WIPO Programme And Budget Committee Passes Baton To Assembly 16/09/2013 by Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch 3 Comments Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (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)World Intellectual Property Organization delegates last week stumbled on a number of issues while discussing the programme and budget of the organisation, leaving to the annual WIPO General Assembly convening next week the task of breaching differences. Particular issues included proposed new WIPO external offices, the programme on small and medium-sized enterprises and innovation, and development expenditure. A summary of decisions and recommendations [pdf] to the Assembly made by the Program and Budget Committee (PBC) during its 21st session from 9-13 September was issued late in the evening on the last day of the session. A previous version [pdf] was issued earlier in the evening, and was slightly amended. For instance, discussion was left open on a potential high-level negotiation following the work of the WIPO Traditional Knowledge, Traditional Cultural Expressions and Genetic Resources (IGC) in the next biennium. Actions: Reserves, Capital Master Plan, External Auditor’s Report The PBC did take action on a number of items. It recommended that the General Assembly (taking place from 23 September to 2 October) take note of the content of a number of agenda items such as the report by the external auditor, the report by the director of the Internal Audit and Oversight Division (IAOD), and the report by the Independent Advisory Oversight Committee (IAOC). During the week’s discussions, some member states asked that WIPO exercise prudent utilisation of reserves, and take into account several factors such as liabilities linked to the pension fund, or the evaluation of real estate, which could be an important variable. WIPO reserves amount to CHF 141 million (roughly US$151 million) after approved appropriations. Some member states such as the United States suggested using the reserve fund only for extraordinary one-time expenditures. It was also suggested by some members that WIPO present more information on reserves from previous years to have a better overview. WIPO said during the week that the capital master plan, which spans from 2014 to 2019, is not proposed for approval by member states, but a plan put together by the secretariat to improve management practices. Only the principles of this plan should be endorsed by member states, it said. The decision on the capital master plan includes several requests, and an “endorsement of the principles under which projects have been and will be included in the organization’s Capital Master Plan.” The capital master plan includes seven projects including: security enhancement on data encryption and user management, renovation of the facades and cooling/heating installation of the PCT building, and safety and fire protection measures. The PBC recommended that the General Assembly approve funding of the projects presented (total estimated amount of CHF 11.2 million or US$ 12 million). The PBC also requested the secretariat to “target further savings under the regular budget” to reduce the use of the reserves for the funding of the projects under the capital master plan. The report on the implementation of cost efficiency measures was also agreed upon, as the progress report on the project to upgrade safety and security standards for the existing WIPO buildings, and the progress report on the construction projects. Deferred to Assembly Left to the General Assembly to consider and take action on were: the progress report on implementation of recommendations of the UN Joint Inspection Unit (JIU), governance at WIPO, the proposed definition of development expenditure in the context of the program and budget, and the final report on the implementation of the WIPO strategic realignment program. The revised definition [pdf] of “development expenditure” as proposed by the chair of the PBC was discussed at length on the last day of the session, while developed countries asked that decisions on programmes and the budget left open be advanced first. Developing countries said the subject was of the utmost importance to them. The revised definition was proposed at the 19th session of the PBC (10-14 September 2012) in document WO/PBC/19/25. At stake is how the organisation classifies the development expenditure. Director General Francis Gurry said during the week that 21 percent of the total WIPO budget was spent on development expenditure. The new definition would change that figure, according to developing countries. The current definition states: “Expenditure is qualified as “development expenditure”, only when the beneficiary is a developing country and the equivalent expenditure is not available for developed countries. These amounts exclude foregone revenues resulting from the fee reductions accorded under the international registration systems for applicants from developing countries. Consistent with past practice, countries with economies in transition are included for the purpose of the Program and Budget.” The new definition incorporates part of the current definition and includes a list of activities supporting reducing the knowledge gap between developed and developing countries and enabling developing countries to derive benefits from the IP system. It also asks that development expenditure “is not used to finance the Organization’s management, administrative and finance-related activities or