TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Oct05/3)

8 October 2005

Report 2 on WIPO General Assembly

NGO Statement on WIPO General Assembly

In the second of our series on the WIPO General Assembly, please find below an article on the joint NGO statement distributed at the start of the Assembly.

With best wishes
Martin Khor


NGOs urge action on WIPO Development Agenda, ask for broadcasting treaty decision to be postponed

By Kanaga Raja (South North Development Monitor)
Geneva 28 September 2005

More than twenty public interest organizations have urged Member States of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to accord the highest priority to implementing the WIPO Development Agenda and to renew the mandate of the Inter-sessional Intergovernmental Meetings as the main mechanism for furthering this initiative.

The organizations made this call in a statement that was distributed at the WIPO General Assembly, which is meeting from 26 September to 5 October.

Among the signatories of the statement are African Intellectual Property Association; Berne Declaration (Switzerland); Consumer Association of Penang (Malaysia); Consumer Project on Technology (United States); Center for International Environmental Law; Electronic Frontier Foundation; Edmonds Institute; European Bureau of Library, Information and Documentation Associations; Federation of Organizations in the field of Libraries, Information and Documentation; Free Software Foundation Europe; Instituto del Tercer Mundo (Uruguay); Institute of Science in Society (United Kingdom); Tebtebba Foundation (Philippines); and Third World Network.

The WIPO General Assembly is expected to decide on the future of the WIPO Development Agenda launched last year as well as a range of other issues crucial for developing countries and civil society organizations.

In particular, the General Assembly will discuss and/or provide directions on the future of the proposed Substantive Patent Law Treaty (SPLT) and the proposed Broadcasting Treaty.

At the last WIPO General Assembly (27 September - 5 October, 2004), a group of 14 developing countries known as the Group of Friends of Development co-sponsored a proposal for the "Establishment of a Development Agenda for WIPO".

The General Assembly welcomed the initiative for a Development Agenda in WIPO and agreed to convene Inter-sessional Intergovernmental Meetings to examine proposals that would be submitted for discussion. It was also agreed that a report will be prepared for consideration at the 2005 WIPO General Assemblies.

The proposal to establish a "Development Agenda" for WIPO has received very strong support from developing countries, public interest non-governmental organizations as well as prominent individuals from the North and the South.

At this General Assembly, the groups said, it is essential to extend the Inter-sessional Intergovernmental process begun to discuss the WIPO Development Agenda, in order to mainstream the concerns of developing countries into the activities of WIPO and give effect to international sustainable development goals.

It is also important that decisions on other issues during the General Assembly be supportive of, and not undermine, the Development Agenda.

The groups viewed the initiative to establish a WIPO Development Agenda as the most urgent task being undertaken in WIPO and urged Member States to accord the highest priority to implementing the Agenda as soon as possible.

They also expressed support for continued discussion and action to advance the WIPO Development Agenda and called on the WIPO General Assembly to renew the mandate for this through continuation of the WIPO Inter-sessional Intergovernmental Meetings (IIM) as a main mechanism for furthering the WIPO Development Agenda initiative.

The groups raised concerns over suggestions made by some developed countries (during the IIM meetings) to terminate the IIM process, and to shift the discussions on the WIPO Development Agenda to an existing committee called the Permanent Committee on Cooperation for Development Related to Intellectual Property (PCIPD), which has been dealing with matters related to technical assistance.

They stressed that the PCIPD is not the appropriate forum, as its mandate is too narrow, and urged Member States to instead decide on renewing the mandate of the Inter-sessional Intergovernmental Meetings to discuss and examine proposals that have been submitted (and other proposals) and to recommend action to the General Assembly.

The statement also urged Member States not to attempt to make use of the Development Agenda to "trade off" with other issues that will also be discussed at the General Assembly. If such a trade-off is proposed, it should be rejected.

Member States should also ensure that all norm-setting activities in WIPO, including ongoing discussions on issues such as harmonization of substantive patent law, should immediately include a consideration of the "development dimensions". Thus, proposals and provisions should be assessed for their developmental implications, and such an assessment should be provided for in all future norm-setting activities.

In this regard, the statement urged Member States not to narrowly focus discussions on the draft Substantive Patent Law Treaty on provisions of interest only to the developed countries, while leaving aside key issues of concern to developing countries and LDCs, such as public interest flexibilities, the disclosure of origin of genetic resources, transfer of technology and the curbing of anti-competitive practices.

Member States were also urged not to take a decision to convene a diplomatic conference on the protection of broadcasting organizations. Member States should ask for more time to fully consider the educational and other development implications of the proposed new treaty. Standard WIPO procedures should be adhered to when discussion and decisions are to be taken on this issue.

The groups recognized that inappropriate "Intellectual Property" policies have negative implications on society and the development process.

"Thus, we urge Member States to discuss and make decisions on each Agenda Item based on the merits and demerits of each issue from the standpoint of development and the public interest, and a comprehensive understanding of the costs and benefits," the groups said.