TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Apr05/8)

16 April 2005

WIPO Development Agenda Meeting Report 4:
WIPO To Hold 2 More "Development Agenda" Meetings in June, July 2005

The WIPO meeting on a Development Agenda for WIPO ended on 13 April night with a decision to hold two more meetings in June and July.

The meetings will examine the present and further proposals and will prepare for a report that the intersessional intergovernmental meetings will submit to the WIPO General Asembly.

Below is a report on the final outcome of the meeting.

With best wishes
Martin Khor


WIPO to hold two more Development Agenda meetings in June, July

Geneva, 14 April 2005:  By Martin Khor

The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) will hold two more meetings, in June and July, to further discuss proposals for a Development Agenda for WIPO and prepare a report to the General Assembly on future work on this issue.

This was the main decision made on Wednesday night, at the end of the first inter-sessional intergovernmental meeting (IIM) on a Development Agenda for WIPO, held here on 11-13 April.

The decision was contained in a Summary of the Chair that had been negotiated by the WIPO member states. The next meeting will be on 20-22 June and the third meeting at an unspecified date in July.

An earlier draft by the Chairman Ambassador Rigoberto Gauto Vielman of Paraguay stated that there would be just one more session of the IIM (on 20-24 June) before the General Assembly. This was supported by developed countries.

However, many developing countries, led by Egypt, Argentina, Brazil (for the

14-member Group of Friends of Development, or FOD) and India, said that one meeting would not be enough to examine the existing proposals and discuss new ones, as well as prepare the report for the 2005 General Assembly. That report is to be finalised by July, according to a decision by the last General Assembly of September/October 2004.

After lengthy informal discussions in a small room, it was agreed that two meetings would be held, and a new draft was produced and adopted after 9.00 pm on Wednesday.

The main operational paragraph of the Chair's Summary states: "Given the need for in-depth examination of the proposals, it was considered that more time would be required by Member States to examine them. The IIM decided to continue discussions and consideration of the proposals at the next session of the IIM, which would take place from June 20 to 22, and that a third session of three days would be held in July 2005 on dates which would be communicated by the Secretariat to the Member States as soon as possible.

"Member States may submit in writing to the Secretariat additional proposals on the establishment of a development agenda for consideration at the next session of the IIM. To facilitate discussions at that next session, the Chairman invited those Member States, which had made or would be making proposals, to submit them in operational and actionable language to the Secretariat in writing."

The Summary also said that the draft Report of the current meeting (containing interventions and the Chair's summary) would be made available by the Secretariat by 25 April. Comments should be made by 4 May and the revised report made available by 11 May, and would be considered for adoption at the next IIM session.

The Summary left open the question as to which party would prepare the final report of the IIM process for submission to the General Assembly. It is expected to contain substantive points regarding the proposed Development Agenda, and recommendations on how to take the process further.

Italy (speaking for Group B comprising developed countries) proposed that an earlier draft Summary be amended to clarify that the Chair would produce a draft report to the General Assembly that sets out a future work plan. However, this was opposed by Brazil and Argentina which stated that the report to the General Assembly (which was not merely a factual report) should be drawn up by member states and not the Chair. The final draft of the Summary does not refer to who would draw up the report.

Behind the lengthy discussions on the number of meetings and the drafting of the final report were differences of views on how to take the Development Agenda initiative further. The developing countries backing the initiative want more time set aside for discussion so that some conclusions can be made on the substance of the Development Agenda, and an operational plan to implement it can be made.

They felt that the holding of two more IIM meetings would be better for maintaining the momentum created at the last General Assembly and the current IIM meeting. The developing-country proponents want a comprehensive Development Agenda plan, which includes changing WIPO's mandate and governance structure (to make it more member-driven and inclusive), infusing development principles in its norm-setting (or treaty-making) activities, changing the way technical assistance is carried out, and introducing methods or rules to achieve technology transfer.

The developed countries, on the other hand, appeared less keen to give more time to the IIM process. During the meeting, they strongly indicated that the Development Agenda could be dealt with by WIPO's permanent committee on cooperation for development (PCIPD), which deals mainly with technical assistance. This fits with their approach, that strengthening the development dimension in WIPO could best be equated with more and better technical assistance.

