WIPO Director’s Planned Early Departure Draws Mixed Reactions 20/11/2007 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)By William New When Kamil Idris, the director general of the United Nations World Intellectual Property Organization, informed staff last week that the process for electing his successor would occur one year early, it was met with mixed reactions. It also is likely to be met with a torrent of politicking for the next DG. Some have responded to the internal decision with declarations hailing Idris’ honour and contribution to the organisation since he was elected in 1997. Others, including the chair of the WIPO member state executive body and a group of WIPO staff, have sought assurances on his departure date and called into question other members of the staff who have been especially close to Idris. Idris came under fire in the past year after changing his birth date in official WIPO records after more than two decades. The correction, along with a variety of other mostly unproven rumours and allegations, led some to generate doubts about his ability to govern the organisation. Idris has not met directly with the media for years. Sources have been careful to downplay whether there was a deal struck between Idris and the governments that have pushed for his departure, such as the United States, Switzerland and some in the European Union. It is unclear what pension and severance arrangement Idris will receive. On 13 November, Idris’s office issued an email to all WIPO staff (see below) informing them that the process of choosing his successor would begin soon. The Coordination Committee (the roughly 80-member executive body) will select a candidate in May 2008 to propose for election by the full membership at its next annual General Assemblies in September 2008. Member states will soon be invited to submit nominations, the message said. The 2007 WIPO General Assemblies failed to pass a budget for the next two years after a fight over the Idris case and over how to spend a surplus from the past two years (IPW, WIPO, 4 October 2007). In his note, Idris urged all concerned to approve the budget as soon as possible. Among other things, the new budget funds large-scale new construction expected to begin in February, and new funding was earmarked for development-related activities. The Group B developed countries took over the chair of the Coordination Committee at the recent assemblies. Norway issued a letter on behalf of the committee laying out the procedure for selecting a new DG. Candidates’ names and curriculum vitae must be submitted by 13 February, and the Coordination Committee will meet to decide on 13-14 May. It will start with a long list and gradually winnow it down to one. The Norwegian letter states that: “The government of every member state of WIPO may, if it so desires, propose the name of one of its nationals as candidate for nomination by the WIPO Coordination Committee.” And it seems that as many are considering it. It is somewhat unclear when Idris would make his exit, though it appears it would be at the conclusion of the 2008 assemblies. US Satisfied, Africa Full of Praise The United States, which has led the effort to remove Idris as quickly as possible, stated its satisfaction with the decision. Warren Tichenor, US ambassador to the UN, in a statement called the announcement a “positive development.” “The member states and the employees of WIPO deserve to have an organisation that is led with the highest professional ethical standards, and we believe that this renewal of leadership will bring new confidence and vitality to the organisation,” he said. But a US official said later that Idris still faces questions about the allegations that were raised. Idris came to Geneva decades ago from Sudan and has had public support from the African Group at WIPO throughout the recent turbulence. The African Union posted a news release to its website, www.african-union.org, dated 26 October following a visit by Idris with ambassador-level officials from the union. Idris thanked them for their support and highlighted 11 points that he said form the core policy and programme direction of WIPO under his leadership. He stressed the importance of his legacy, the release said. The 11 points listed in the release suggest a legacy of focused work on behalf of developing countries. The 11 points are topped by the creation of a WIPO Development Agenda (by member states); launch of discussions for a treaty on folklore, traditional knowledge and genetic resources (again by member states); establishment of the WIPO World Wide Academy; support for creative industries in developing countries; establishment of a least-developed country unit, creation of a small-and-medium-sized enterprises unit; advice to developing countries in using flexibilities to the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and on negotiating bilateral and regional free-trade agreements; increased geographic representation in WIPO staff; keeping the executive office independent; generating budget surpluses; and finally, “ensuring that the transition of leadership in the organisation is conducted with dignity and in conformity with extant rules and regulations.” The latter is no small feat in the face of the heavy pressure exerted on him to step down by the organisation’s biggest funders. Idris assured the Africans that “there was no crisis in the organisation” despite media reports. Idris’ positive impact on the organisation also was captured in comments posted to the Intellectual Property Watch blog. Legacy Questioned by Staff Meanwhile, a group of WIPO staff referring to itself as Cincinnatus, issued an open letter to Idris, posted to the Intellectual Property Watch Inside Views column, questioning his legacy and comparing his time in office to the totalitarian, spin-filled world imagined by author George Orwell in his book “1984.” William New may be reached at email@example.com. ——— Message From the DG: From: Office.DG Tuesday – November 13, 2007 To: Wipo.Mail Subject: Message from the Director General to all staff / Message du Directeur général au personnel Dear colleagues, I should like to inform all staff members that I have decided to advance the process for nominating and appointing a Director General, based on the Procedures for the Nomination and Appointment of Directors General of WIPO, adopted by the General Assembly of WIPO in September 1998. Following discussions with the Chairs of the General Assembly and of the Coordination Committee, we will shortly be issuing a circular inviting WIPO Member States to nominate for consideration by the Coordination Committee in May 2008, candidates for appointment by the General Assembly at its next session in September 2008. With regard to the 2008/2009 Program and Budget recommended for approval by the Program and Budget Committee to the Assemblies of Member States of WIPO in 2007, the Chair of the General Assembly will continue his consultations with group coordinators and will meet in two weeks to consider this important issue. I have personally urged all concerned, in the best interests of the Organization, to proceed soon with the formal approval of the 2008/2009 Program and Budget. In the interim, I should like to thank all of you for your continued support and diligence. As I have repeatedly said, the Organization’s strongest asset is its staff members. I look forward to your continued collaboration and do appreciate your many efforts and hard work. Thank you. 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 "WIPO Director’s Planned Early Departure Draws Mixed Reactions" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.