High-Level Group Debates Idris Issue As WIPO Assails Charges 24/09/2007 by William New, Intellectual Property Watch 2 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 William New The annual General Assemblies of the UN World Intellectual Property Organization member states snagged the first day on a proposed agenda to discuss potential wrongdoing by the WIPO director general. By day’s end, a high-level group formed earlier in the day to address the issue was continuing closed-door negotiations. Among those in the private meeting were the ambassadors of the WIPO regional groups, the United States, and the WIPO general counsel, sources said. This process left hundreds of officials, including country ambassadors to the United Nations, filling the WIPO lobby waiting for news most of the day. The meeting broke with the issue unresolved, to be resumed on Tuesday, sources said. The United States in August requested an assembly-wide discussion of a confidential report on Director General Kamil Idris’ misrepresentation of his birth date for more than two decades. Idris moved to change his birth date on records in 2006 and has been subjected to scrutiny by the United States and other countries since (IPW, WIPO, 20 September 2007). On Monday, the United States raised concern about the organisation to the assembly. The 24 September to 3 October assemblies’ draft agenda must be approved in order for the meeting to proceed. At the meeting outset, the African Group stated its opposition to the agenda item, supported by statements from several individual African governments, according to officials (WIPO meetings are closed to press). Idris came from Sudan several decades ago. But the United States restated its request for the agenda item. By the end of the day, discussions had covered a variety of possible “scenarios” for what will happen with the agenda item, assuming the United States does not withdraw it, government sources said. If all members agree, the item would remain on the agenda. If any members continue to object, a vote might be held. But during the day, ideas were being considered, such as to set up a high-level working group to look at the issue during this assembly, which was resisted by the African Group out of fear this might result in the same outcome as simply accepting the agenda item. Another possibility was to proceed in the assemblies by approving agenda items one-by-one (the Idris item is item 12). As the meeting ended, one source said the group’s work was as yet unfinished and to be resumed Tuesday morning. A further possibility that might be under consideration is that the WIPO Audit Committee address the Idris age issue, possibly with the involvement of the WIPO Coordination Committee (the executive body of member states), but it was unclear what period of time for the review would be acceptable. Idris was elected director general in 1997 and is due to complete his second term in 2009. WIPO’s Defence The WIPO secretariat issued a document defending itself dated 21 September and distributed prominently at the start of the assemblies on Monday. The note directly disputes the allegations being circulated by some members and reported in independent studies, which have been picked up by the media. The secretariat charged that “some are vesting relentless efforts” to destabilise WIPO, and have been trying to “derail” it for three years. The defence states that the secretariat has carried out in good faith every investigation and other internal activity asked of it, and has taken many actions to address problems. The secretariat charged that WIPO member states are engaged in the “deliberate intention to harass” the organisation and director general. A series of investigations have failed to turn up any wrongdoing, but the members remain unsatisfied, it said. The secretariat asserted that in correcting his age, Idris does not stand to gain financially, and said, “all unfounded allegations regarding possible benefits are based on incorrect speculation and refer to events which are in essence hypothetical, fictitious and will not occur. The secretariat also raised questions about the contents of the confidential report on Idris’ age and its disclosure to member states and others, plus the role of the UN Joint Inspection Unit which initiated the report. Developed-Country Demarches The European Union delivered a demarche (high-level communication) to Idris last Thursday, noting its “great concern” that the director general’s position and ability to function in WIPO have been “increasingly compromised,” an EU source said. It raised concern that the situation is harming the credibility of the organisation, and urged Idris to draw the “only possible and dignified conclusion” and step down. The communication followed an earlier demarche from the United States, sources said. William New may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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