functions.” Group B (developed countries) said it was not in a position to adopt or validate a new definition of development expenditure. The Development Agenda Group, the African Group, China and India pressed for the PBC to discuss the new definition item by item, supported by PBC Chair Hisham Badr of Egypt. Switzerland said it was ready to discuss this new definition at the next session of the PBC. Another reservation to the approval of proposed program and budget is the reinstatement of programme 30 to include small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and innovation. The subject was hotly debated during the week (IPW, WIPO, 12 September 2013). Left to the General Assembly to decide upon programme 18 (IP and global challenges), targets for diplomatic conferences in program 2 (Trademarks, Industrial Designs and Geographical Indications), and programme 4 (IGC). Those were also discussed at length during the week (IPW, WIPO, 13 September 2013). Language Policy, Reports Of Proceedings to Remain On the proposed program and budget for the 2014/2015 biennium, the PBC recommended approval by the General Assembly, subject to a list of items, among which was the increase of the overall budgetary envelope to address the agreed implementation of the WIPO language policy, in the amount of CHF 793 000 (programme 27). The PBC also recommended the Assembly take note of the progress report on the implementation of the WIPO language policy and to adopt new language for paragraph 13 of the document. This includes a further reduction of the length of WIPO working documents, and six-language coverage for the WIPO working groups. When introducing the report, the WIPO secretariat indicated that following the implementation of the WIPO language policy approved in 2011, there was a substantial increase in the workload of translations putting strain on resources. The volume increased from 36,161 standard UN pages on 2011 to 55,281 pages in 2012. Some 56 percent of the work had to be outsourced. The secretariat said the verbatim reports of the proceedings of meetings were very voluminous, some reaching 400 pages. Group B indicated that it was open to discussing alternatives to verbatim reports to achieve savings, but developing countries said verbatim reports are important as many developing countries do not have electronic access to audio and cannot rely on the recordings of webcasted sessions. Human Resources, Geographical Representation, Rising Costs Concerning the annual report on human resources, the PBC noted the annual report and recommended to the General Assembly to request the Director General to convey to the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) and the United Nations Chief Executives Board the member states’ concerns regarding the impact of rising staff costs on the financial sustainability of the organisation, in particular in the context of the ongoing ICSC review. A number of developing countries asked that there is an equitable geographical distribution reflected in WIPO staff. The report, the African Group said, shows a substantial unbalance, with staff from Western Europe representing over 50 percent of the total staff, Africa 11 percent and the Middle East 1.2 percent. France said that a good portion of the staff coming from neighbouring France was mostly represented in G staff (general services). China asked for an enhanced transparency of WIPO recruitment, Brazil that member states be given more information on applications, and several countries agreed that criteria such as skills, merit, and experience were also important. The WIPO secretariat said it did not get applications from all the regions and the secretariat was trying to reach out and do more to advertise in the regions from which applications were sparse. External Offices Unresolved Discussions on external offices consumed a large part of the discussions of last week’s PBC session (IPW, WIPO, 13 September 2013). Not surprisingly, the matter was left to be solved by the General Assembly. Most countries appear to consider that new external WIPO offices would have an added value, but issues arose relating to the number and location of those new offices. The Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC) and India requested that their names be added to the proposed list. Some 24 countries are potential candidates for new WIPO offices. GRULAC in particular vigorously defended the establishment of a new external office in a Spanish-speaking country of Latin America during the 2014/2015 biennium. The group submitted some language [pdf] to this effect on the last day of the session. The chair originally suggested that a working group might be established to start this week and work full time to present a recommendation to the General Assembly starting the week after, but this could not be agreed by delegations, to the consternation of some European countries. There were several proposals relating to the offices. Iran proposed language [pdf] pertaining to the working group yesterday, so did the United states, here. South Korea submitted its position [pdf] on external offices. Group B countries were in favour of budgeting for new external offices but without specific locations or numbers, until proper criteria be developed. A developed country source said afterward that the chair did not give member states enough time to sort out issues on the Program and Budget, while letting discussions on other agenda items borrow on that issue-resolving exercise. 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