WIPO “Theatre”: Supporters, Critics Of WIPO Administration Face Off 01/10/2013 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)The inner workings of United Nations agencies can be very complicated, with clashes of cultures and management styles and any number of pressures. The case of the UN World Intellectual Property Organization appears to be a particular example in this respect. Yesterday, in a closed session, the WIPO Coordination Committee – the member state executive body – heard vigorously differing presentations from the same staff organisation, both supporters and critics of the current WIPO administration, which is led by Director General Francis Gurry. It is an election year for the director general, who is seeking a second term (2014-2020), so it may not be surprising that opponents might try to raise doubts about his leadership. But the degree and number of expressions of dissatisfaction and concern about mismanagement might have caught some by surprise, with not only a critical statement by the WIPO Staff Association president, but also petitions, letters including from members of the US Congress, word of lawsuits, and even a hunger strike going on. To the same degree, many seem still strongly supportive or to be reserving judgment, perhaps not wanting to deal with – or else actually accustomed to – dissension within an organisation that rebounded from the early departure of its last director general five years ago after a loss of confidence in him. The WIPO General Assemblies are taking place from 23 September to 2 October. Criticism It has become a practice at the WIPO Coordination Committee that the Staff Council airs its grievances about the WIPO administration, although it is not a required activity under the Coordination Committee. The president of the Staff Association, Azzedine Moncef Kateb, gave a long statement to the Coordination Committee, acknowledging gains in the past year, but enumerating ongoing concerns. Kateb’s statement is available here [pdf]. In the statement, the association alleges that the administration has attempted to interfere in staff matters, especially in the election of staff representatives to the Appeal Board. There also are accusations of manipulations of processes by the administration. “By drawing this to the attention of the Member States, the Staff Council wishes to stress the extent to which the staff has lost confidence and trust in the Administration, in particular with regard to its involvement in promoting candidates favored by the Administration,” the statement said. He also complained that in general, the administration does not give feedback on or incorporate any of the staff’s suggestions. In particular, the administration itself chose staff representatives to the consultative group on the revision of rules related to the internal system of justice (IPW, WIPO, 29 September 2013). Another area of criticism is the administration’s Human Resources Strategy, which it said fails to meet basic standards since the Administration did not take into account suggestions from some stakeholder groups. It also expressed concern that the human resources document serves to “further enhance the discretion of the Director General to establish and decide on policies and he or she sees fit,” without justification. The Staff Council urged member states to ask the organisation to reconsider the internal justice and human resources policies and mandate the management “to conduct serious consultation with its stakeholders, staff and Member States alike.” Additional concerns were raised over the implementation of the regulatory framework regarding the conversion of short-term contracts to temporary appointments, which they said was delayed at a cost to the staff. And it listed concerns about the absence of communication to staff about the secretariat’s proposal at this General Assembly to create a series of new external offices in various countries around the world. The external offices issue has become perhaps the most controversial of this Assembly, leading to several ambassador-level meetings. Other concerns are about the implementation of the UN Joint Inspection Unit’s recommendations. They said: a consultant report on sick leave has not been shared with the Staff Council; the Council disagrees with Administration that WIPO’s recruitment rules comply; it has not received the administration’s review on individual consultancies; nor any feedback about the implementation of recommendations related to entitlement payments. They also said Staff Council should be able to present its views at relevant inter-governmental organs. They concluded by encouraging the Coordination Committee to ensure that WIPO audit and oversight functions be as strong as possible, including more provisions in the Internal Oversight Charter for investigations into “alleged wrong-doing, alleged abuses of authority or retaliation from senior management.” Support In sharp contrast to the criticisms of the Staff Council president, another member of the Staff Council, Anatole Krattiger, presented a shorter statement giving strong support to the current administration. [Update 2 October: Krattiger has been suspended from the Staff Council, according to sources.] Krattiger’s statement is available here [pdf]. In French is here [pdf]. Contrary to reports in recent years of staff discontent, he said, “It is an honor and a privilege … to be working at WIPO. My morale and that of many, if not most of my colleagues, is high.” He said workers are proud of their work and accomplishments and are pushing to make WIPO even more successful. Krattiger referred to relations between the Staff Council and administration as “frozen in time,” like “a mosquito trapped in amber since the Jurassic Age.” He said that last year’s Coordination Committee chair encouraged members to leave behind the “adversarial models of the 20th century so that we could move forward.” “Regrettably,” Krattiger said, “the Staff Council has been unable to break free from the fossilized instinct to reflexively confront.” As a result, he added, “legitimate Staff concerns are being drowned out by the noise of a permanently disgruntled few.” He said Kateb’s speech was “filled” with issues that are the sole purview of the member states, meaning that the Staff Council is neglecting its proper work such as career development, internal mobility, and the system of justice by stonewalling. Krattiger said the staff members of the internal justice consultative group collectively resigned over an “internal dispute,” and that no approaches or proposals to the Staff Council were met with a positive response. So a new group was formed by the administration. He also said that the Staff Council president has shown unwillingness to engage with the administration, which has led to a “litigious” approach, which has “wasted many opportunities for engagement and led to a failing to represent the staff at large. He raised a question about the underlying reason for such a large number of legal disputes. “This intransigent opposition is baffling,” Krattiger said. “One way this reflexive opposition manifests itself is the President’s insistence on filing oppositions to every possible Administrative decision.” Most of these cases, especially once they reach the UN tribunal at the International Labour Organization, lead to external legal counsel costs. This has resulted in “significant over-spending,” he said, and the shortfall is made up by donations facilitated by the president, which he questioned for possible conflicts of interest. Last year’s donation was CHF100,000, he said, and paid directly to the external legal counsel. This year’s expenses are also high, he added, and have not been discussed or approved, as required under Association statutes. “Without insinuating any motive, at a minimum, one ought to question the legitimacy of, and possible motives behind, the many appeals funded by these outside donations as the ILO Tribunal has also recently done,” Krattiger said. He framed his questioning as adherent to the original UN principles governing the Staff Association, and as well-intentioned as “a step in making WIPO more transparent, respected, credible, and effective.” Krattiger asked that his “dissent” not be confused with “disloyalty.” Member State Comments Meanwhile, some members told Intellectual Property Watch that it was uncharacteristic for two members of the Staff Council to take the floor, and with completely opposite messages. The two presentations led the delegation of France to sharply remark that this was “theatre” (spectacle) and to ask why it was taking place at the Coordination Committee, participants said. After that, a number of delegations took the floor to give views, they said, but no formal proposals or changes to policy were taken. It was suggested that statements might be provided ahead of the committee meeting and shorter versions be given in the meeting, and some suggested it might not need to be a continuing practice but that the issues should be worked out between the staff and management, the participants said. Others mentioned that member states viewed the situation as serious. 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 William New may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org."WIPO “Theatre”: Supporters, Critics Of WIPO Administration Face Off" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.