UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: Adoption of General Comment on the “moral and material interests of the rights of authors” deferred 01/12/2004 by Isabelle Scherer for 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)After many hours of contentious discussion, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) chose last week to defer adoption of a General Comment on the “right of everyone to benefit from the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.” The decision came in the wake of intensifying debate about the substance of the General Comment. While the CESCR had originally planned to both discuss and adopt the draft General Comment at last week’s session, the Committee managed to agree to only the first third of the text of the General Comment after one and a half days of discussion. Having already consumed the time allocated to this topic on the Committee’s agenda, the CESCR deferred the discussion on the remaining text until its April 2005 session. Both during and prior to the meeting several Committee experts expressed caution about a hurried adoption process in the light of important unresolved questions about the text. One of the experts, Mr. Tirado Mejia, reacted against the assumption that the Committee adopt the General Comment during the session. Noting the extreme political sensitivity of the topic and its significance for important issues under discussion in his region, Latin America – such as bilateral and regional free trade agreements – he argued that “in the future, the experts should not work under pressure.”The CESCR started work on a General Comment on Article 15.1(c) of the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights last spring. Civil society groups have already expressed concern that the consultative process for the General Comment has been inadequate, noting that their first formal opportunity to offer input took place only 10 days prior to the scheduled adoption of the General Comment last week. (See IP Watch article The CESCR: Civil Society Groups fear a rushed General Comment on Intellectual Property) Given the fact that General Comments are considered to provide authoritative interpretations of the rights contained in the Covenant, NGOs were particularly keen to make substantive comments during the process and to ensure the accuracy and coherence of the final outcome. The Committee’s step-by-step adoption of each paragraph generated considerable debate on a range of conceptual issues. Experts disagreed, for example, on the appropriate relationship between the “Statement on human rights and intellectual property” adopted by the Committee in 2001, and the draft General Comment. Advocating a close link between each, Committee expert Mr. Pillay argued that “the principles in the Statement must be expanded in the General Comment.” The author of the draft General Comment, Mr. Riedel, on the other hand, argued that references to the Statement already made in the footnotes sufficed and suggested that the 2001 Statement “cannot be incorporated in the General Comment” because “it is policy oriented.” “The States”, he observed, “are watching very carefully what the Committee says in the General Comment. There is a need to be much more careful [than in the Statement].” This position was not shared by several experts, including Mr. Tirado Mejia, who questioned the logic behind the “dichotomy made between the Statement and the General Comment.” Mr. Philippe Cullet, Programme Director of the International Environmental Law Research Centre, an NGO which has been actively following this debate, later clarified that at the core of the debate was a disagreement over the need to “balance” Mr. Riedel’s text – which takes into account only Article 15.1(c) of the Covenant and not the whole Article – with the vision expressed in the 2001 Statement which “emphasizes the impact that intellectual property rights such as patents can have on the enjoyment of human rights.” The draft General Comment was discussed in a public session where UN agencies were allowed to take the floor. UNAIDS in particular drew the attention of the Committee members to the possible implications of intellectual property rights on the realisation of human rights, such as the right to health and to life. Mr. Riedel, who had been pushing for rapid adoption of the General Comment, nonetheless expressed satisfaction about the progress reached during the session: “I thought it would be more difficult,” he told IP-Watch. “We have made quite a lot of progress, considering that Article 15.1(c) is one of the most technical provisions of the Covenant.” While Mr. Riedel argued that “the key points of controversy now have been dealt with,” civil society groups were, at the time of publication, conducting a review of those parts of the General Comment that were revised at the Committee meeting before commenting on whether or not, in their view, adequate improvements had been made. In any case, NGOs expressed satisfaction about the deferral of the discussion: “the report of the postponed adoption of the General Comment is excellent news. It will allow for a broad debate in civil society on this topic” said Mr. Cullet. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights The CESCR is a body of eighteen independent experts elected for four-year terms by States parties to the United Nations Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. It was established in 1985 to supervise the implementation of the Covenant. General Comments provide authoritative interpretations of the rights contained in that Covenant and States parties’ obligations. The adoption of such General Comments by the UN human rights treaty bodies is an internationally accepted practice. Committees decide to draft a General Comment when they note the recurrence of an interpretation issue when examining country reports and believe they would benefit from formal clarification. Since 1989, the CESCR alone has adopted fifteen General Comments on several articles of the Covenant, ranging from the ‘right to water’ and ‘right to education’ to the ‘right to adequate food’. 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 "UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: Adoption of General Comment on the “moral and material interests of the rights of authors” deferred" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.