WIPO Committee Advances Decisions On Programme, Budget, Oversight 15/09/2014 by William New and Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch 1 Comment 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)The powerful World Intellectual Property Organization Program and Budget Committee in its recent meeting worked through a tough agenda of core decisions about the UN organisation’s functioning and future. The committee reached decisions on key issues related to strengthened oversight, the 2012-2013 programme, and financial issues, but couldn’t break through on issues like new WIPO field offices, streamlining committee meetings, accounting for development expenditures, or funding indigenous representatives to participate in WIPO negotiations. The 22nd meeting of the Program and Budget Committee (PBC) took place from1-5 September. Many of the issues addressed by the PBC will come up at the annual WIPO General Assemblies, taking place from 22-30 September. A draft version of the list of decisions from the final day of the PBC is available here [pdf]. The draft list of decisions reflects extensive discussion and actions on a variety of oversight and inspection reports. The committee also took decisions on a range of other issues from the week, such as human resources policy and construction projects (IPW, WIPO, 4 September 2014), and others like changes to the WIPO policy on investments, accountability framework, and financial and program performance reports. The list leaves out areas on which there was not agreement. At the end of the week, frustration with the inability to agree on governance, development expenditure, and proposed revisions to the WIPO oversight charter came through. Revisions to WIPO Internal Oversight Charter Ways to strengthen and improve oversight of WIPO were a key subject of the meeting (IPW, WIPO, 3 September 2014, IPW, WIPO, 28 August 2014). Members approved a decision [pdf] on proposed revisions to the WIPO Internal Oversight Charter. The decision states that the PBC approved proposed revisions except for two of them on which they could not reach consensus. Approved revisions include changing the name of the WIPO Internal Audit and Oversight Division (IAOD) to the Internal Oversight Division (IOD); clarify that standards for internal audit, evaluation and investigation are mandatory; strengthen the involvement of the member-driven Independent Advisory Oversight Committee (IAOC); insert a section on conflict of interest; extend the possibility for complaints of alleged misconduct to “any other internal or external party”; grant public access to IAOD audit and evaluation reports; highlight the need for interaction between IAOD and other assurance providers; clarify the provision for dismissal of the IAOD director; extend the non-renewable term of the IAOD director to six years. The two non-agreed provisions, paragraphs 33 and 34, dealt with the confidentiality of investigation reports and materials. Governance There has been an effort at WIPO for several years to improve governance. A proposal (WO/PBC/22/26) was put forward for this PBC by Belgium, Mexico and Spain aimed at “increasing efficiency in WIPO meetings.” Members extensively discussed ideas, such as fewer meetings, fewer days for the meetings, and enforced cutoff times every day of meetings. They also proposed avoiding overlap of meetings or holding them back-to-back, and reduced document lengths. There have been other proposals and ideas on WIPO governance in recent years. Near the closing of the meeting, Mexico said, “Once more we have noted there isn’t openness and trust among us to discuss this,” noting that there may not be time for a full discussion at the General Assembly. The PBC chair, Colombian Ambassador Gabriel Duque, said the failure to agree is “our collective responsibility,” and that he would draft a chair’s report on this. Definition of Development Expenditure in Limbo At the 19th session of the PBC, in 2012 the chair drafted a proposal for a definition (Annex B) [pdf] of development expenditure. The current definition (Annex A) [pdf] had been criticised by developing countries as including some elements that they would not consider as directly linked to development, thus inflating the amount of money WIPO says it spends on development (IPW, WIPO, 16 September 2013). The PBC chair repeated during the week that an agreement on the definition was key to the preparation of the budget for the next biennium (2016/2017). Developing countries, such as the African Group, Brazil, and El Salvador, were supportive of the drafted definition. The African Group said the definition is much clearer and answers the recommendation of the report of the external auditor [pdf] which states: “WIPO may clearly define development expenditure and formulate a method for determining the ‘development share’ under each program and activity so that effectiveness of the mainstreaming exercise can be assessed objectively.” Some developing countries also insisted that the amount of money spent could not be the only indicator but the assessment