UN Inspectors Find Need For Transparency, Changes In Governance At WIPO 28/08/2014 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 United Nations Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) has issued a substantive analysis of management and administration in the UN World Intellectual Property Organization. And while the report highlights significant progress in a number of areas, it offers a list of ways WIPO can do better – including on transparency and sorting out staff concerns and strengthening member state oversight. The nearly 80-page JIU report, JIU/REP/2014/2 [pdf], was the first “full-scope review” of WIPO management and administration, as envisioned in the JIU’s 2010-2019 strategic framework. The investigators arrived at 10 formal recommendations (listed below) and numerous “soft” recommendations for changes at WIPO. The analysis is based on research leading up to December 2013, involving interviews with a wide number of WIPO officials at all levels and member state representatives. The report finds many areas of progress and improvement, but also lists numerous areas for further work. The report is on the agenda of the WIPO Program and Budget Committee meeting taking place from 1-5 September. Actions by WIPO Secretariat The WIPO secretariat has issued a response to the JIU’s 10 recommendations, in a document for next week’s Program and Budget Committee, document WO/PBC/22/20. WIPO said it welcomes the recommendations and is implementing or will implement them. The secretariat also issued a report on the implementation of JIU recommendations for the review of WIPO legislative bodies, document WO/PBC/22/23. WIPO said it is has taken or will take several actions. For instance, it advised the chair of the WIPO General Assembly of the recommendation to review the WIPO governance framework. The secretariat also will ensure clear mandates are in place for WIPO organizational units with the new Senior Management Team arriving with the director general’s second term starting in October 2014. And it will issue terms of reference for Senior Management Team and Management Team meetings by the end of 2014. The secretariat also outlined efforts being taken to audit the results of the recent past years’ Strategic Realignment Program, which brought about changes in the organizational structure and caused some friction. Other steps being taken by the secretariat that address concerns raised by the JIU include a policy on risk management, plans for a programme of action toward greater geographical diversity in the WIPO professional workforce, a policy on gender equality, finalization of a WIPO Information and Communication Technology Strategy, and preparation of a knowledge management action plan. What JIU Found The JIU inspectors presented the report to the WIPO member states in a July information session called for by the December 2013 WIPO extraordinary General Assembly (IPW, WIPO, 12 December 2013). Some 50 member state representatives attended the two-hour discussion with the inspectors and the WIPO representative, Ambi Sundaram, assistant director general of the Administration and Management Sector, according to the JIU. “During question time, a number of delegations expressed their concurrence with the JIU assessments about the Organization, and displayed great interest in the findings and recommendations of the report,” a JIU press release said. “Of primary interest were the governance related issues within the Organization, as well as how the JIU recommendations will be implemented and monitored at WIPO. Overall, it was an engaging and productive discussion between the JIU team, the WIPO Secretariat and the Member States.” “Many participants expressed their appreciation of the work of the JIU and commented on the benefits of such an information session,” JIU said, which added that WIPO in its official comments on the report had welcomed “most of the recommendations made by the JIU.” The JIU report is based on extensive interviews and fact-finding, it said. It was unclear at press time how the report might be addressed at next week’s meeting of the WIPO Program and Budget Committee. And in the meantime, the member-driven WIPO Independent Advisory Oversight Committee met from 18-22 August, though the agenda was not public and may have dealt with other issues. Complexity at WIPO Recently re-elected WIPO Director General Francis Gurry has been fond of referring to WIPO and the international IP policy stage as “complex,” and the JIU backed that up. “The present review confirms the complexity of the governance framework at WIPO,” the JIU report summary states. “Member States face a genuine challenge to reach a fully shared vision of the organization and its future which should help them agree on measures to enhance their capacity to provide strategic guidance, monitor the work of the Secretariat and increase their ownership of the organization.” WIPO, the JIU said, “has one of the most complex governance structures of the organizations of the United Nations system.” This in part arises from it being one of the oldest institutions, with origins reaching back to the 19th century. The “sheer number and variety” of WIPO bodies affects “the clarity of governance arrangements and hence, their effectiveness,” JIU said. Furthermore, many practices in WIPO are not aligned with the original provisions of the WIPO Convention, which “adds to the complexity of the governance framework.” WIPO maintains two high-level governing bodies, the General Assembly and the Conference (which has not met separately since 2005), for reasons the JIU said are “not sufficiently clear.” There also is the large number of annual assemblies and unions of WIPO, and some 20 of them meet one after another during the annual Assemblies in late September (at the same time that the rest of the UN is focused on the annual UN General Assemblies in New York). Then there is a Program and Budget Committee and the Coordination Committee, the latter of which has a “declining” role, the JIU said, though it is still responsible for staff matters. Other governance concerns raised were the unusual composition of regional groups (at WIPO, the developed countries that own most of the IP rights in the world are together in one group regardless of geography), unpredictable rotation of committee officers among regional groups, and lack of a stable calendar of meetings. In addition, there are many committees, and many meetings, which are often long and time-consuming, mixing