Developing country diplomats also prefer that the crucial report to the General Assembly be drafted in an inclusive and transparent manner, by the member states, instead of it being the work of the Chairman. "We have had not so good experiences at the WTO with Chairman's texts," said one diplomat who covers both WTO and WIPO. "It is hard for our views to be reflected in this kind of process, when everyone has to negotiate with the Chairman. It is more participatory and transparent when member states draft the report themselves."

For much of the morning and early afternoon of the final day, many non-governmental organizations and industry groups made presentations. Earlier, some intergovernmental organizations and international agencies also made statements.

Ambassador Marwa Kisiri, head of the ACP (African, Carribean and Pacific) Group's Geneva office, said the ACP secretariat fully supports the call for a strengthened role for WIPO for articulating and implementing a development agenda. The ACP secretariat applauded delegations that submitted proposals or spoke up in favour of a wide-ranging Development Agenda in WIPO, in particular the detailed proposals of the Group of Friends of Development. He noted that most members of that Group come from the ACP Group.

He added that the ACP countries continue to suffer socio-economic underdevelopment, and they require appropriate integration in the global economic framework. In the context of IPRs and WIPO, it is crucial that this appropriate integration recognizes the need for IP standards and norms that are suitable for and not contrary to development needs.

Such a balanced approach would require that ACP and other developing countries receive assistance on the full and appropriate use of their rights to flexibilities and the retention of policy space for their development strategies and objectives. This should be reflected in technical assistance programmes, said Ambassador Kisiri. He added that WIPO can improve its work by responding to the needs and demands of recipient countries, including through building their capacity on how to make use of development-oriented flexibilities such as in patents and health issues.

Kisiri said that as a member of the UN family, WIPO should now as a matter of priority take on the proposals to fully integrate and strengthen development in all its activities. Citing the MDGs and the WTO decisions on TRIPS and Public Health, he said that WIPO cannot afford to stand aside from the global consensus as this would be tantamount to operating in a vacuum, and to be absent from the UN development consensus.

The World Health Organisation, welcoming the timely and important initiative by the WIPO, gave its views on IPRs and public health. Since 1999, successive resolutions of the World Health Assembly have requested WHO to ensure that its medicines strategy addresses the important issue of impact of international trade agreements on public health and access to medicines.

The World Health Assembly in May 2003 expressed "concerns about the current patent protection system, especially as regards access to medicines in developing countries", and urged Member States to adapt "national legislation in order to use to the full the flexibilities contained in the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)". Another WHA resolution in May 2004 also urged Member States to "encourage that bilateral trade agreements take into account the flexibilities contained in the WTO TRIPS Agreement and recognized by the Doha Ministerial Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health".

The WHO added that two activities were important to contribute to the implementation of the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health to achieve the objective of access to medicines for all. First is the need for accurate and up-to-date information on patent status of medicines since in many countries, there is considerable uncertainty regarding the existence of patents on particular medicines. Thus, measures should be taken to require or encourage disclosure of patents on medicines. This task may be initially undertaken by regional or multilateral organizations or patent offices, where there may be insufficient capacity at the national level.

Second is the need for encouraging a public health perspective into the patent system. This includes such issues as the development of guidelines on patentability of medicines; for example, on matters such as the patentability of new and second uses, dosages and combinations. Such guidelines should be developed by patent examiners in conjunction with public health experts. Developing countries may adapt such guidelines so as to make them appropriate to their specific needs.

UNCTAD said it recognized the importance of assessing the development implications of IPRs. It then presented details of its work on IPRs and development, including helping developing countries to understand the development implications of TRIPS, facilitating their informed participation in IPR related negotiations and highlighting the flexibilities in TRIPS and other IPR treaties.

Other issues dealt with by UNCTAD included IPRs and domestic innovation development, open source software and protection of traditional knowledge. UNCTAD followed with interest the WIPO activities and offered to provide technical advice on the development implications of IPRs and their relation with trade and technology transfer.