Are The UN And WIPO Drifting Apart? 23/09/2015 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)NEW YORK – As some of the most powerful people on earth prepare to gather here later this week at the United Nations to discuss the biggest problems and opportunities facing humankind for the next 15 years, mention of a key issue underlying many themes – intellectual property – is hard to find. Also hard to find is reference to the UN agency responsible for the issue, the World Intellectual Property Organization. Some of the most successful agencies of the United Nations deal with cutting edge issues such as IP rights, innovation, telecommunications, internet and technology. These are woven into the broader issues facing humanity – such as poverty, health, environment, employment – that make up the inspiring 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the next 15 years being set this week at the UN headquarters. But while the heads of the UN International Telecommunication Union (ITU), UN World Health Organization, and the World Trade Organization will be on hand, WIPO’s director general is not expected to be there. While the official reason has not been given, it seems clear that intellectual property rights are not a core issue of the UN SDGs and WIPO’s presence is not required. But there have also been signals in recent time of a possible distance between WIPO and its UN parent. It might have been fair to infer that WIPO would play a bigger role in the UN meetings this year. This is the first year in memory that WIPO has not held its own annual General Assemblies at the exact same time as the annual UN General Assembly in New York. And many of the issues of the SDGs are at least tangentially related to WIPO issues (see below). This would be mainly as an underlying aspect of partnerships, licensing, innovation and technology transfer called for repeatedly in the goals. Examples of ways WIPO is trying to rise to these needs is its Re:Search program for medicines R&D and its WIPO Green program for green tech licensing. But the SDGs themselves do not appear to mention intellectual property rights, other than a reference to the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). And even in that case, the reference is more along the lines of preserving exceptions to IPRs for developing countries than it is about protecting and spreading IP. WIPO, which is mainly self-funded from fees for its services such as managing the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), might be said to be more private sector-oriented than other agencies. But despite different funding models, the same might be said about the ITU or WTO. The WIPO press office confirmed that its director general will not be in New York this week. Repeated requests to the press office for information about WIPO’s relationship to the SDGs and this week’s UN Assembly have gone unfulfilled for weeks. And in the WIPO secretariat’s biennial program and budget request to member states, issued in July, the secretariat called for the WIPO liaison office at the UN in New York to be closed after next year. WIPO made a strong case for cost-savings and the ability to handle issues from its Geneva headquarters. The WIPO Program and Budget Committee last week gave a reprieve to the New York office, at least for another biennium, after some members sought to study the decision more carefully, or raised concerns about what it would mean for WIPO’s involvement in the larger UN and the message it would send. WIPO’s Position Explained Meanwhile, a Q & A document provided by the WIPO secretariat to the Program and Budget Committee meeting last week gave some insight into the agency’s view of the UN SDGs and the activities in New York. According to the Q&A, WIPO is only an observer to these UN processes, and, “While important, IP is only a small element of these broader processes.” Below is the full text of the question in the secretariat Q&A: Q3: What is the justification for the proposed closure of the New York office? A3 Main reasons for the proposed closure of the WIPO Coordination Office to the UN in New York and to establish an alternate and more cost effective operating model include the following: The main focus of WIPO’s external relations activities is with those parts of the UN system and other IGOs where IP is of greatest relevance. Primarily, this is with the Geneva based IGOs such as the WTO, WHO, ITU, as well as other organizations not based in New York such as UNESCO (Paris), UNEP (Nairobi, Paris) and the UNFCCC (Bonn). WIPO’s relationship with UN in New York work is mainly coordinated through the UN Chief Executive’s Board (CEB) and its related Committees, the High Level Committee on Programmes (HLCP) and the High Level Committee on Management (HLCM). Given the high level nature of these bodies, our engagement and participation on programmatic issues (CEB/HLCP) is undertaken by the Director General and ADG/Chief of Staff and for the HLCM, ADG Administration and Management. External Relations Division in Geneva provides support and briefing for the CEB and HLCP. WIPO also participates in the various networks under, in particular the HLCM, such as the HR Network, the Finance and Budget Network, the IT Network, the Procurement Network, etc, through its line departments in Geneva. In recent years, the dominant area of work by the UN in New York is the political processes related to the post 2015 Development Agenda, including the Sustainable Development Goals and Financing for Development. While important, IP is only a small element of these broader processes. WIPO is an observer in these intergovernmental processes and in practice does not make statements. Our contribution and participation is through various inter-agency processes, which are primarily directed and coordinated by the External Relations Division in Geneva. With the anticipated conclusion later this year of the political processes at UN New York on the post 2015 Development Agenda, the international focus will shift to implementation. That necessitates a shift of effort from New York to action at the national level. As indicated in Program 9, WIPO’s support for developing countries will be directed at contributing to their achievement of the post 2015 Development Agenda and the SDGs. While there will remain a reporting requirement in New York, through ECOSOC and the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) WIPO’s input for this is coordinated by the External Relations Division in Geneva and is derived from inputs from relevant substantive sectors at WIPO. The decision was therefore taken to propose the closure of the WIPO New York Office from the end of 2016 and to put in place a more cost effective operating model that better matches the changing nature of the work in New York and expected results of the Organization. These modalities include: (i) Where appropriate use of webcast to follow certain UN New York meetings; (ii) Participate by video and audio conference in UN inter-agency meetings (already a practice employed by WIPO and other UN organizations); (iii) Continued engagement in the work of the CEB and its Committees; (iv) HQ staff to undertake missions to New York for key meetings and where the opportunities exist to promote WIPO activities such as WIPO GREEN, WIPO Re:Search and the ABC Consortium, as well as to maintain network of contacts at UN in New York (the average cost of a mission to New York