technical and political discussions, and produce excessive documentation. The secretariat, and primarily the director general, has resorted to informal tools to get the views of members, such as monthly meetings with ambassadors, breakfasts with delegates, and meetings with regional groups, JIU said, warning that this has gained a “disproportionate weight.” Status Quo Not an Option; Constructive Dialogue Needed In another area, the JIU listed various attempts in recent years to address governance issues at WIPO, and highlighted differences over implementation of the 2007 Development Agenda. It noted that the 2011 External Review on WIPO Technical Assistance in the Area of Cooperation for Development “revealed serious deficiencies” in WIPO’s programs, and that WIPO told members it had addressed many of these, but that ongoing debates in this area are “symptomatic of the underlying problems” that still exist between member states. JIU recommended putting in place an effective system for reporting, monitoring and evaluating implementation of the 45 Development Agenda recommendations. JIU also recognised the substantive progress that has been made at WIPO in recent years as well. But it directly stated that it advised that “it is neither prudent nor advisable to maintain the status quo” of WIPO governance. “The accumulated tension among Member States may adversely impact the effective functioning of the organization,” it said. “A constructive and productive dialogue on the ways and means to conduct governance reform has thus become a priority for both the membership and management.” JIU noted that it is entirely up to member states how to proceed, but it highlighted some possible proposals that might be worth pursuing. For instance, breaking the problems of governance into several categories, and moving forward in areas where the opportunity is greatest, then address the more complex problems. It also said the Coordination Committee or PBC could provide more regular and effective oversight and guidance. WIPO Advisory Body? And the JIU mentioned a proposal to create an expert advisory body “entrusted with the mandate to review administrative and budgetary aspects and to advise the principal organs on matters of their respective interests.” This would be a “layer between management and Member States,” it said, and would be a group of independent experts acting in their personal capacity.” It cited examples of this type of advisory body elsewhere in the UN, such as the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, providing recommendations to the Fifth Committee of the UN General Assembly. In the separate area of management, the JIU said it supports the restructuring that has been taking place at WIPO, but that “the rationale for restructuring are not systematically communicated through official channels,” which is “… not conducive to organizational effectiveness or staff ownership.” It also noted that several organizational units have been placed directly under the director general in recent years, including the human resources department, which it said is “not common” in the UN system. The report called for close monitoring of this trend “to assess whether it contributes to increased effectiveness.” It recommended clear and updated terms of reference for organizational units, as a way to enhance transparency and accountability at WIPO. Director General Term Limits? The JIU also noted that the WIPO director general is elected for six-year terms, and that there is no limit on the number of terms. In the past, WIPO had a single director for an “extremely long tenure,” it noted. The JIU recommended that the WIPO director general post be limited to two, 5 year terms. It also made this recommendation in 2009, after a bumpy change in directors. Another area of note are the top-secret meetings of the WIPO Senior Management Team (SMT), gathering the director general and the eight deputy and associate directors general. The JIU inspectors were prevented from obtaining records of these meetings but were given a sample, with only the topics of the meeting on it. Decisions taken by the SMT are not diffused consistently across the organization, they said. The JIU inspectors also noted the absence of records and terms of reference of the bimonthly Management Meeting of all directors in the organization. In general, the JIU said “WIPO’s management style is based on a ‘top-down’ communication model and management decisions are reportedly not always communicated properly.” To communicate with staff, there are 4-5 town hall meetings per year, plus informal sessions such as “tea meetings,” as well as a number of communication initiatives under the structural reform of recent years. But the inspectors found the perception of a one-way flow of information, with staff reluctant to express concerns. “The Inspectors believe that transparent communication is a key requirement in any change management process,” they said. Other notable findings including a dramatic rise in travel and that WIPO is still not fully aligned with prevailing UN practices. For instance, staff still get paid a daily travel stipend when on home leave in their countries. And on human resources, it was noted that WIPO follows a principle of geographical representation, but that of its 186 member states, only 99 were represented at the professional level and above in 2013. “The Inspectors noted with concern that 40.9 per cent of WIPO Member States are not represented in the Secretariat,” they said. And only five countries (France, Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States) account for 43.5 percent of professional and above staff. More than 51 percent of professional staff originate from Western Europe. The JIU suggested ways to intensify efforts to address the geographical imbalance, and noted that WIPO is already working on a plan for this. WIPO also still suffers from gender imbalance, with the vast majority of highest staff male-dominated. On recruitment, the JIU found the process of selection was “not always sufficiently documented,” and that there is a significant portion of staff that think the WIPO recruitment process is not fair and transparent. Stop the Blame Game The JIU commented on the at-times icy relations between WIPO staff representatives and management. It said “the dynamics remained negative and have led to an atmosphere of mistrust and mutual allegations, which has had negative consequences for the organization.” But it considered the issue to be beyond the