New Geneva Think Tank Features Developing Nation Research On IP 03/09/2008 by Kaitlin Mara 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)By Kaitlin Mara A new think-tank in Geneva has found a unique way to bring the collective power of leading developing country thinkers and researchers to bear on Geneva policy-making, while allowing those thinkers to remain current by staying within their own national contexts. Its name is IQsensato. “We realised there was a missing component,” said IQsensato President Sisule Musungu, a Kenya national with a background and interest in intellectual property law, development, access to knowledge, and human rights. There was need for “an international platform for developing country researchers and thinkers especially, emerging researchers and thinkers” that would bring a diverse set of voices – with legitimate differences of opinion on the same key issues – into the policy discourse, he said. What happens in Geneva, and in Geneva think tanks, explained Musungu, often has “a significant influence on national policy in developing countries.” IQsensato provides a platform for thinking in developing nation contexts to be applied in Geneva, which is host to numerous international organisations. There was also an initial recognition that “there was very little debate between developing country experts,” Musungu said in an interview with Intellectual Property Watch, and an idea to get new voices that are not in the discussion yet to participate. The best way to do that, it was decided, was to provide a platform from which a global pool of researchers and experts could engage in conversation from their respective locations, and still have their voices reach Geneva. Simply hiring people and bringing them to Geneva was not satisfactory: to do so risked losing the diversity of contexts from which people work, a diversity that is key strength. “People thinking the same is not thinking,” explained Musungu. Initial goals for the organisation are: to provide thinking on key development issues in the areas of knowledge governance – among them, innovation and intellectual property, international trade policy and regulation, energy and environment, and financing for development, to disseminate the work of IQsensato experts, either in the form of seminars or as peer-reviewed publications, and to provide a leadership and mentorship programme for young thinkers in the organisation’s policy areas. The organisation also publishes a series called “In Focus” which reviews and comments on current key issues in IQsensato’s focus areas. Much of the work will be done through IQsensato’s Research Associates Network, a growing international pool of experts that is intended to provide research, peer-review, and advice for each other and for younger researchers. This group of experts can also be drawn upon for consultancy requests, which Musungu sees as another way to contribute to the policy making progress. Lots of ideas come from consultants, he explained: they provide technical assistance, and are often the channel through which organisations receive new ideas. Most international and non-governmental research organisations engage in consultancy, but IQsensato will be unique in being explicit about it, he noted, as a way to ensure transparency and accountability. The organisation was founded by a group of seven thinkers in IQsensato’s focal areas, who provide oversight and in some cases are involved in the day-to-day functioning. In addition to Musungu, the founding members are: Tiyanjana Mphepo, a Malawian interested in trade agreements; Samuel Ashfaha, a Eritrean with several research interests including aid for trade and agricultural trade agreements; Padmashree Gehl Sampath, an Indian national interested in the economics of innovation and IP and especially in pharmaceutical biotechnology; Daphne Zografos of Greece and Switzerland, who researches IP law, traditional knowledge, and fair trade; Ermias Tekeste Biadgleng, and Viviana Munoz Tellez, both of whom research intellectual property and access to knowledge. Musungu is a lawyer who until August was an associate research scholar at Yale University Law School. He previously led the IP work at the South Centre, and consults for and advises a number of UN agencies. Among other activities, he chairs the board of Health Action International Africa. The organisation’s first major research and policy project [pdf] is aimed at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Development Agenda, and in particular at the Committee on Development and Intellectual Property (CDIP) charged with implementing the Development Agenda. It is a useful first project, said Musungu, because much analysis to be done on the Development Agenda, such as on means for providing technical assistance and technical transfer, could apply to other intellectual property policy organisations. It is hoped that a successful implementation of the agenda will make the development agenda and intellectual property policy more mutually supportive. IQsensato hopes to facilitate that process by analysing the implementation process as it continues and contributing its assessments of progress. The project has to date produced two working papers. A related project under the leadership development programme, a ‘Research Awards’ scheme Musungu said intended to encourage young researchers to think about broad international questions, invited students and young researchers from developing countries to submit essays on the “policy and practical impact of the WIPO Development Agenda in developing countries.” Quality essays will be published by IQsensato, and the top three are eligible for monetary prices, said Musungu. The winners of the current competition will be announced at the end of September. Forthcoming studies from the organisation will look at IP issues in development research, innovation and patent ownership, and the transition period for least developed countries in complying with the World Trade Organisation Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement. Plans for future projects related to IP include looking at the World Health Organization’s Global Strategy on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property, which Musungu called “a great platform” but one in which very little thinking had gone into details for implementation. The IQsensato platform is particularly useful in this kind of situation, he said, as it allows for developing country thinkers to apply themselves to the deeper, longer-term thinking unique to implementation processes. IQsensato has also been involved in the planning and organisation of the next Access to Knowledge conference, to take place in Geneva next week. Also, Musungu said, the organisation is separately organising a retreat on “scenarios for the future of IP and access to knowledge.” Kaitlin Mara may be reached at email@example.com. 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