TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Oct04/2)

4 October 2004

Third World Network


A media briefing was held on 29 September 2004 in Geneva to launch two civil society documents:   the Geneva Declaration on the Future of WIPO, and a joint NGO statement supporting the establishment of a Development Agenda in WIPO.

Below is a report by Kanaga Raja on the media briefing.  The report was published in the SUNS of 30 September.

Also below are two annexes:  Annex 1 (containing the Geneva Declaration) and Annex 2 (containing the Joint NGO Statement).

There are also useful refereces to relevant documents at the end of Annex 1.


With best wishes

Martin Khor






Report by Kanaga Raja, published in the SUNS (South-North Development Monitor), Geneva, 30 September 2004

Geneva, 29 Sep:  Several civil society organizations gathered here for the annual General Assemblies of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) have welcomed and supported a proposal put forth by Argentina and Brazil calling for the establishment of a “Development Agenda’.

An NGO statement distributed at a media briefing Wednesday said that the proposal by Argentina and Brazil constitutes an unparalleled opportunity for all developing countries and development-oriented NGOs to put on WIPO’s agenda the issue of development.

The statement, signed by over 25 organizations, urged the developing countries and other NGOs to support the initiative.

The proposal is up for discussion Thursday at the Assemblies. Among other things, it calls for redirecting the focus of the agency to a  range of initiatives more responsive to development and the concerns of its critics.

According to the NGOs, the proposal has the support of a group of developing countries, including Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Iran, Kenya, Sierra Leone, South Africa,Tanzania and Venezuela.

Additionally, another group of about 500 eminent persons have called on the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to change course and incorporate economic, social and cultural development within its mission, instead of pushing for stronger forms of intellectual property rights.

The group comprising scientists, economists, legal experts, consumer advocates, and health activists including two Nobel Laureates made this call in their statement titled the “Geneva Declaration on the Future of the World Intellectual Property Organization” (SUNS #5652).

The statement was drafted to support to an Argentina/Brazil proposal calling on WIPO to adopt a ‘Development Agenda’, which has been tabled at the WIPO General Assembly meetings this week.

The “Geneva Declaration” advances a global perspective, whereby innovators, creators and developing countries have a common interest in exploring new and promising forms of cooperation. It signals the formation of a new coalition of individuals and public-interest NGOs from both the North and the South, which seeks to put on the table alternative proposals to foster creative endeavour.

The Declaration states in part: “We do not ask that WIPO abandon efforts to promote the appropriate protection of intellectual property ... But we insist that WIPO ... take a more balanced and realistic view of the social benefits and costs of intellectual property rights as a tool, but not the only tool, for supporting creative intellectual activity.”

The Declaration refers to the 1974 agreement with the UN establishing WIPO as a  specialized agency of the UN system, which requests WIPO to take “appropriate action to promote creative intellectual activity,” and facilitate the transfer of technology to developing countries, “in order to accelerate economic, social and cultural development.”

The signatories of the Declaration believe that a more appropriate expression of WIPO’s mission is found in the 1974 UN/WIPO Agreement, which calls for WIPO to “promote creative intellectual activity and facilitate the transfer of technology related to industrial property”.

At the media briefing Wednesday, Martin Khor, Director of the Third World Network, referred to the recent Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue meeting on 17-18 September, where concerns emerged among many NGOs as well as from scientists, lawyers, librarians and software developers on the future direction of WIPO, and out of this has emerged the Geneva Declaration.

Khor said that the signatories of the Declaration were not against intellectual property rights (IPRs) altogether but were for appropriate IPRs that strikes the right balance between rights holders and the rights of the public such as consumers of essential goods like medicines, consumers of information as well as other users such as small and medium sized enterprises in developing countries.

Khor added that a major milestone was the TRIPS agreement at the WTO that had jacked up standards of intellectual property rights and protections for the developing countries and today many of these countries are concerned that they have to adhere to patent or copyright-levels that are excessively high.

Even the developed countries themselves did not have to subscribe to such high standards when they were at their early stage of development, Khor stressed.

