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TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Apr05/6)

15 April 2005


WIPO Meeting on Development Agenda Report 2:

DIFFERENCES EMERGE ON MEANING OF WIPO DEVELOPMENT AGENDA

Disagreement, mainly on North-South lines, emerged on whether and how to establish a "Development Agenda" emerged as the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) began an Inter-sessional Intergovernmental meeting (IIM) on 11 April.

Proponents of a "development agenda" affirmed that wide-ranging changes were needed to the mandate of WIPO, the way its activities are conducted and the principles guiding the "norms" and the negotiations of new treaties, in order that development concerns are "mainstreamed" into the organisation's work and activities.

The main proponents are 14 developing countries, called the Group of Friends of Development. The presentation of their detailed proposals, made on Monday by Brazil and Argentina, was further supported and elaborated by many members of the Group.

Industrialised countries, however, took a different position. They said WIPO already had a development dimension, strengthening intellectual property rights

(IPRs) would contribute to development, and the focus of a development agenda would be to improve WIPO's technical assistance activities.

Below is a report of the first day of the WIPO meeting.

With best wishes
Martin Khor
TWN 

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 North-South differences emerge in WIPO development meeting

Geneva, 12 April 2005: By Martin Khor and Sangeeta Shashikant (TWN)

Strong disagreement on whether and how to establish a "Development Agenda" emerged as the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) began an Inter- sessional Intergovernmental meeting (IIM) taking place here on 11-13 April.

Proponents of a "development agenda" affirmed that wide-ranging changes were needed to the mandate of WIPO, the way its activities are conducted and the principles guiding the "norms" and the negotiations of new treaties, in order that development concerns are "mainstreamed" into the organisation's work and activities.

The main proponents are 14 developing countries, called the Group of Friends of Development. The presentation of their detailed proposals, made on Monday by Brazil and Argentina, was further supported and elaborated by many members of the Group.

Several regional groupings of developing countries, including Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean, welcomed the initiative for a Development Agenda in WIPO and expressed support for parts of the Friends of Development proposals.

Industrialised countries, however, took a different position. The statement by "Group B" (comprising developed countries) said WIPO already had a development dimension, participation of developing countries in all areas of WIPO was ensured, and WIPO was providing a lot of technical assistance, which could however be improved.

The developed countries' approach was that strengthening intellectual property rights

(IPRs) would contribute to development, that WIPO was doing a good job in that, and that the focus of a development agenda would be to improve WIPO's technical assistance activities. They seemed to favour the use of the existing Permanent Committee on Cooperation for Development (PCIPD) to take up technical assistance and development issues.

During the debate on the first day, many developing countries stressed that the development agenda being proposed could not be equated with more technical assistance.

The initial part of the meeting was marked by a dispute over the agenda, in particular on how the outcome or conclusions of the meeting is to be reported. The draft agenda, prepared by WIPO's secretariat (known as the international bureau), has "Future work" as its fifth item and "Summary by the Chair" as the final item. There was no item on adoption of the meeting's report.

Several developing countries, including Jamaica, Brazil and India, insisted that the adoption of the meeting's report be included in the agenda (as is the normal practice in WIPO meetings) and that the Chair's summary would only be a factual account of proceedings and not, as the meeting's Chairman Ambassador Rigoberto Gauto Vielman of Paraguay had indicated, a statement on future work.

The developing countries wanted the results of the agenda item "Future work" to be incorporated in the report of the meeting, instead of this being the subject of the "Summary by the Chair."

The Chairman said that a factual report of the Secretariat was going to be the subject of consultations with the delegations. However, the report to decide on the evolution of the work of the IIM will be done by the Chair.

Many delegations were not in agreement with the Chairman's suggestion. Argentina said that flagging of future work was not the responsibility of the Chair. Brazil said that there was no mention in the Agenda of a statement by the Chairman. The Chairman was only to give a factual summary.

After a lengthy debate, it was finally decided that the adoption of the draft report would be included as item number 7.

It was also decided that 17 NGOs would be allowed on an ad-hoc basis to attend the IIM on the understanding that this would not create a precedent for future meetings. Earlier, more than a thousand NGOs had signed a statement to WIPO protesting an announcement that only NGOs accredited to the WIPO General Assembly could be present.

Four papers had been tabled for the meeting, and the delegations submitting them

(Group of Friends of Development, the US, the UK and Mexico) introduced them.

The paper by the Group of Friends of Development contains proposals for bringing forward the Development Agenda through reviewing the mandate and operations of WIPO, establishing principles and guidelines for norm-setting, a review and reform of WIPO's technical assistance activities, and establishing a programme for technology transfer. (See SUNS #5778 of 12 April 2005).

The US paper proposes a "WIPO partnership program", an internet-based tool to connect potential partners and stakeholders (especially donors and recipient countries) on IP related issues and activities, staffed by a new WIPO partnership office.

