A closer look at the 2013 GA: The CDIP

WIPO delegates at the General Assembly. (Photo: WIPO)

If you were following this year’s General Assembly, all the way to its confused and ultimately unsatisfactory end, then you’re well aware that a number of issues currently remain unresolved at WIPO. The assemblies of Member States will reconvene later this year in an attempt to bridge gaps, and find resolutions to the issues looming over them, moving into the next biennium.

Even amongst those agenda items which were successfully closed, the headway made was at times dubious at best. One such case was Agenda Item 32: Report of the Committee on Development and Intellectual Property (CDIP) and Review of the Implementation of the Development Agenda Recommendations.

According to Algeria, speaking on behalf of the African Group, discussions on development issues are loosing momentum within the organization, and are not as dynamic as they once were. It is becoming increasingly difficult to reach a consensus (September 26, 2013, morning session, 1:30:53).  This might not be surprising given that certain delegates from more developed countries, in particular the ambassador from the US to the UN Betty King, has in the past expressed the opinion that placing too much focus on development would “kill” the organization. Instead her focus is primarily within the organization is establishing what she sees as a greater balance for those who have IP rights.

Rights groups such as the International Publisher’s Association (September 26, 2013, morning session, 2:04:51) see the recent achievement at WIPO of the Marrakesh treaty for the Visually Impaired as responding to a very unique situation with a very particular set of circumstances. With that behind them, it might be that certain developed countries are ready to dig their heels in once more.

The Development Agenda Group, represented by Brazil, also stressed that there continued to be a need for a cultural shift within the organization and in the framing of IP issues. This challenge is integral, if WIPO wishes, as an organization, to make IP work as a tool and not as a barrier to development (September 25, 2013, afternoon session, 1:21:27). Concern was further raised by the group about whether or not current mandates were being fully implemented. Often times, a focus on IP and development by developing countries leads to discussions of further exemptions or exceptions from copyright or patent laws, in an attempt to create greater and easier access to knowledge, which can be of a particularly great importance to developing countries on an economic level. The split between developed and developing countries on whether we are in need of further protections for IP holders, or instead in need of stronger and clearer limitations and exceptions to IP law, came most clearly to a head in discussions of the SCCR, but could clearly also be felt within discussions of the CDIP.

Many of the same outstanding issues came up during discussions, including the desire for a greater focus on the third pillar of the Development agenda being IP and Development, for a clearer definition of what consists of a development expenditure, what consists of a relevant WIPO body for the purposes of the “Coordination Mechanisms and Monitoring, Assessing and Reporting Modalities”, or simply Coordination Mechanisms, which are a part of the CDIP, and a desire to revise the Coordination Mechanisms so that they might yield more useful results during the annual GA report. Several Member States, particularly again from developing countries, requested that the General Assembly step in and give some form of decisive answer, so that the committee might be able to move forwards without constantly falling into the same patterns of discussion. But after a number of informal consultations, the only consensus which could be adopted was to further these discussions during the CDIP’s 12th and 13th session, and report back again to the GA in 2014.

Finally, this lack of consensus within the CDIP has led to the further postponement of the calling of an international conference on IP and Development, as agreements could not be made prior to the General Assembly on matters of key speakers and topics of discussion. Several member states on both sides of the development divide have, however, reaffirmed their desire to reopen discussion on the subject and move forwards in constructive negotiations over the upcoming year.

Further information about the results of General Assembly discussions on Agenda Item 32 can also be found here.