New WIPO Director’s Revised Budget On Track To Passage After Debate 11/12/2008 by William New, Intellectual Property Watch 1 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)[Editor’s Note: Final formal committee-level approval of the Program and Budget Committee recommendations took place on Friday morning.] By William New The powerful World Intellectual Property Organization Program and Budget Committee on Thursday tacitly approved a new one-year budget funding the start of a strategic organisational realignment, with clarifications to reflect concerns of developing countries on development funding and increased enforcement activities. The committee’s recommendation will receive final approval by the committee and go before the full WIPO membership at an extraordinary one-day General Assembly on Friday. A key concern during the 10-11 December Program and Budget Committee meeting was to ensure the allocation of CHF8 million (roughly US$6.75 million) approved earlier this year by the Committee on Development and Intellectual Property for implementation of five items of the WIPO Development Agenda. Anxiety arose among developing nations when it was determined by them that the secretariat’s proposed budget only allocated directly about CHF3.4 million, with the remaining CHF4.6 million dependent on “efficiency gains” in other areas of the budget, according to government officials. Developing countries led by the African Group and members of the Asian Group persisted through plenary and consultations in getting the full CHF8 million directly allocated by getting the secretariat to come back with a new proposal later in the day. Some other areas of the budget apparently will be made dependent on “efficiency gains,” one official said. “We gave no flexibility on that,” an African official told Intellectual Property Watch. “We asked why it took so much time” for the secretariat to fulfil the obligation to come up with those Development Agenda funds. “The reaction is positive,” said an official from a key developing country afterward. The budget “appears to be in line with the effort” to fully fund and implement the Development Agenda. Enforcement Efforts Coupled with Social Welfare, Impact Assessments The other key concern was with a proposed strategic objective on “building respect for IP,” which many developing countries interpreted as a push for stronger IP enforcement. With its mission to protect IP and the global rise in piracy and counterfeiting, WIPO seems to be straining at the leash to step up its involvement in enforcement matters with other international bodies. It is currently limited to arranging conferences, training officials, and discussing enforcement issues in its non-negotiating Advisory Committee on Enforcement (ACE). Pakistan on behalf of the Asian Group raised a proposal that sources said was accepted by the secretariat to amend the “respect for IP” objective. The proposed language, reprinted below, calls for the creation of an “enabling environment that promotes respect for IP in a sustainable manner.” One rationale is that an enabling environment, which promotes access, reduces the incentives for piracy and counterfeiting, a proponent said. WIPO is to undertake studies and assessments of “the actual extent and costs of piracy and counterfeiting and their impact on social and economic welfare,” among other things. The next ACE meeting in 2009 is expected to have this on the agenda along with the role and obligations of rightsholders. Pakistan on its own behalf further suggested the next ACE meeting identify defining elements of an enabling environment for respect for IP on a sustainable basis. It proposed that the enabling environment include a focus on pricing, licensing agreements and technology transfer. “Just hammering on enforcement, enforcement will not work,” a Pakistani official told Intellectual Property Watch. “Any policy that doesn’t include access won’t work.” CHF4 Million Study on Conference Centre Agreed The new 2008-2009 budget, which totals approximately CHF628 million (about US$530 million) will replace the previously approved budget effectively for 2009 with a very small increase. The budget includes more than CHF4 million for a feasibility study of a new conference centre at WIPO that is estimated to cost up to CHF60 million. Many doubts were raised by developed and developing nations about the seemingly “exorbitant” costs at a time of global financial uncertainty and whether there is a true need for such a venue. But Gurry persuaded members by insisting that meeting space in Geneva is hard to find, and arguing among other things that the initial CHF4.2 million would go toward the eventual full cost and would be an “opportunity cost” that would set the project back if not agreed, plus suggested that legal issues might arise if WIPO backed out now. It was agreed that WIPO would try to contain the cost of the feasibility study as much as possible. The budget also adds 22 new permanent posts, largely translators. Group B Goes Along Group B developed nations, represented by Germany, appeared to be generally content with the secretariat strategic realignment and budget proposal, seeking more information on specific matters such as staffing, and the new conference centre at WIPO, according to Group B sources. Germany’s opening statement lauded the secretariat for giving importance to the WIPO Development Agenda, and called the budgetary allocation for development work “significant.” Group B also supported the “early warning observatory” proposed by the secretariat to monitor the global economic situation, and highlighted its interest in implementation of recommendations from a sweeping 2007 desk-to-desk review of jobs at WIPO. Developed countries, which are responsible for most of WIPO’s revenues, occasionally raise concern that employee expertise is too low at WIPO, where politically oriented appointments are not uncommon. The United States, Italy and France were among those who raised cautions on spending during the meeting. The new chair of the Program and Budget