Traditional Cultural Expressions Talks Back On Track At WIPO

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Delegates at the World Intellectual Property Organization today finally adopted the agenda of the 22nd session of the Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC), and started work. But not before being sharply reminded of their duty in representing the public.

On the first day of the meeting, no consensus could be found on agenda item 9 on future work of the committee, as put forward by the Group B developed countries (IPW, WIPO, 9 July 2012).

Alternate wording was agreed upon today. Instead of the original item, “Recommendation to the Forty-First Session of the WIPO General Assembly on the Future Work of the Committee,” language proposed by Group B – ” Expression of use on future matters concerning the IGC” – was accepted with some reluctance by developing countries.

The African Group, supported by several developing countries, reiterated their doubts and reservations on the relevance of agenda item 9, which they said would divert attention from the IGC 22 focus on the protection of traditional cultural expressions. They said again that any future work of the IGC was not in the mandate of the committee.

Egypt, on behalf of the African Group, made the following statement: “The group will not be able to engage in the discussions on this agenda item whether in formal or informal consultations relating to it. The group firmly believes there should not be any outcome decision on this agenda item.”

Chair Unveils Programme of Work, Admonishes Delegates

After the agenda was adopted, the IGC chair, Amb. Wayne McCook of Jamaica, launched into an admonishment of delegates.

“It is the understanding of the chair,” he said, “that mandates established by a superior body can only be amended and adjusted by that superior body. There can be no subsidiary body overruling a decision of a superior body and it would my hope my that we do not spend valuable time discussing what is legally impermissible,” he said, calling to make up for “wasted time.”

“This committee will not be held up ad infinitum in discussions without a purpose or without direction,” McCook said. “This is not the way we would expect to proceed in doing the peoples’ business.”

“It costs a delegation nearly 5,000 Swiss Francs to send a delegate to Geneva,” McCook said. “Let us remember that every minute we spend ought to have a purpose. We are not here on our own business. We are here at the behest of our citizens, some of them in dire poverty.”

“We are paid to be here in order to advance the common good,” he added. “Let me appeal that we honour the people who pay their taxes which enable us to get here to do their work.”

The working methodology will have a twin approach, he said, combining plenary and informal sessions. A group of experts will meet in informal sessions, he said, and the facilitator from IGC 19, Kim Connolly-Stone from New Zealand will help the process.

The plenary will review the text two times, McCook said, and on the last session the plenary will be invited to make comments that will be noted and transmitted to the WIPO General Assembly.

The expert group will be composed of a maximum of five experts from regional groups, according to McCook, and other member states will be permitted to sit in but will have no direct speaking right.

Indigenous peoples are invited to provide one expert to participate in the expert group as an observer, the chair said. Indigenous groups had sought fuller participation (IPW, WIPO, 9 July 2012).

Catherine Saez may be reached at

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