[Ip-health] TWN Info: Assemblies Hear Calls for More Member-State Oversight

Sangeeta ssangeetash at gmail.com
Mon Oct 4 06:15:35 PDT 2010


TWN Info Service on Intellectual Property Issues (Oct10/01)
1 October 2010
Third World Network
www.twnside.org.sg <http://www.twnside.org.sg/>
 
Dear friends and colleagues,
 
Please find below a news report on the WIPO General Assemblies that began on
20th September.
 
Regards
Sangeeta Shashikant
Third World Network
----------------------------------------
 
WIPO: Assemblies hear calls for more Member-State oversight
 
Geneva, 22 Sep (Sangeeta Shashikant and Heba Wanis) -- The Assemblies of the
Member States of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) heard
calls from a group of like-minded developing countries for "effective
governance and oversight by Member States in a transparent and credible
fashion" in order to improve the effectiveness of the organization, by
building confidence and trust between the Secretariat and Member States, as
well as among the Member States themselves.
 
The call was made by Egypt, on behalf of the Development Agenda Group (DAG),
in its opening statement at the WIPO Assemblies on Tuesday.
 
The forty-eighth series of meetings of the WIPO Assemblies is currently
taking place from 20-29 September. This year's theme is "Innovation, Growth
and Development: the Role of IP and Member States' Experiences".
 
The Assemblies got underway on Monday with an opening address by Francis
Gurry, the WIPO Director-General, followed by a high-level segment and
opening statements by regional groupings, as well as individual Member
States.
 
In his opening address, Gurry highlighted his view with regard to WIPO's
priorities. He stressed on WIPO's role in developing and coordinating a
global infrastructure. He added that "In the past, much of the emphasis of
international cooperation in WIPO was on the legal framework. No one would
suggest that that area is less important today. But the technical framework
is an increasingly fertile, if not necessary, additional dimension for
effective international cooperation".
 
Stevie Wonder, a world-famous singer and songwriter and the UN Messenger for
Peace, addressed the high-level segment and called on the international
community to enhance accessibility by visually-impaired persons to
copyright-protected works. He also launched his "Declaration of freedom for
people with disabilities", which he said, was "a call to action, a plan to
empower the independence of people with disabilities by providing them with
the tools to learn and grow."
 
The award-winning musician also told delegates: "we must declare a state of
emergency, and end the information deprivation that continues to keep the
visually impaired in the dark", adding that "we must develop a protocol that
allows the easy import and export of copyright materials so that people with
print disabilities can join the mainstream of the literate world".
 
[The Member States of WIPO are currently discussing the question of better
access to copyright-protected works for the blind, visually impaired (VIP)
and other reading-disabled persons in its Standing Committee on Copyright
and Related Rights (SCCR).]
 
The high-level segment also heard statements by Member States and regional
groupings, who presented their views on WIPO's activities and priorities,
their expectations, as well as preliminary positions on issues that will be
discussed at the Assemblies.
 
Egypt, on behalf of the DAG, was particularly explicit about the need for
more Member-State oversight and involvement in designing WIPO's activities
and priorities.
 
Egypt pointed to the need for WIPO Member States to provide direction to the
International Bureau on how to allocate resources for legal and technical
assistance and capacity-building (TACB) activities in the most
cost-effective and timely manner, since TACB is a core element of WIPO's
role of ensuring that all Member States can benefit from a balanced
intellectual property regime that is consistent with self-identified
national priorities and needs, and coherent with broader development goals.
 
Egypt noted that a review of TACB activities is expected as part of the
implementation of the Development Agenda and that it looked forward to the
conclusions and recommendations of such a review, once completed. It added
that increasing the engagement of Member States in the planning and
oversight of WIPO's TACB activities is in line with the values of the
Strategic Realignment Programme.
 
There is also a need to ensure coherence and transparency of TACB activities
provided by the multitude of sectors within the WIPO Secretariat, Egypt
said. Furthermore, while WIPO's TACB activities are broadly described in the
biennial Programme and Budget documents, there is no systematic reporting of
TACB activities undertaken, nor are Member States involved in regular TACB
planning and review - a situation that should be examined, Egypt added.
 
Egypt expressed the DAG's belief that "effective governance and oversight by
Member States in a transparent and credible fashion would contribute
significantly to improving the effectiveness of WIPO, by building confidence
and trust between the Secretariat and Member States, as also among Member
States themselves".
 
Egypt added that the inability of Member States to exercise effectively
their oversight functions owing primarily to an overloaded agenda and
paucity of time in the Programme and Budget Committee (PBC) and the
Coordination Committee therefore needs to be urgently addressed.
 
Egypt also called for urgently putting in place an institutional mechanism
for the election and rotation of the bureaus of the various WIPO bodies,
underlining the Member-driven and UN-character of the Organization. To this
end, it welcomed the proposals from regional groups and Member States and
looked forward to engaging constructively towards achieving an agreed
mechanism at an early date. It also requested the Chairman of the General
Assembly to mandate the convening of consultations among Member States and
to facilitate the same.
 
