Early Whispers Of Next WIPO Director General Election Cycle 16/10/2017 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)It’s safe to say most delegates at the annual World Intellectual Property Organization General Assemblies this month gave no thought to the next election for the director general of the UN agency. It’s not surprising, as it is still years away and was not on the agenda this year. But it was surprising to hear a few delegates in the hallways utter the first very early whispers about what the next election might look like. So Intellectual Property Watch talked to delegates and looked at the possible timeline for the next election for the top post at WIPO. Current WIPO Director General Francis Gurry of Australia is only halfway through his second term, for six years ending in September 2020. The process of selecting a Director General is governed by the Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization and “The Procedures for the Nomination and Appointment of Directors General of WIPO,” adopted by the General Assembly of WIPO in September 1998. The procedures are available as an annex to the secretariat memorandum prepared for the last election, held in 2014. Estimated Timeline While there is not an official timeline yet for the 2020 election, following the procedures from last time, a projected timeline might be like this: In September/October 2019, after the annual WIPO General Assembly, WIPO would issue a call for candidates, with a 3-month window closing in December 2019. Then the WIPO Coordination Committee would hold a meeting in March 2020 to nominate a candidate. Following that, there would be an Extraordinary Session of the General Assembly, in May 2020 to elect the new director general. The new director general would take office in September/October 2020. So the whispers may be expected to turn into preliminary conversations at the 2018 General Assemblies, to be held in September/October. That might be considered the beginning of “election season” by some. Whispers in the Schoolyard There was no clear idea why some were engaging in exploratory thinking about the next DG election. But a key issue might be geographical distribution of members. No formal requirement exists for geographical rotation for directors general, but it is typically talked about as if there is. One source of whispers might have been in association with the discussion at last week’s General Assembly on the membership of the WIPO Coordination Committee. This is the potent member state body that nominates the next candidate and brings it before the full WIPO membership. The Asia and Pacific Group made a case last week, based on their increased representation in the WIPO membership, for an increased number of seats on the Coordination Committee (IPW, WIPO, 6 October 2017). They currently have 9 seats and wanted to go up to 11 in the 2018/2019 biennium, but the Assembly did not agree this year. It did agree to consider the committee composition, however, so the issue may come up again at the 2018 annual Assembly. The Asia and Pacific Group is extensive but does not include China, Japan, Australia or New Zealand. The latter three are part of the developed country group at WIPO known as Group B. China is a regional group all by itself at WIPO. Another possible source is the eye many nations have on China’s moves to head various international bodies, in particular as the United States pulls back from multilateralism. Or perhaps thoughts turned to WIPO after the nearby (Munich) European Patent Office moved to appoint its new president to take office next year (IPW, Europe, 11 October 2017). There was also a high-profile DG election this year at the neighbouring UN World Health Organization. There might even be a little fatigue with the current WIPO DG after 9 years in the post, and decades near the top of the organisation. And in general, in recent months geopolitical awareness has taken on a heightened state worldwide. Past WIPO DGs WIPO has only had four DGs including Gurry, with backgrounds from the Netherlands (Europe/Group B), the United States (Group B), Sudan (Africa), and Australia (Group B). The previous DGs were: Kamil Idris (1997-2008), Árpád Bogsch (1973-1997), and Georg Bodenhausen (1970-1973). Gurry has been in office since 2008. Francis Gurry prepares to make acceptance speech after re-election in 2014. WIPO was formally created by the Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization, which entered into force on April 26, 1970 (though its roots go back to the 19th century). Under Article 3 of the Convention, WIPO seeks to “promote the protection of intellectual property throughout the world.” WIPO became a specialized agency of the UN in 1974, as noted by Wikipedia. It is usually noted that Bogsch was Hungarian-American. Also, it was after he served as director general for nearly a quarter of century that member states decided to set a limit of two six-year terms. Also noted is that Idris stepped down one year before the end of his term and Gurry took over, winning the election by one vote over the Brazilian candidate, José Graça Aranha, who then became regional director of the WIPO Brazil Office in Rio de Janeiro. There has not been a Latin American or Asian, some might point out. After the 2014 election, several Latin American names were bandied about unofficially for senior posts at WIPO (IPW, WIPO, 25 July 2014). Also, it is not uncommon for senior officials within the organisation to be nominated to run for director general, as was the case with Gurry for instance. The roster of WIPO’s current senior management team is available here. In the end, three years seems a very long time off given how rapid change is occurring in global politics every day. But that said, elections do not happen overnight, and take years of planning. Either way, Intellectual Property Watch will stay on the top of the issues as they evolve, and will report back next year. Image Credits: WIPO Flickr, WIPO 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."Early Whispers Of Next WIPO Director General Election Cycle" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.