Committee is Christophe Guilhou of the mission of France to the United Nations. Audit Committee Speaks Khalil Issa Othman, chair of the small, secret WIPO Audit Committee, briefed the Program and Budget Committee. On the 2007 independent “desk-to-desk” review of WIPO employees (IPW, WIPO, 10 July 2007) Issa said the secretariat reported “not much progress” in areas other than new financial regulations and rules (which increased member state involvement in budget processing), as the secretariat had undergone a significant transition. The new WIPO leadership has assured the Audit Committee that recommendations from the desk-to-desk review would be included in the organisation’s strategic realignment “on a timely basis,” Issa said in a copy of his report to the committee. The new construction project ongoing in front of WIPO headquarters was praised for the positive interaction of those involved in its oversight. However, an investigation is in progress relating to the documentation and security of information relating to the appointment of the general contractor. The Audit Committee also concluded that “there is an urgent need to establish an effective internal control system at WIPO, taking a holistic approach that integrates good governance, ethics, management, administration, risk assessment, monitoring, accountability and compliance,” Issa said. “The vacuum at WIPO in this respect puts the organisation at risk.” A position paper on this is expected from the secretariat, as is a report on progress in setting up an overdue ethics system, he said. Separately, a note in the Audit Committee reports that the United States led all nations in arrears to WIPO was explained by a US source as a matter simply of a difference in timing of the US fiscal year and the WIPO fiscal year. “We’re always in arrears,” the source said. Proposed Funders’ Meeting The committee also was presented with a draft proposal for a two-day conference on “Mobilising Resources for Development” to be held at WIPO Geneva headquarters at an unspecified date. Some concern was raised on this proposal. The conference “represents an opportunity to respond to the increase in demand for WIPO’s technical assistance and capacity building work from developing countries and in particular in relation to the needs of LDCs [least-developed countries], while continuing to accord high priority to finance activities in Africa,” the WIPO International Bureau said in its draft. It will enable WIPO to reach out to the “broader donor community, such as bilateral and multilateral development agencies and donor institutions,” and help bring WIPO in as a partner in strategies, including by showcasing “the relevance of WIPO’s work to the economic and social development efforts of developing countries.” These would be extra-budgetary resources for WIPO’s development activities. The conference is proposed to kick off with the case of a US project helping to broker a deal with coffee chain Starbucks for Ethiopian coffee producers who garnered a trademark on their product. This project has been called into question by some who have asked whether Ethiopia could have fared even better, but others have praised it. Other proposed subjects of the conference would look at public health and patent information; science, technology and innovation for development; WIPO-World Trade Organization needs assessment of LDCs; developing country export opportunities for digital content; a series of events on protection of audiovisual performances; collective management organisations; recording and digitising cultural traditions of the Maasai community in Kenya; and promotion of reading access for the visually impaired. Donors also are seen giving presentations, followed by roundtable discussions on donor experiences and alternative funding arrangements. William New may be reached at email@example.com. Amendments Proposed by the Asian Group on Strategic Goal VI: Building Respect for IP The respect for IP is a fundamental principle shared by all WIPO’s member governments. This new Strategic Goal aims to enhance international cooperation on building repect for IP. This is a broad, cross-cutting goal, which is more inclusive than the narrower concept of enforcement. It calls for creating an Enabling Environment that promotes respect for IP in a sustainable manner. In creating such an Enabling Environment, a balanced approach, focusing on international cooperation where WIPO can make a difference, will be adopted in the spirit of the Development Agenda (45): “To approach intellectual property enforcement in the context of broader societal interests and especially development-oriented concerns, with a view that “the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights should contribute to the promotion of technological innovation and to the transfer and dissemination of technology, to the mutual advantage of producers and users of technological knowledge and in a manner conducive to social and economic welfare, and to a balance of rights and obligations”, in accordance with article 7 of the TRIPS Agreement.”-WIPO’s activities in support of this goal apply across all areas of its programme of work, including identifying the elements of an Enabling Environment for building respect for IP, undertaking objective studies and independent assessments on the actual extent and costs of piracy and counterfeiting and their impact on social and economic welfare, capacity building, provision of training, awareness-raising and educational programs aimed at promoting respect for IP. Note: The proposed amendments (highlighted in bold) may be incorporated at all place in the Revised Programme and Budget document (WO/PBC/13/4) referring to Strategic Goal VI: International Cooperation on Building Respect for IP. In particular, Programme 17: Building respect for IP should be developed in accordance with the proposed amendments. 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 "New WIPO Director’s Revised Budget On Track To Passage After Debate" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.