As such, problems have emerged with regard to access to medicines, as well as those relating to traditional knowledge with respect to local communities involving biodiversity that has been inappropriately patented, Khor said.

While many people involved in intellectual property have been focussing on the WTO and TRIPS, there has been an increasing awareness that there have been new developments in WIPO that may tilt the balance in a more unbalanced way in favour of monopoly privileges of a few and against the public interest, Khor added.

Julia Oliva of the Centre for International Environmental Law (CIEL) said that the NGOs have raised the issue of IPR as a tool for development and not an end in itself.

The proposal by Argentina and Brazil constitutes a milestone as it crystallizes concerns raised by the different bodies in a systematic way, Oliva said.



Annex 1

Geneva Declaration on the Future of the World Intellectual Property


Humanity faces a global crisis in the governance of knowledge, technology and culture.  The crisis is manifest in many ways.

. Without access to essential medicines, millions suffer and die;

. Morally repugnant inequality of access to education, knowledge and technology undermines development and social cohesion;

. Anticompetitive practices in the knowledge economy impose enormous costs on consumers and retard innovation;

. Authors, artists and inventors face mounting barriers to follow-on innovation;

. Concentrated ownership and control of knowledge, technology, biological resources and culture harm development, diversity and democratic institutions;

. Technological measures designed to enforce intellectual property rights in digital environments threaten core exceptions in copyright laws for disabled persons, libraries, educators, authors and consumers, and undermine privacy and freedom;

. Key mechanisms to compensate and support creative individuals and communities are unfair to both creative persons and consumers;

. Private interests misappropriate social and public goods, and lock up the public domain.

At the same time, there are astoundingly promising innovations in information, medical and other essential technologies, as well as in social movements and business models.  We are witnessing highly successful campaigns for access to drugs for AIDS, scientific journals, genomic information and other databases, and hundreds of innovative collaborative efforts to create public goods, including the Internet, the World Wide Web, Wikipedia, the Creative Commons, GNU Linux and other free and open software projects, as well as distance education tools and medical research tools.  Technologies such as Google now provide tens of millions with incredible tools to find information.  Alternative compensation systems have been proposed to expand access and interest in cultural works, while providing both artists and consumers with efficient and fair systems for compensation.  There is renewed interest in compensatory liability, innovation prizes, or competitive intermediators, as models for economic incentives for science and technology that can facilitate sequential follow-on innovation and avoid monopolist abuses.  In 2001, the World Trade Organization (WTO) declared that member countries should “promote access to medicines for all.”

Humanity stands at a crossroads - a fork in our moral code and a test of our ability to adapt and grow.   Will we evaluate, learn and profit from the best of these new ideas and opportunities, or will we respond to the most unimaginative pleas to suppress all of this in favor of intellectually weak, ideologically rigid, and sometimes brutally unfair and inefficient policies?  Much will depend upon the future direction of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), a global body setting standards that regulate the production, distribution and use of knowledge.

A 1967 Convention sought to encourage creative activity by establishing WIPO to promote the protection intellectual property.  The mission was expanded in 1974, when WIPO became part of the United Nations, under an agreement that asked WIPO to take “appropriate action to promote creative intellectual activity,” and facilitate the transfer of technology to developing countries, “in order to accelerate economic, social and cultural development.”

As an intergovernmental organization, WIPO embraced a culture of creating and expanding monopoly privileges, often without regard to consequences.  The continuous expansion of these privileges and their enforcement mechanisms has led to grave social and economic costs, and has hampered and threatened other important systems of creativity and innovation.  WIPO needs to enable its members to understand the real economic and social consequences of expanded intellectual property, and the importance of striking a balance between the public domain and the realm of property.  The mantra that “more is better” or “that less is never good” is disingenuous and dangerous—and has greatly compromised the standing of WIPO, especially among experts in intellectual property policy.  WIPO must change.

We are not asking that WIPO abandon every effort to promote the protection of intellectual property.  We are not asking WIPO to abandon all efforts to harmonize or improve these laws.  We are asking WIPO to work from the broader framework described in the 1974 agreement with the UN, and to take a more balanced and realistic view of the benefits and limitations of intellectual property rights as a tool, but not the only tool, for supporting creativity intellectual activity.