of the impact and tangible outcomes of those expenditures was also important. Developed countries said they would prefer keeping the current definition and found the new proposed definition too specific. Informal consultations were held during the week to try to amend the definition, and an alternative version was proposed on 5 September by the meeting vice-chair after he consulted two regional groups holding different views. However, no agreement was found on a definition, which leaves the secretariat with no instructions on how to proceed to prepare the budget for the next biennium. There was not even consensus on whether to continue the discussion in next week’s General Assembly or to wait till the next PBC meeting. The chair said he would do his own report on the issue. Indigenous Voluntary Fund Still in Trouble Participation of indigenous representatives in the activities of WIPO is considered vital for the credibility of decisions affecting those communities, but WIPO member governments cannot agree on a way to sustainably finance indigenous representatives’ participation. A proposal [pdf] put forward at the start of the meeting to fund their participation through the regular WIPO budget met with resistance from several countries. The proposal was tabled by Australia, Finland, Holy See, New Zealand and Switzerland, on the Participation of Representatives of Accredited Indigenous and Local Communities in the Work of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) (IPW, WIPO, 26 August 2014). The proposal, which sought to address the perennial problem of lack of donations from governments to the WIPO Voluntary Fund [pdf], met with opposition from the United States, Germany and Sweden. In rejecting the proposal, the US offered to make a contribution to the voluntary fund, but Switzerland said the contribution would fund only two people to attend one meeting, and that an estimated CHF60,000 (about $65,000) is needed for next year. No other delegations offered to contribute to the Voluntary Fund, though a number have done so in the past. Indonesia, which also opposed the tabled proposal, came forward with a proposal [pdf] for WIPO to seek funding from the World Bank, which Indonesia said has programmes to support indigenous knowledge. They suggested that WIPO “establish cooperation with the World Bank for funding mechanism to support NGOs and other organization of civil society.” The final PBC decision, summarising the discussions, said that the PBC recognised the importance and value of the participation and contribution of indigenous and local communities in the IGC, and that the PBC encouraged the secretariat to continue its efforts to finding new sources of contribution to the Voluntary Fund. No Deal on External Offices Members have been trying this year to agree a plan to regularise the creation of new WIPO branch offices around the world, but they could not move it forward at the PBC. Past external offices have been created without an extensive formal process and with some political overtones. Last year’s announcement that contracts for new offices in China and Russia were signed was treated with surprise by a number of member states and led to an effort to draft guiding principles for offices. A draft document, WO/PBC/22/25, shows that members have agreed on most of the text after weeks of informal meetings in spring and summer, but remain deadlocked on a couple of points. The draft document covers transparency, rationale for new offices, regional activity, financial and budgetary sustainability, geographic and locational aspects, accountability and reporting, and implementation and review. In the document, it appears the biggest area remaining to be agreed relates to evaluation and assessment of the external office network. It shows three draft proposals from groups of member states, with different approaches. The Group B (developed countries) approach would limit new offices to two per biennium, with none in 2020-2021 while an assessment is done of the efficacy of existing offices. The African Group has been hopeful for two offices in the 2014-2015 biennium, and members from the Latin American and Caribbean region have been seeking at least one office, so this has raised some discussion. Nearly two dozen countries [pdf] have indicated interest in having offices. The PBC decision paragraph said simply that the committee “expressed its gratitude and thanked Ambassador Fitschen of Germany, as well as other ambassadors who previously facilitated consultations on matters concerning WIPO External Offices that concluded in the document contained in WO/PBC/22/25. Noting that there were no changes in positions of delegations and Groups, the PBC recommended to the WIPO General Assembly to further consider this issue.” 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) Related William New may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Catherine Saez may be reached at email@example.com."WIPO Committee Advances Decisions On Programme, Budget, Oversight" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.