agenda, they still vigorously denounced what they characterised as a strong opposition to its full implementation. The Development Agenda, comprised of 45 recommendations adopted in 2007, aims at integrating a development dimension into all WIPO activities.

WIPO Director General Takes Stock

WIPO Director General Francis Gurry addressed the CDIP, speaking broadly about the committee and presenting an overview of his report.

He said that some three and a half years ago, “we really only had 45 bare recommendations,” adding that after three years “it was a good moment to take some stock of the progress,” noting the work that had been accomplished in the CDIP.

“As a consequence of collective efforts of the secretariat and the member states we now see that mainstreaming is taking effect,” Gurry said, referring in particular to the Development Agenda projects having been integrated into the organisation’s programme and budget for the current biennium, instead of going through the lengthy process of waiting for the Program and Budget Committee to meet and “extend financing” for the adopted projects to be implemented.

The Development Agenda is taken into account by all divisions in their implementation of the work of WIPO, Gurry said. He recalled that the CDIP approved 23 projects covering 29 recommendations for an approximate value of 23.5 million Swiss francs (approx. US$ 27.5 million).

On the question of the strategic approach to the Development Agenda, Gurry underlined the “enormous task” at hand, with about 150 countries involved, covering all regions of the world. Each of those countries, he said, has specific circumstances, context and needs. That implies on WIPO’s part, planning, division of labour across WIPO, and coordination, he said, indicating progress in this regard.

“Can we improve?” he asked. “Yes, of course we can improve, and especially with your assistance,” he told delegates.

African Group, Development Agenda Group Concerns

The Ambassador of Egypt delivered the statement for the African Group. He expressed appreciation for the director general’s “strong leadership and personal commitment to spearhead the institutional reforms and changes required to effectively implement these landmark General Assembly decisions in both letter and spirit.”

But, the ambassador said, “the fact remains” that the 2009 General Assembly decision on the Development Agenda coordination mechanism “is not yet implemented when it comes to the Program and Budget Committee.”

Most recently, he said, “developing and least developed member states were surprised to see that the Committee on WIPO Standards was prevented from making any reference to the Development Agenda under the pretext that the WIPO standards are technical and therefore have no relevance to the WIPO Development Agenda.”

“Unfortunately, the political will continues to be lacking as this CDIP session has not succeeded in resolving this important matter,” he said. The African Group “notes a striking inconsistency between on the one hand what all WIPO members have agreed upon in the General Assembly … and the secretariat efforts in this direction,” he said, “and on the other hand the strong opposition to apply this decision to the Program and Budget Committee and the Committee on WIPO Standards.”

Another General Assembly decision from 2007 still awaits implementation, he said. The CDIP mandate includes the mandate to “discuss IP and development related issues as agreed by the committee,” but, he said, “the CDIP did not agree since 2010 and even in this CDIP session on adopting the proposed agenda item on intellectual property and development-related issues.”

Algeria, as the coordinator of the Development Agenda Group (DAG), a group of developing countries formed around Development Agenda implementation, acknowledged the “good work and leadership of the director general and the management team.” But they joined the African Group in noting the “opposition to implement the General Assembly decision on the Development Agenda coordination mechanism when it comes to the Program and Budget Committee.”

“This constitutes an incomprehensible approach that undermines all those efforts,” the delegate said, adding that “the group deemed inconsistent that the third pillar of the CDIP mandate is yet to be concluded,” in reference to the inclusion of an agenda item entitled intellectual property and development in the CDIP agenda, which she said the DAG insists on.

“This agenda item will allow discussions on the important linkages between IP and development and important issues not currently being discussed could find a space for discussion in the CDIP,” she said.

Influence of WIPO in Projects, International Fora

The DAG also called for a broader vision of the Development Agenda in WIPO projects. For example, she said,” the introduction of a module on [an] action plan for development in the training programme of WIPO activities is a very good initiative, however the content of the training module should give a broader view of aspects relating to IP including the integration of the of development in IP systems.”

Concerning WIPO’s support to other international organisations, the DAG feels that the most important issue is “not so much that WIPO contributes, but the nature and content of such a contribution, especially now” with multiple opportunities to discuss issues such as climate change, public health, food security and technology transfer where IP rights are crucial, she said. Those issues were echoed by Bolivia.

In answer to those concerns, Gurry said that the relationship between WIPO and other UN agencies is “not an easy question.”

“To a certain extent, the secretariat faces a somewhat inconsistent demand” from member states, he said. “On the one hand, the member states are telling the secretariat” that WIPO is part of the UN system and as such should “form constructive partnerships with the rest of the UN system,” and on the other hand, it should refrain from “saying anything because it is the member states that decide the policy.”

“We are aware of that tension and trying to manage it as best we can,” Gurry said. “We are very aware that you do not want the secretariat to be making policy statements on issues on which member states have not developed policies.”

“We do not do that,” he said, “but we try to participate as part of the UN family and to have constructive relations with other international organisations, and to share the specific expertise that is ours and is particular to this organisation.”

“IP is crucial to many of the global challenges,” Gurry said, and “innovation is the way in which we are, as a global community, going to address those global challenges, because if we do things exactly as we do them now we will be left with the challenges.”

“We confine our comments to technical inputs as a specialised agency and to provide information on the role of IP and to seek to enhance the understanding of others of what is after all a very technical subject matter,” he concluded.

Developed Countries Welcome Report; Brief Interventions

Developed countries mainly welcomed the director general’s report and highlighted positive developments. The United States, on behalf of the Group B developed countries, gave a special mention to the launch in 2012 of a country plan for the development of cooperation activities which will provide “a macro level policy framework to link the intellectual property strategies to broader development goals.

Denmark on behalf of the European Union said the report gave a comprehensive assessment of the work carried out by WIPO in 2011 in the implementation of the Development Agenda.

Catherine Saez may be reached at info@ip-watch.ch.

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