General Statement of South African Ambassador on behalf of the African Group at WIPO General Assembly 2011

The following intervention was delivered on 26 September 2011 by H.E. Abdul Minty, Ambassador and Permanent of the Permanent Mission of South Africa to the United Nations and other International Organizations, on behalf of the African Group. This is what the African Group said about limitations and exceptions:

Similarly, significant strides have been made in the discussions on exceptions and limitations on copyright and related rights. The African Group welcomes in particular the work program adopted at the 21st Session of the SCCR on exceptions and limitations that maps-out text-based work to be undertaken on these issues, in a phased manner, for persons with print and other reading disabilities; libraries and archives; educational and research institutions and persons with other disabilities with a view to develop appropriate international legal instrument or instruments. We encourage constructive engagement on these issues to prevail in the SCCR.
OPENING STATEMENT OF THE AFRICAN GROUP
49th WORLD INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY ORGANISATION GENERAL ASSEMBLIES
DELIVERED BY
H.E. MR ABDUL MINTY
AMBASSADOR AND PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF THE PERMANENT MISSION OF SOUTH AFRICA TO THE UNITED NATIONS AND OTHER INTERNATIONAL ORGANISATIONS

Honourable Ministers,
Director-General,
Excellencies,
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen

Mr President

I have the honour of making this statement on behalf of the African Group. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you Ambassador Uglješa Zveki? for assuming the Presidency of the 40th General Assembly. We are confident that this General Assembly will yield positive results under your stewardship. We would like to express our appreciation to Ambassador Dumont on the manner in which he directed the work of the General Assembly in the past two years. We would also like to express our gratitude to the secretariat for their efforts in preparation for the General Assemblies of Member States.

Mr President

The past twelve months have provided us with an opportunity to assess the work of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in its entirety. As developing countries, we commend the efforts of the Director-General in prioritising development activities in WIPO as evidenced by the increase in development expenditure from 19, 4 in the previous biennium to 21, 3 percent in the proposed program and budget for the biennium 2012/2013. We also thank the Director-General for allocating financial resourses to the Development Agenda projects from the regular budget of WIPO. The proposed program and budget is building on the impressive work that has already been done to mainstream the Development Agenda within WIPO, a step which we fully support.

Our continent is still in the process of continuous development and Africa’s prospects for improved competitiveness and economic growth hinges, to a great degree, on science, innovation and technology. We believe that WIPO has a major role to play in assisting Africa to chart her path towards development in the areas of science, innovation and technology. It is within this context that the African Group recognizes the role WIPO could play in enhancing the understanding and adoption of national intellectual property policies and laws suited for Member States in respect to their different levels of development as well as enforcing IP flexibilities in order to advance public policy objectives. We reiterate the importance of meaningful technical assistance and capacity building activities as well as development-oriented norm setting as a means to enable the Africa to benefit from the intellectual property system.

The African Group remains encouraged by the current discussions in various WIPO bodies on the role that the intellectual property system can play in the economic development of Member States particularly developing countries and least developed countries. To this end, the African Group has made four substantive proposals in the four different committees at WIPO. These include the proposal on Genetic Resources and Future Work submitted in the 18th session of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC); the project proposal on Enhancing South-South Cooperation amongst Developing Countries and Least Developed Countries submitted in the 7th session of the Committee on Development and Intellectual Property (CDIP); the joint proposal by the African Group and the Development Agenda Group on Health and Patents submitted in the 16th session of the Standing Committee on the Law of Patents (SCP); and the revised Draft WIPO Treaty on Exceptions and Limitations for Persons with Disabilities, Educational and Research Institutions, Libraries and Archives submitted in the 22nd session of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR). The proposals by the African Group underline the importance of development in the activities of WIPO and we hope that these proposals will receive the necessary attention as they reinforce the implementation of the Development Agenda within WIPO.

Mr President

Looking through the organisation’s substantive work on norm-setting over the past year, four issues attract particular attention of the African Group: 1) the protection of audiovisual performances; 2) exceptions and limitations to copyright and related rights; 3) the protection of broadcasting organisations; and 4) the protection of genetic resources (GRs), traditional knowledge (TK), and traditional cultural expressions (TCEs).

The African Group welcomes the conclusion of the 22nd session of the SCCR on resolving the impasse on a draft treaty for the protection of audiovisual performances. We are looking forward to the reconvening of the suspended session of the Diplomatic Conference with a view to adopting the treaty for the protection of audiovisual performances.

Similarly, significant strides have been made in the discussions on exceptions and limitations on copyright and related rights. The African Group welcomes in particular the work program adopted at the 21st Session of the SCCR on exceptions and limitations that maps-out text-based work to be undertaken on these issues, in a phased manner, for persons with print and other reading disabilities; libraries and archives; educational and research institutions and persons with other disabilities with a view to develop appropriate international legal instrument or instruments. We encourage constructive engagement on these issues to prevail in the SCCR.