The UK paper presents aspects of the Independent Commission on IPRs (set up by the UK government), including an "overriding message" that IP regimes can and should be tailored to take into account individual country's circumstances in the framework of international agreements like TRIPS. However, the paper goes on to advocate further harmonization of patent laws through WIPO. It agreed that WIPO's technical assistance needs to be better coordinated and assessed. The Permanent Committee on Cooperation for Development (PCIPD) could be used for discussions on technical assistance.

The Mexico paper also suggested that the PCIPD be used, to include within it activities to disseminate the IP system in developing countries, and an assessment to be conducted. It also suggests that WIPO call a meeting of national patent offices and NGOs to discuss regional mechanisms to conduct the assessment.

At the meeting on Monday, Brazil introduced the proposal of the Group of Friends of Development or FOD (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Iran, Kenya, Peru, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, and Venezuela). It said that the paper is not rhetoric or declaratory, but contains concrete proposals that could be the basis of further substantive discussions on how to strengthen WIPO so that it caters to the large constituency of developing countries.

The FOD see the proposal as a "platform for substantial debate in WIPO" as it gives the broad perspective on how the FOD view intellectual property and development. Brazil indicated that the FOD wish to avoid fragmentation of the elements raised in the proposal, saying it was essential that the different ideas continued to be discussed in its entirety. The document is presented on a "modular fashion and so the discussion can be taken on a step by step basis".

Brazil said that the FOD considered the Development Agenda to be a permanent item on the agenda of WIPO. It is an agenda with cross-cutting issues and has an impact on all aspects of IP and on all WIPO bodies, thus the FOD does not want its proposal or the issue to be assigned for discussion to only one specific body in WIPO.

Argentina then elaborated on the main points and proposals in the FOD paper, stressing the principles, guidelines and implementation mechanisms being proposed. Among the points stressed were the need for WIPO to have more member-driven structures and procedures; the proposal to establish an independent evaluation and research office which would evaluate the development impact of WIPO's activities; guidelines and mechanisms for WIPO's work on norm-setting (or establishing of treaties and rules); guidelines for WIPO's technical assistance, which should be adopted at the next General Assembly; and pro-development approaches to technology transfer.

Dominican Republic, South Africa, Bolivia and Egypt were among FOD members that spoke in support of the Brazil and Argentina statements, and they emphasized that establishing a development agenda in WIPO or a development dimension in IP is not the same as technical assistance.

South Africa stressed that it will not support any suggestion that propounds technical assistance as the development agenda. It called on all Member States to look carefully at all the elements of the FOD proposal which is not limited to technical assistance and hoped the process will proceed on the basis of all elements. It reiterated that the commitment to ensure that development is incorporated into WIPO has to be holistic and that WIPO like other UN agencies has to be guided by the broader development goals of the UN.

According to the Egypt delegate, the development dimension should be at the core of all agreements agreed to at WIPO, but this cannot take place if the elements in the FOD's proposal are not considered.

China also agreed that WIPO's development programme should not be limited to technical assistance and was of the view that the FOD proposal provided an opportunity to study the issue of development.

The Africa Group, coordinated by Morocco, renewed its support in principle for the proposal for the establishment of a Development Agenda for WIPO submitted by the FOD, calling it an ambitious initiative aiming at giving the visibility needed with respect to the importance of incorporation of the development dimension in WIPO's programmes and activities.

Morocco said the Africa Group shares many of the concerns raised in the proposal concerning IP and development. However, the proposal can be improved as it did not deal with some issues of importance to the African countries, notably the issues of IP pertaining to genetic resources, traditional knowledge and folklore.

The Africa Group said it was convinced that IP should not be considered an end in itself but a major vector for development. It highlighted many concerns that should be taken into account, including the assessment of the costs and the advantages of the implementation of IP protection and introduction of norms setting; the need to take into account countries' different levels of development and public objectives (such as health and biodiversity and access to information and knowledge); and the balance of rights between rights holders and society.

The Group said the needs of African countries go beyond technical assistance programmes and capacity building. It also stressed the need to facilitate technology transfer and improving countries' capacity to assimilate technology. It said that it is incumbent on WIPO to endeavor to facilitate this technology transfer to developing countries, as a specialized agency of the UN and in compliance with the UN-WIPO Agreement.

With regard to the US proposal, Morocco said some aspects complemented the FOD proposal. However, it had some reservations regarding the conceptual basis, as the US proposal assumes the existence of infrastructures enabling access to the internet in all countries. Owing to the digital divide, not all countries possess the same internet facilities, and the US proposal should be linked with efforts to narrow this digital divide.

Benin, on behalf of LDCs, welcomed the different proposals and said that they would like development to be incorporated in all programmes of WIPO.

Singapore on behalf of the Asia group welcomed the proposal of the FOD and said that it served as a good basis for a constructive dialogue. Mainstreaming the development dimension into all activities of WIPO should be a priority for the organization and this is in line with the continuing focus of work in the UN and other international fora aimed at fulfilling the UN MDGs.