Another key factor in enhancing trust among Member States and making the
Organization more effective is the presence of well-functioning Member
States-driven oversight and evaluation mechanisms, Egypt said. In this
context, Egypt expressed its appreciation to the Secretariat for its efforts
to streamline self-assessment and bring about results-based management
through the Programme Performance Reports and initiatives such as the
Validation Report by the Internal Audit and Oversight Division (IAOD). It
hoped that the IAOD is further strengthened in terms of staffing and
resources to enable it to play its due role in the triangular evaluation
mechanism in WIPO.
 
Egypt welcomed the Director-General's initiative in presenting a Medium Term
Strategic Plan (MTSP) for WIPO, to guide its work in the next five years. It
however said that while Member States are due to take note of the document,
the DAG continues to have reservations on certain elements of the MTSP in
particular, in the areas of norm-setting and WIPO's proposed role in global
challenges.
 
In particular, "we believe that WIPO's role and engagement in ongoing
negotiations in other forums on global challenges such as climate change,
health, food security etc. should be guided by the inter-governmental
mandate provided by Member States," Egypt said. "Since these issues have not
been discussed so far by Member States in WIPO, it would be premature for
WIPO to define a role for itself in these debates through the MTSP or to
propagate a certain viewpoint on IP issues", it added.
 
Egypt further recalled that the Director-General, in his foreword to the
MTSP, said that the original purpose for which the MTSP was proposed as a
"new mechanism" in 2006 was to increase the involvement of Member States in
the preparation and follow-up to the Programme and Budget. It expressed hope
that in the period ahead, Member States can arrive at an
inter-governmentally-agreed document that can truly serve as an effective
guide and compass for WIPO's work in the medium term.
 
In the area of norm-setting, Egypt expressed satisfaction that after many
years of discussion in the Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic
Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC), negotiations were
underway to finalize instruments for effective international protection of
Traditional Knowledge, Traditional Cultural Expressions and Genetic
Resources. It added that "momentum and political will are necessary for the
IGC to fulfill its mandate and present a comprehensive negotiated text to
the WIPO General Assemblies next year".
 
On WIPO's copyright work, Egypt said that discussions on exceptions and
limitations are a very positive development, since they contribute to
bringing about the much-needed balance between private IP rights and public
use in the context of national public policies and development goals. It
expressed hope that these discussions will lead to a suitable normative
framework in the area of exceptions and limitations to IP rights, in pursuit
of the balance between rights and bligations.
 
Some developing countries also underlined their concerns with regard to
current IP trends (in particular, initiatives on IP rule-making outside of
WIPO) and the need for a culture change in WIPO.
 
Ambassador Roberto Azevedo of Brazil stressed legitimacy, "expertise" and a
culture of inclusion as pre-requisites for ensuring the effectiveness of any
new international rule, adding that without these elements, the norms will
not be applicable to, nor enforced in relevant economic spaces that today
constitute the dynamic centre of the world economy. In this context,
Ambassador Azevedo highlighted that all Member States should strive to
maintain WIPO at the centre of intellectual property "rule making".
 
He also said that the Development Agenda (DA) has added a new dimension to
this Organization that calls for empirical learning methods and flexible
implementation methodologies, in addition to budgetary resources
commensurate with its importance. The DA demands furthermore a change in
WIPO's organizational culture, a change that must also be extended to the
atmosphere in which intergovernmental negotiating processes take place, he
added.
 
It is necessary to leave behind defensive postures that are associated with
mutual mistrust, Ambassador Azevedo further said, adding that the DA is
meant to fill an important void in the system of intellectual property, and
bring to it a higher balance. He also said that WIPO's role is not limited
to that of a provider of services, adding that as an agency of the UN
system, WIPO must comply with the wider goals of the United Nations, in
particular, the promotion of development and of the Millennium Development
Goals.
 
Ambassador Azevedo emphasized that changes of such magnitude and depth
require time and willingness to take root. He added that a lot remains to be
done. Yet, some developments that have taken place over the past 12 months
may be taken as an indication that we are on the right track.
 
India spoke on various concerns in relation to IP in the global context. It
pointed to the fact that the issue of technology transfer has not been
addressed adequately. It expressed grave concern with regard to the
non-transparent nature of the negotiations on the Anti-Counterfeit Trade
Agreement (ACTA). It added that inclusion of IP in Free Trade Agreements
(FTA) and bilateral agreements distort the balance of the IP system. These
developments undermine the multilateral system. There is a need to build
capacity on the use of flexibilities, it said, further calling on WIPO to
publish a book on flexibilities available in the IP system.
 
Pakistan said that the IP system should evolve in a way where it helps the
developing and least developed countries, rather than impede their progress
and make them perpetually dependent upon the developed world. It also said
that an ideal IP system is one that promotes innovation and access to
knowledge at the same time.
 
It added that for WIPO to remain relevant on the IP landscape and to regain
the ground lost due to "forum shopping", it will have to take the right
steps in the right direction and at the right time. For WIPO to become the
forum of first choice on IP issues, "we will have to ensure that IP provides
equal opportunities for all and safeguards the interests of all", it said. +










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