The African Group notes that a number of years have been spent discussing a possible treaty for the protection of broadcasting organisations. We believe that sufficient work has been done and the time is now ripe for the SCCR to commence negotiations on a treaty for the protection of broadcasting organisations. We thus welcome the work-plan adopted at the 22nd session of the SCCR to facilitate a process towards negotiating a treaty for the protection of broadcasting organisations.

Although the African Group would have preferred this General Assembly to decide on convening a Diplomatic Conference for the adoption of an international legal instruments/instruments for the effective protection of GRs, TK and TCEs consonant with the 2009 mandate of the IGC, we are pleased with the progress made in the negotiations on two areas, that is, on TCEs and TK. Whereas there is progress in the negotiations on TCEs and TK as illustrated by the texts developed, unfortunately the same cannot be said about GRs. The African Group is concerned about the lack of political commitment in the negotiations on genetic resources. In our view, any further procrastination on the negotiations on mandatory disclosure requirement is undermining the letter and spirit of the mandate of the IGC in undertaking text-based negotiations in GRs, TK, and TCEs. As the General Assembly is set to renew the mandate of the IGC for 2012/2013, the African Group stresses the need for focused negotiations in the IGC with a view to conclude international legally binding instrument or instruments for the effective protection of GRs, TK, and TCEs.

Mr President

Apart from norm-setting activities, the African Group welcomes the WIPO language policy. This policy, as it evolves, will ensure the equal treatment of the United Nations official languages within WIPO. We are also pleased that the Portuguese language is receiving recognition as a “passive language” in WIPO.

The African Group also welcomes the consultations by the Director-General on developing a policy on WIPO external offices. Africa is the only region without a WIPO external office, therefore, we are in support of a formal policy that will facilitate the opening of such offices. Perhaps this issue should be discussed in a formal platform to decide on the parameters for the envisaged policy.

We note the progress made on developing an appropriate, equal, and fair mechanism for the selection of Chairs in WIPO under the guidance of the former President of the General Assembly, Ambassador Dumont. We call for the conclusion of the mechanism as soon as possible as the current practice is inconsistent with the practices in other United Nations organisations. We are committed to the pursuit of a negotiated mechanism in this regard, consistent with our position to align the WIPO practices with that of the other United Nations organisations.

Mr President

Whilst we welcome the implementation of the coordination mechanism and monitoring, assessing and reporting modalities of the Development Agenda, a mechanism adopted by the 2010 WIPO General Assembly to allow relevant WIPO bodies to report on their contribution towards the implementation of the Development Agenda Recommendations, the African Group wishes to recommend to all relevant WIPO bodies, including the Program and Budget Committee, to report on their mainstreaming of the Development Agenda. It is our understanding that the Development Agenda transcends all WIPO bodies, therefore it is imperative that the bodies report to the General Assembly on their contribution to implementing the Development Agenda.

WIPO governance is another issue worth mentioning. Indeed, even if Member States differ on the details, we all agree that there is a need to improve WIPO governance especially the existing governance structures so as to reflect broad activities and other institutional developments in WIPO which necessitate reforms. Improvements to WIPO governance should not be misunderstood as overhauling WIPO’s governance structures. By WIPO governance structures, we refer in particular to the Program and Budget Committee and the Coordination Committee and the improvements that should be considered regards their executive functions, frequency and duration of meetings, and the nature of their sessions, amongst others, as well as general governance issues such as the mechanism to select Chairs, enhanced oversight system and the calendar of events by Member States. Other recommendations by WIPO oversight and audit committees should also be considered in order to improve transparency, efficiency and democracy in WIPO system of governance. Enhanced engagement and a coordinated approach amongst Member States is needed to agree on the improvements Member States want the organisation to introduce pertaining to its governance. We are convinced that improved governance at WIPO will help to accelerate the process of efficiency and enhance predicatability and transparency. Within this context, we hope we will be able to make our own humble contribution to the improvements to WIPO governance concomitant with the decision by the eighteenth session of the Program and Budget Committee.

As the governance issues will also be reviewed by the Independent Advisory Oversight Committee (IAOC), the African Group would like to take this opportunity to welcome the appointment of the new members of the IAOC who started their terms in February 2011. We are particularly pleased with the inclusion of two women in the Committee. The composition of the IAOC signifies the realisation of not only the principle of balanced geographical representation but also of gender representation. We are particularly proud to have Ms Mary Ncube from Zambia representing our region in the Committee.

Mr President

In conclusion, the African Group believes that WIPO has accomplished a lot in the past year largely because of enhanced dialogue amongst Member States and between the secretariat and Member States. Dialogue is important as it builds trust and creates a constructive environment for an exchange of diverse views. We therefore support constructive dialogue to prevail in the coming year. Africa again stands ready to contribute to this in any way that is considered useful.

I thank you