Protection of IP is not an end in itself and there is no "one size fits all" approach in implementing IPR commitments. WIPO's work in implementing the Development Agenda should be undertaken in a balanced manner, guided by unique and peculiar circumstances in each country and based on public policy considerations and national developmental priorities.

The Asia Group said "the national policy space of each country must be respected, especially when developing countries are asked to assume international obligations. The Development Agenda should take into account any negative impact on the users of IP, on consumers at large and on public policy in general, not just the interest of IP owners. It is vital to inject this balance and equity into the various WIPO bodies".

It expressed it willingness to stand ready to "contribute to an international intellectual property system that is well-balanced and sensitive to the needs of developing countries and LDCs" as well as to a system that would "promote research, stimulate creativity and encourage innovation for the benefit of societies as a whole."

Singapore also read a statement on behalf of the ASEAN states. It welcomed any initiative aimed at contributing towards integrating the development dimension into all areas of WIPO's work and activities. The statement elaborated on the various ASEAN-WIPO activities that have been undertaken, and praised WIPO for focusing on "implementing IP in a manner that supports economic growth and wealth creation." The statement was seen by several delegates and observers as subtly suggesting, contrary to the views of the FOD, that WIPO already has adequately incorporated the development dimension in technical assistance activities.

Pakistan, associating with the Asia Group statement, said that the many proposals should not distract from the core issue which is to ensure that the IP system provides states at different levels of development with the necessary policy space to meet their development needs. Where these flexibilities do not exist, they would need to be put in place.

It added that there is need to examine existing IP instruments and the idea of a "development impact assessment" merits close attention as this would ensure more balanced norm-setting and facilitate efforts to evolve consensus on norms required to meet new challenges.

On behalf of the Latin America and Carribean group (GRULAC), Jamaica said the development dimension of IP is an integral part of any discourse on IP and standard setting. While the IP system is seen by many as an important aspect of national economic policy, the system must address the fundamental concerns of developing countries in order to be used as a catalyst for development.

"That is why WIPO as a UN agency whose constituents are mostly from developing countries, and which is charged with the mandate of promoting IP, must address fully the concerns of developing countries in all aspects of its work."

IP is not a panacea for development. The WIPO Development Agenda is seeking to strengthen WIPO's contribution in the area of development. But, it stressed, "the Development Agenda is not just about strengthening of technical assistance both quantitatively or qualitatively, it encompasses other important areas including norm setting and transfer of technology."

Italy, on behalf of Group B (which comprises the developed countries in WIPO), said it welcomed discussing further the relation between development and IP in WIPO. It said IP has served as a tool for development and further development of the international IP system, including harmonization, would lead to a simpler and easier-to-use IP system.

It added that the development dimension is not new for WIPO and WIPO has ensured the participation of developing countries in all areas, and member states are free to pursue their objectives in all WIPO treaties and new issues of interest to developing countries (such as genetic resources) have become an important part of the WIPO agenda.

Group B stressed the technical assistance work of WIPO and said it is time for an "urgent stock taking and evaluation" of WIPO's activities in this field, whether they address the needs of recipient countries and how they can be better coordinated with the programs of other international organizations.

The Group encouraged the WIPO's Secretariat to conduct a comprehensive assessment of WIPO's activities in the development field and to report to the Permanent Committee on Cooperation for Development related to IP. Group B saw this Committee as the "appropriate forum" to deepen the future debate.

Luxembourg on behalf of the 25 EU member states embraced the UK proposal and welcomed the US proposal, calling it pragmatic.

Delegations of the US, UK and Mexico, which had also submitted papers, made clear in their statements that they did not support the establishment of new bodies in WIPO to deal with the development agenda.

The US said it saw WIPO's role primarily as protecting IP, as there are other UN agencies that are development agencies. According to the US, the current WIPO legal framework provided ample room to address the concerns of developing countries, and it did not support the setting up of new bodies. If the Member States were not happy with the current bodies, then these bodies could be reviewed.

The US also made it clear to the meeting that it "would not want to change the WIPO" in a direction that would diminish the support it currently enjoys from the US.

The UK referred to itself as a Friend of Development as well but rejected the idea that new bodies had to be created or that there was a need to amend the WIPO Convention as proposed by the FOD proposal.

According to Mexico, it is the lack of knowledge of the IP system that has generated tensions in developing countries and so there should be efforts to ensure that knowledge on IP be disseminated, further saying that creation of other bodies will not help.

The US was on the defensive while presenting its proposal on the creation of a "WIPO Partnership Program", an internet-based tool that will "bring together all stakeholders to match specific needs with available resources and to amplify the developmental impact of intellectual property development assistance", saying that it was not just about technical assistance. This programme is intended to address the need for better coordination, to learn the actual needs of developing countries and to make IP development assistance more relevant to them.

The Swiss delegation expressed surprise over the WIPO Development Agenda since in its view, this already exists and does not need to be established. Rather than a new process, what should be done is to adopt a more pragmatic approach to use the processes that already exist and that have borne much fruit so as to reach concrete long lasting results.

 


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