WIPO must also express a more balanced view of the relative benefits of harmonization and diversity, and seek to impose global conformity only when it truly benefits all of humanity.  A “one size fits all” approach that embraces the highest levels of intellectual property protection for everyone leads to ludicrous outcomes for countries that are struggling to meet the most basic needs of their citizens.

The WIPO General Assembly has now been asked to establish a development agenda.  The initial proposal, first put forth by the governments of Argentina and Brazil, would profoundly refashion the WIPO agenda, toward development and new approaches to support innovation and creativity.  This is a long overdue and much needed first step toward a new WIPO mission and work program.  It is not perfect.  The WIPO Convention should formally recognize the need to take into account the “development needs of its Member States, particularly developing countries and least-developed countries,” as has been proposed.   But this does not go far enough.  The Convention should not call on WIPO to “promote the protection of intellectual property.”  Better expressions of the mission can be found, including the requirement in the 1974 UN/WIPO agreement that WIPO “promote creative intellectual activity and facilitate the transfer of technology related to industrial property.”  The function of WIPO should not only be to promote “efficient protection” and “harmonization” of intellectual property laws, but to formally embrace the notions of balance and appropriateness.

The proposal for a development agenda has created the first real opportunity to debate the future of WIPO.  It is not only an agenda for developing countries.  It is an agenda for everyone, north and south.  It must move forward.  All nations and people must join and expand the debate on the future of WIPO.

There must be a moratorium on new treaties and harmonization of standards that expand and strengthen monopolies and further restrict access to knowledge.  For generations WIPO has responded primarily to the narrow concerns of powerful publishers, pharmaceutical companies, plant breeders and other commercial interests.  Recently, WIPO has become more open to civil society and public interest groups, and this is welcome.  But WIPO must now address the substantive concerns of these groups, such as the protection of consumer rights and human rights.  Long neglected concerns of the poor, the sick, the visually impaired and others must be given priority.

The proposed development agenda points in the right direction.  By abandoning efforts to adopt new treaties on substantive patent law, broadcasters rights and databases, WIPO will create space to address far more urgent needs.

The proposals for the creation of standing committees and working groups on technology transfer and development are welcome.  WIPO should also consider the creation of one or more bodies to systematically address the control of anticompetitive practices and the protection of consumer rights.

We support the call for a Treaty on Access to Knowledge and Technology.  The Standing Committee on Patents and the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights should solicit views from member countries and the public on elements of such a treaty.

The WIPO technical assistance programs must be fundamentally reformed.  Developing countries must have the tools to implement the WTO Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health, and “use, to the full” the flexibilities in the TRIPS to “promote access to medicines for all.” WIPO must help developing countries address the limitations and exceptions in patent and copyright laws that are essential for fairness, development and innovation.  If the WIPO Secretariat cannot understand the concerns and represent the interests of the poor, the entire technical assistance program should be moved to an independent body that is accountable to developing countries.

Enormous differences in bargaining power leads to unfair outcomes between creative individuals and communities (both modern and traditional) and the commercial entities that sell culture and knowledge goods.  WIPO must honor and support creative individuals and communities by investigating the nature of relevant unfair business practices, and promote best practice models and reforms that protect creative individuals and communities in these situations, consistent with norms of the relevant communities.

Delegations representing the WIPO member states and the WIPO Secretariat have been asked to choose a future.  We want a change of direction, new priorities, and better outcomes for humanity.  We cannot wait for another generation.  It is time to seize the moment and move forward.


