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Wednesday, 22 August 2012

WIPO, technical assistance and UN sanctions: an update

Technical assistance
has become very
popular of late ...
Just over a month ago, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) issued a media release, "Information and Clarifications Concerning WIPO’s Technical Assistance Programs" [discussed by the IPKat here], which reported the concern expressed with regard to WIPO's compliance with United Nations sanctions in its supply of technical assistance to certain member states. In that media release, Director General Francis Gurry affirmed that WIPO recognised the serious nature of the issue, listed the steps that the organisation was taking and reiterated its commitment to transparency. Since that date WIPO has incurred the wrath of the United States House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, but has not been deflected by the Committee's bullying from what it considers to be the proper path [for details of this little contretemps see William New's post on Intellectual Property Watch here].

Today WIPO has issued a further media update which states, in relevant part:
"... The Director General reaffirms the seriousness with which WIPO is treating concerns regarding the provision of assistance to countries that are the subject of UN sanctions.

The independent, external inquiry commissioned by WIPO into any technical assistance provided to states subject to UN sanctions, with particular reference to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Islamic Republic of Iran, is currently underway. It is being conducted by two highly qualified individuals - Mr. Stig Edqvist, a Swedish national, and Mr. John P. Barker, a United States national.

Mr. Edqvist is a Detective Superintendent with the Swedish National Bureau of Investigation, which he joined in 1981. From October 1997 to February 2012, he was the head of the investigation into the assassination of Swedish Prime Minister Olaf Palme. In February 2012, he was seconded by the Government of Sweden to European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) in Pristina, Kosovo.

Mr. Barker is an attorney in the Washington, DC office of Arnold and Porter LLP. He is an expert on issues related to international sanctions and export controls, and served in the US Department of State under two presidents, where he held senior positions in the areas of non-proliferation and export controls.

The inquiry will review the nature and extent of activities related to the said countries and will report on the conformity of those activities with the program and budget of the organization (approved by member states) and on the compliance with UN sanctions regimes.

The inquiry is fully independent, and is operating within the terms of WIPO's Internal Oversight Charter (as approved by member states), which guarantees unrestricted access to all WIPO records and personnel and confidentiality and protection from reprisals against staff.

Mr. Edqvist and Mr. Barker are expected to complete their work and submit a report on their findings by September 10, 2012. The report will be made available in full to WIPO’s member states.

In addition, as announced in the July 19, 2012 press release, WIPO has requested the advice of the UN Sanctions Committees for DPRK and for Iran on the provision of computer equipment and on future proposed activities. WIPO continues to cooperate fully with any requests for information it receives from member states about its technical assistance programs".
Meanwhile, the US Department of State appears to be conducting its own investigation of possible sanctions violations. This Kat wonders whether this investigation will continue in parallel with the Edqvist-Barker review or whether it will be put on hold till the latter reports next month. Although some periods of WIPO's history have been decidedly shameful, he can't recall a period when its overall management ethos, transparency, sensitivity to its members' conflicting interests and to the bureaucratic and administrative requirements of its users were ever in better shape.  That's not to say that WIPO is perfect (which it isn't, as this weblog has been quick to point out in the past) , but it should be given an opportunity to complete its own review and place it before its own member nations before any more aspersions are cast.

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