scope of the review, only urging both sides to “seriously reflect on the reasons and consequences of the current situation,” and find ways to improve it “rather than focus on personalities and resort to a mutual blame-game.” Of staff surveyed, low percentages felt that either the staff council or management is doing an adequate job. In terms of internal justice for staff complaints, the JIU found very low trust in the WIPO internal justice mechanism, and mentioned cases brought before the UN justice system (the Administrative Tribunal of the International Labour Organization). Under the UN system, the majority of cases were filed by a limited number of staff members, and WIPO lost a “significant proportion” of filed cases. The report described the move by WIPO with external help to set up a new internal justice system, which went into effect this year. The JIU also pointed to the WIPO Office of the Ombudsman, and said that in 2012 for example, 126 staff members contacted the office with regard to 311 issues. The ombudsperson reports to the director general. The JIU said the ombudsperson’s report should be circulated to member states via the Coordination Committee. Oversight The JIU also highlighted past and ongoing efforts at WIPO to establish firmer audit and oversight functions. The JIU praised outreach efforts of the Internal Audit and Oversight Division (IAODS) since 2012. But they recommended that the evaluation function at WIPO be strengthened. It also noted the WIPO Investigation Section, which has handled 101 investigation cases since being established in 2008. Investigations are brought by staff relating to possible fraud, waste, abuse of authority, non-compliance with WIPO rules and personnel matters. A WIPO Investigation Policy (IAOD/IP/2014) was issued in January 2014. But the JIU said that formal complaints of discrimination and harassment should be investigated by professional investigators rather than submitted to the head of human resources. WIPO members told JIU that they highly value the Independent Advisory Oversight Committee (IAOC) established in 2010. JIU recommended that the informal meetings of the committee be formalised to increase transparency and enhance the oversight role of member states. The internal audit and oversight function at WIPO is undergoing further changes, as indicated in the report of the May meeting of the IAOC, WO/IAOC/33/2 , available here [pdf]. The JIU also chided WIPO to ensure proper consideration of JIU reports and recommendations by governing bodies, and to make audit and evaluation reports available to member states, without forcing them to make a proactive request for the reports. ICT: Grids, Clouds Finally, the JIU analysed WIPO’s information and communications technology system and found several areas for improvement. “The sensitive information hosted in WIPO databases makes data loss, data leaks and technical systems failure a major risk for the day-to-day operations and the reputation of the organization,” the report said. It noted that WIPO has a complete mirror system for its files at the International Computing Centre (UNICC) in Geneva, costing, in 2011, nearly CHF 10 million, a quarter of WIPO’s ICT budget. The inspectors noted the advantage of having a backup nearby but also a vulnerability in the fact that WIPO and UNICC are on the same grid due to their close geographical proximity. JIU recommended WIPO plan to establish an additional backup facility on a different grid. The JIU also suggested that while WIPO is not ready to join a cloud computing system due to the sensitive nature of its data, it might develop a plan to identify data that could uploaded and managed from the cloud. And the JIU noted the need for WIPO to develop a structured approach for knowledge management. JIU Recommendations The JIU recommendations (not including the “soft” recommendations) are as follows: Recommendation 1 The WIPO General Assembly should review the WIPO governance framework as well as current practices with a view to strengthen the capacity of the governing bodies to guide and monitor the work of the organization. In doing so, Member States may wish to consider in their deliberations the options suggested in this report. Recommendation 2 The Director General should ensure that clear and updated terms of reference are made available for all WIPO organizational units and include them in relevant Office Instructions, in particular each time an internal re-organization is carried out. Recommendation 3 The Director General should issue comprehensive terms of reference for the management committees by the end of 2014 and circulate them to the relevant WIPO governing bodies. Recommendation 4 The Director General should request the Internal Audit and Oversight Division to include in its workplan a series of evaluations of the Strategic Realignment Program (SRP) initiatives and their results to capture lessons learned, thus supporting WIPO management during the next phases of the reform process of the organization. Recommendation 5 The Director General should finalize, by the end of 2015, and regularly update the WIPO Risk Policy and all the elements of a comprehensive risk management framework. Recommendation 6 The Coordination Committee should revisit the present principles concerning geographical distribution in order to ensure broader geographical diversity within the WIPO professional workforce. Recommendation 7 Based on guidance provided by the Coordination Committee, the Director General should establish, by the end of 2015, a Plan of Action with specific measures and targets to broaden the geographical diversity within the professional workforce and report annually on its implementation. Recommendation 8 The Director General should finalize the WIPO Gender Policy by the end of 2014, ensuring that it contains specific measures and targets to improve gender balance, in particular at senior management level, and report annually on its implementation. Recommendation 9 The Director General should further formalize WIPO’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Strategy and present it to the General Assembly by the end of 2014. Recommendation 10 The Director General should finalize a comprehensive Knowledge Management Strategy and present it to the General Assembly by the end of 2015. 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 email@example.com."UN Inspectors Find Need For Transparency, Changes In Governance At WIPO" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.