Background materials






WIPO Convention (see Article 3 and 4 in particular)

Agreement between the United Nations and the World Intellectual Property




James Boyle, Manifesto on WIPO and the Future of Intellectual Property

2004 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 0009

Sisule Musungu & Graham Dutfield, Multilateral agreements and a

TRIPS-plus world: The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO)

Letter to the WIPO Director General on Open Collaborative Development

Models for Public Goods (signed by 69 economists, scientists, legal

scholars and development specialists)

Jerome Reichman and Keith Maskus, The Globalization of Private Knowledge

Goods and the Privatization of Global Public Goods. Journal of

International Economic Law Volume 7, Issue 2, 279-320 (June 2004)

South Centre, A Development Agenda for Intellectual Property

Negotiations in 2004 and Beyond



Annex 2






The undersigned NGOs fully welcome and support the presentation of a proposal for the Establishment of a “Development Agenda” for the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), introduced by Brazil and Argentina.  It will be discussed at the WIPO General Assembly beginning on September 27, 2004.

Over the last few years developing countries and development-oriented non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have raised serious questions regarding the impacts of intellectual property rules on the socio-economic, cultural and sustainable development of developing countries.  The idea that intellectual property protection is not an end in itself but rather a tool for development has repeatedly been raised by developing countries not only in WIPO but also in other major international organizations including the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Independent bodies such as the Commission on Intellectual Property Rights and developed country governments such as the United Kingdom have also recognized that the development dimension is an integral part of any consideration of matters concerning intellectual property y standards.

The proposal to establish a development agenda for WIPO thus crystallizes many of the concerns previously raised by developing countries as well as by many NGOs around the world and reaffirms the urgent need for WIPO to undertake a focused and exhaustive discussion to include the development dimension in its programs and activities.  We agree that WIPO, as a specialized agency of the UN system, cannot remain secluded from the international community commitments and efforts for achieving sustainable development. WIPO, in undertaking its activities and formulating its programs, must be guided by the development goals of the UN, particularly the Millennium Development Goals, and respond to the significant problems posed by intellectual property protection for developing countries.  Critical issues for development raised by the proposal include the need for ongoing norm-setting activities to take into account the importance of public interest flexibilities and the need for WIPO to identify and take measures to facilitate transfer of technology to developing countries. It is also crucial to secure development-oriented technical cooperation and assistance for developing countries as well as to extend the active participation, both at international and national level, of pertinent stakeholders in the discussions and activities undertaken by WIPO. We urge WIPO to correct the use of the terminology, fully distinguishing between user organizations and public interest NGOs.

The proposal by Brazil and Argentina constitutes an unparalleled opportunity for all developing countries and development-oriented NGOs to put on WIPO’s agenda the issue of development.  We urge developing countries and NGOs to support the initiative.  It should be seen as the beginning of a process in which the measures and ideas put forth will be complemented with the thoughts and suggestions of other developing countries and development-oriented NGOs.   We expect to be able to participate constructively in this process by providing recommendations and proposals aimed at ensuring that development and social concerns, including those of key sectors of society affected by intellectual property protection, such as indigenous peoples, women, small farmers, and rural communities, are fully integrated into WIPO’s activities and programs.






Act Up-Paris

ActionAid International

Asociación Latinoamericana de Micro Pequeños y Medianos Empresarios (ALAMPYME)

Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL)

Centro Cuernavacense Intercultural de Dialogo sobre el Desarrollo A.C.


Centro de Estudio y Trabajo de la Mujer (CETM) - Bolivia

Colectivo El Rebelde - Yucatán, México

Comisión de Derechos Humanos y Laborales del Valle de Tehuacán, Puebla, Mexico.

Comunicación Comunitaria A. C. México

Consejo Indigena Popular de Oaxaca “Ricardo Flores Mangon” - Mexico

Copider Chiapas, A.C.

Federation of Independent Trade Unions and NGOs (FITUN) of Trinidad

and Tobago

Grupo de Estudios Ambientales AC - Mexico

Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP)

Instituto Mexicano para el Desarrollo Comunitario

International Trade and Gender Network (IGTN)

Oxfam International

Public Services International (PSI)

Red Global de Acción Juvenil  México (GYAN México)

Red Mexicana de Accion Frente al Libre Comercio

RED@ctuar (Red de Encuentro y Diversidad para la Actuación) - Mexico

Shirkat Gah - Pakistan

Southern and Eastern African Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI)

The Network for Consumer Protection - Pakistan

Third World Network (TWN)

WTO-WatchGroup - Pakistan