UK Study: NGOs Helpful To Developing Countries But Could Improve 03/07/2006 by Tove Iren S. Gerhardsen for Intellectual Property Watch 5 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)By Tove Iren S. Gerhardsen Assistance on intellectual property rights from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) is helpful to developing countries but more coordination and a “reality check” are needed, according to Geneva-based government officials. The remarks were made by developing country officials commenting on preliminary findings of a United Kingdom academic study on the impact of NGOs. Peruvian official Alejando Neyra said that he chose a career in diplomacy because he had thought it would give him time to travel and write. But no such luck. “We do not really have time for anything else than work,” he said. This is why the role of NGOs in providing assistance “is becoming more and more important every day.” He said the role of NGOs is “extremely valuable” for busy developing country diplomats who often are from small missions and cover a wide range of areas. But Neyra also said there is room for improvement, especially in terms of coordination among Geneva-based NGOs on IP, but also between northern (developed country) and southern (developing country) NGOs, which also was pointed out in the study. There is in fact coordination in Geneva, but apparently there is a perception that this is lacking, said the author of the study, Duncan Matthews of the Queen Mary Intellectual Property Research Institute at the University of London. The preliminary findings were presented at a 28 June side event to the World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) negotiation on proposals for a development agenda (IPW, WIPO, 24 June 2006). The independent academic research project is sponsored by UK Economic and Social Research Council and will be finalised at the end of 2006. The study evaluates the impact NGOs have on IP issues on developing countries and was triggered by the findings of the 2002 UK Commission on Intellectual Property Rights, which highlighted NGOs’ “extent and influence.” The new study found that NGOs assist delegates in negotiating, bring developing country delegates together and mobilise the press and public opinion. But they could benefit from “cross-fertilisation of ideas” to learn more about what developing country officials need, and delegates are not always clear about what exactly the NGOs have to offer, the study shows. On this last point, Matthews said that it is important that NGOs keep renewing their links to officials at the missions. The study also found that there is a “relative absence of southern NGOs in Geneva,” and some of them would like to have a greater involvement in the Geneva process. Officials who responded to the findings agreed that this is necessary, but said that the problem is linked to lack of resources, not a lack of will. Antony Taubman of WIPO pointed to the setting up of a voluntary fund at WIPO, which will make it easier for southern NGOs and indigenous groups to participate in WIPO meetings. In terms of the nature of the advice NGOs provide, the study said that a greater use of evidence-based arguments and more “neutrality” would be welcome. Neyra said that sometimes officials receive too much information from the NGOs. There is a “lack of reality” in terms of “what is happening in Geneva” as the officials are there to arrive at concrete results, he said. Neyra said that unfortunately the developing country officials are “not able to defend all the good causes and must arrive at a middle ground,” a compromise where they have scaled back their objectives. As a result, they need something concrete from the NGOs that they will be able to offer to the other delegations in negotiations. As for intergovernmental organisations (IGO) such as WIPO, the study says that they “have an uneasy relationship with NGOs.” Matthews said that this was to be expected as the IGOs are member-driven institutions. But Taubman disagreed, saying that, “I frankly haven’t found that.” Taubman said that at the moment there are many specially accredited NGOs, of which the majority is from the South, at the WIPO meetings on genetic resources and traditional knowledge. WIPO has also conducted a wide range of consultations with these groups on this matter, he said. Matthews said the World Health Organization Commission on Intellectual Property, Innovation and Public Health (CIPIH) consultations were a model in terms of NGO-IGO interaction. Taubman also said that there is a need for more nuance in the debate as there is a great polarisation in Geneva, which he said may be linked to the trade-negotiation environment. But he said he had found there are many commonalities, and that this is a perception issue that needs to be addressed. David Vivas-Eugui of the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development took issue with the finding that “public interest NGOs are a counterbalance to industry NGOs.” He said he chose to have a more “positive” approach, as there is no homogeneity within any of the “camps.” He said, for instance, that there is a difference between the pharmaceutical and computer industries and they provide both users and providers, and there is a “common interest” of public as well as industry NGOs. Vivas-Eugui described the situation before 2000 by saying the IP system constituted “a lot of people having a party.” Then there were some newcomers who started questioning the kind of drinks at the party and the music, which resulted in the DJ and the bartender being confused. At the moment the system is being scrutinised more and “there is a tension,” he said, adding that the challenge is how to continue the party and facilitate the interaction between the newcomers and the old members. 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 "UK Study: NGOs Helpful To Developing Countries But Could Improve" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.