Committee Recommends ‘High Priority’ Changes To WIPO Oversight Charter 02/09/2016 by William New, Intellectual Property Watch Leave a 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 World Intellectual Property Organization Program and Budget Committee (PBC) this week agreed to recommend changes to the UN agency’s Internal Oversight Charter as a high priority by next month, including to strengthen investigatory processes against senior officials, and access to confidential documents by member states. In a separate issue, after days of intensive talks behind closed doors, the committee could not agree on which countries will get new WIPO external offices. WIPO headquarters The PBC met from 29 August to 2 September. Meeting documents are available here. The draft decision document that was adopted with amendments is available here [pdf]. The external offices debate consumed a large portion of the week’s attention, as numerous countries pinned hopes of being designated as a host for an office as a way to provide a boost to innovation, economy, training, and – as one delegate put it – prestige. The list of candidate countries was narrowed to nine when the Latin American and Caribbean countries agreed to nominate Colombia for their region. But the list never got any shorter. A last-minute attempt by chair Amb. Janis Karklins of Latvia failed as he held a kind of secret ballot on a proposal for Algeria, Colombia and Nigeria. But two countries quietly voted no and it was withdrawn. Sharp disappointment was expressed by delegates. The issue will go to the 3-12 October WIPO General Assembly for further debate. The committee took note of the report of the Internal Audit and Oversight Committee (IAOC), the Internal Oversight Division, and the External Auditor. The committee was chaired by Latvian Ambassador Janus Karklins, and vice chairs are from Argentina and India. The delegate from India was elected mid-week. The IAOC report (WO/PBC/25/2) included recommendations on investigations, sanctions against vendors, and an amendment to the Internal Oversight Charter to include a 2015 update of the organisation’s policy for publication of oversight reports. On publications, the IAOC said during the past year it has “noted the repeatedly expressed need by Member States to confidentially access reports which are published in a redacted form or are withheld from publication.” The committee will propose an amendment to the charter on this. In its final decision document, the PBC stated that “recognized that revision of the charter was a high priority for Member States and directed the IAOC, in accordance with its mandate, to: propose forward looking amendments to the WIPO Internal Oversight Charter with the view to ensure it is a model within the UN System for the efficiency, independence and transparency of investigatory processes involving allegations against senior officials; hold consultations with relevant stakeholders during the revision process; and, put forward these amendments for consideration and possible decision at the upcoming 56th session of the WIPO Assemblies.” Shift in Personnel WIPO member states in the past decade have overseen the development of a system for oversight of WIPO, and this year many of the people in these roles are changing. The PBC recommended five candidates (two women, three men) to be members of the Internal Audit and Oversight Committee – an advisory body which is made up of government officials representing the seven WIPO regional groups. The recommendations are sent to the annual General Assembly in early October for final approval. Five out of the seven current members of the IAOC are departing by the end of 2016. The process for selecting new members was conducted in the leadup to this week’s committee, and five recommended officials were accepted. The new officials are listed below (see doc WO/PBC/25/3 for the full backgrounds): Mr. Othman Sharif (African Group) – Tanzania (note a slight correction was later made to clarify that he was attorney general of Zanzibar, Tanzania) Mr. Mukesh Arya (Asia and Pacific Group) – India Ms. Tatiana Vasileva (Group of Central Asian, Caucasus and Eastern European States) – Russia Mr. Long Zhang – China Ms. Maria Vicien-Milburn (Group of Latin American and Caribbean countries) – Argentina The two remaining officials are Pamela Wille (Germany) for the Group B developed countries, and Wojciech Piatkowski (Poland) for the Group of Central European and Baltic States (CEBS). The number of departing officials was planned to be four out of seven, but the Chinese official is also leaving. No problem for China, though, as it is its own regional group at WIPO so it will just send a replacement (though of course IAOC members serve in their own capacity, totally independent from their country). The selection process netted 136 applications initially, which were screened by a consultant reporting to the selection panel. This was winnowed down to 48 applications, which then led to a shortlist, and finally after various steps, including interviews, to five. The IAOC, started in 2005, has been expanding its coordination with the rest of the United Nations as recommended. Internal Oversight Division A new director of the Internal Oversight Division, which reports to the director general, is being filled, along with several other posts in the office. There has been an acting director. The IAOC said in its report that in every meeting during the year it expressed concerns about the “level of constraints” arising from the vacant post of IOD director, the early retirement of the head of the Evaluation Section, the absence on special leave of the senior evaluator, and the extended leave of another staff person. During this week’s PBC meeting, the secretariat described the many efforts undertaken to address these vacancies and absences. The committee took note of the IOD report. PPR 2014/2015: “Development-Oriented” Work On a relatively small item, a question arose during the first days of the meeting on the reference in the WIPO secretariat documents to “development-oriented” activities, such as in relation to programs and development expenditures. In the past, there has been concern among developing countries that the secretariat was overstating the amount of the budget being put to actual development issues. Such issues have been a focal point at WIPO since it adopted 45 recommendations as a Development Agenda in 2007. The Program Performance Report (PPR) 2014-2015, which committee members accepted yesterday, has about 10 spots where it asserts that activities were “development-oriented” or took such concerns into account. But it does not appear to explain anywhere what was meant by “development-oriented” or what the criteria were for the assertion that the activities fit this description. Brazil, one of the original authors of the Development Agenda, asked the secretariat repeatedly to explain the term but was told only that it was related to the Development Agenda. Then WIPO Deputy Director General Mario Matus, responsible for development, was brought in to try to answer the question. Matus said simply that the idea of development is a relatively new concept at WIPO, but that it is now “an integral part of WIPO.” Development is now included in any process WIPO engages in, “in everything we do,” he said. Brazil seemed to accept this explanation, and the committee took note of the report. 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