is 3,500 Swiss francs which is 0.6 per cent of the biennial costs of the New York Office rental alone (500,000 Swiss francs per biennium approx.)). Only a limited increase in the number of missions to New York, in addition to those missions already undertaken, is envisaged. The minimal increase in costs that this would represent is only a small fraction of the overall savings in office rental costs, not to mention savings in other non-personnel costs. (v) Use of the External Relations Division extensive network of contacts at the UN in New York to stay informed and engaged. Below are some of the targets of the 17 SDGs that could be seen as related to IPRs and the work of WIPO: Food/Agriculture 2.5 By 2020, maintain the genetic diversity of seeds, cultivated plants and farmed and domesticated animals and their related wild species, including through soundly managed and diversified seed and plant banks at the national, regional and international levels, and promote access to and fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge, as internationally agreed 2.a Increase investment, including through enhanced international cooperation, in rural infrastructure, agricultural research and extension services, technology development and plant and livestock gene banks in order to enhance agricultural productive capacity in developing countries, in particular least developed countries Health 3.8 Achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all 3.b Support the research and development of vaccines and medicines for the communicable and non-communicable diseases that primarily affect developing countries, provide access to affordable essential medicines and vaccines, in accordance with the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health, which affirms the right of developing countries to use to the full the provisions in the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights regarding flexibilities to protect public health, and, in particular, provide access to medicines for all Employment 8.2 Achieve higher levels of economic productivity through diversification, technological upgrading and innovation, including through a focus on high-value added and labour-intensive sectors 8.3 Promote development-oriented policies that support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and encourage the formalization and growth of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises, including through access to financial services Industry, Innovation, Infrastructure 9.1 Develop quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructure, including regional and transborder infrastructure, to support economic development and human well-being, with a focus on affordable and equitable access for all 9.2 Promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and, by 2030, significantly raise industry’s share of employment and gross domestic product, in line with national circumstances, and double its share in least developed countries 9.3 Increase the access of small-scale industrial and other enterprises, in particular in developing countries, to financial services, including affordable credit, and their integration into value chains and markets 9.4 By 2030, upgrade infrastructure and retrofit industries to make them sustainable, with increased resource-use efficiency and greater adoption of clean and environmentally sound technologies and industrial processes, with all countries taking action in accordance with their respective capabilities 9.5 Enhance scientific research, upgrade the technological capabilities of industrial sectors in all countries, in particular developing countries, including, by 2030, encouraging innovation and substantially increasing the number of research and development workers per 1 million people and public and private research and development spending 9.a Facilitate sustainable and resilient infrastructure development in developing countries through enhanced financial, technological and technical support to African countries, least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States 9.b Support domestic technology development, research and innovation in developing countries, including by ensuring a conducive policy environment for, inter alia, industrial diversification and value addition to commodities 9.c Significantly increase access to information and communications technology and strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries by 2020 Sustainable consumption and production 12.8 By 2030, ensure that people everywhere have the relevant information and awareness for sustainable development and lifestyles in harmony with nature 12.a Support developing countries to strengthen their scientific and technological capacity to move towards more sustainable patterns of consumption and production “Urgent Action” on Climate Change Appears to consist of education and measures in developing countries, and amassing a $100 billion per year fund to help developing countries pay for technologies presumably made in the North. 13.a Implement the commitment undertaken by developed-country parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to a goal of mobilizing jointly $100 billion annually by 2020 from all sources to address the needs of developing countries in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation and fully operationalize the Green Climate Fund through its capitalization as soon as possible Conserving Oceans 14.a Increase scientific knowledge, develop research capacity and transfer marine technology, taking into account the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Criteria and Guidelines on the Transfer of Marine Technology, in order to improve ocean health and to enhance the contribution of marine biodiversity to the development of developing countries, in particular small island developing States and least developed countries Reversing Biodiversity Loss 15.4 By 2030, ensure the conservation of mountain ecosystems, including their biodiversity, in order to enhance their capacity to provide benefits that are essential for sustainable development 15.5 Take urgent and significant action to reduce the degradation of natural habitats, halt the loss of biodiversity and, by 2020, protect and prevent the extinction of threatened species 15.6 Promote fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources and promote appropriate access to such resources, as internationally agreed Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Technology 17.6 Enhance North-South, South-South and triangular regional and international cooperation on and access to science, technology and innovation and enhance knowledge sharing on mutually agreed terms, including through improved coordination among existing mechanisms, in particular at the United Nations level, and through a global technology facilitation mechanism 17.7 Promote the development, transfer, dissemination and diffusion of environmentally sound technologies to developing countries on favourable terms, including on concessional and preferential terms, as mutually agreed 17.8 Fully operationalize the technology bank and science, technology and innovation capacity-building mechanism for least developed countries by 2017 and enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology 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."Are The UN And WIPO Drifting Apart?" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.