Ministers and top officials from least developed countries (LDCs) highlighted the importance of intellectual property (IP) as a strategic tool for alleviating poverty and promoting wealth creation in least developed countries (LDCs) at a high-level forum organized by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) on December 12, 2007 at its Geneva headquarters. The Forum was attended by several ministers from LDCs, ambassadors and permanent representatives, and senior government officials and provided an opportunity to exchange views and gain insights into IP capacity-building measures to promote effective use and management of the IP system. It further enabled participants to explore practical solutions to questions about how the IP system can be developed to ensure that it serves the interests of LDCs in meeting their developmental objectives.
Opening the Forum, the Director General of WIPO, Dr. Kamil Idris, said the Organization "is committed to promoting creativity and innovation in all countries, and to empowering them to utilize intellectual property as a tool for wealth creation, social and cultural development. This includes ensuring that the special needs of LDCs are fully addressed through WIPO's programs and that they are supported in making effective use of intellectual property as a catalyst for economic growth and social welfare." Dr. Idris outlined WIPO's assistance to LDCs and pledged further support in helping these countries develop their IP capacity to support new product and service development, increase market access, investment and trade. Dr. Idris cited various WIPO initiatives to support LDCs and referred to the recent adoption by member states of the WIPO Development Agenda, which he described as "a milestone" in integrating the development dimension into the Organization's activities.
A number of ministers addressed a special plenary session on the theme: "Building IP Capacity and a Knowledge Base for Wealth Creation, Social and Cultural Development". They expressed appreciation to the Director General for organizing this high level Forum and urged him to institutionalize the meeting as an annual event. Ministers also called on WIPO to further strengthen its IP capacity-building activities for LDCs.
Mr. Debapriya Bhattacharya, Ambassador, Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of the People's Republic of Bangladesh to the United Nations and other International Organizations in Geneva and the current Chairman of the Coordination Council of LDCs, said that the attendance of ministers at the Forum testified to the growing importance attached by LDCs to IP. Highlighting the development potential of IP, he said IP is "a powerful instrument for LDCs in attaining" many development objectives. He said IP "can be a strategic tool to promote innovation and give a boost to the SMEs, generate income for our artisans and performers, protect our traditional knowledge, healing practices and cultural heritage from misappropriation, help increase food production, bring benefit from geographical indicators, expand innovative and non-traditional ways of learning, facilitate investment and transfer for technology and generate wealth." Mr. Bhattacharya said "In building a knowledge-based economy, understanding IP issues and applying IP solutions are indispensable. Informed policy choices and implementation in all areas of material human development can not be devoid of IP related inputs. Thus using IP for development is not an option, but a necessity."
Mrs. Mpeo Mahase-Moiloa, Minister for Law and Constitutional Affairs and for Justice and Human Rights and Rehabilitation of Lesotho, and Chairperson of the Council of Ministers of the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO), said IP "plays a pivotal role towards economic growth and development." The Minister said that ARIPO was working to establish effective IP protection mechanisms and to create an enabling environment for stimulating innovation in its member countries." Mrs. Mahase-Moiloa commended WIPO's many initiatives taken to assist LDCs under the leadership of the Director General. She said the greatest challenge in Africa today is to enhance awareness and "to illustrate how the utilization of this system can lead to results that bear economic gain."
Mr. Madicke Niang, Minister for Mines and Industry, Senegal, said that IP was an essential part of globalization and "an undeniable motor for social and economic development." The Minister pointed to the need to promote better understanding of the benefits of the IP system and to further develop training programs for IP professionals. Mr. Niang said that the IP system has the potential to assist LDCs in boosting their competitiveness in international markets.
Mr. Mamady Traoré, Minister for Industry, Commerce, Tourism and Handicraft of the Republic of Guinea, said IP capacity building is a priority for his government. He referred to a plan of action for 2007-2009, which includes an IP component and which is designed to breathe new impetus into the national economy. The Minister deplored the counterfeiting of Guinean handicrafts which he said has resulted in loss of jobs, wealth and income for the country. While pointing out that Guinea has benefited from constant support from WIPO in terms of training and capacity building, he urged further assistance to help the country to modernize its IP infrastructure.
Mr. Belele Negesso, State Minister of Capacity Building of Ethiopia, said that the field of IP "has seen tremendous changes with profound implications for least developed countries" in recent years. He said "these changes made it mandatory on LDCs to adopt comprehensive new legislative instruments or modify certain aspects of their legal and judicial systems" in particular as regards the administration of intellectual property rights. Mr. Negesso said that his country had become increasingly aware of the need to strengthen its IP system in line with developments at the global level.
Mr. Fredrick Ruhindi, Deputy Attorney General and Minister of State, Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Uganda, expressed his country's appreciation for and support of WIPO. The Minister called for the "transformation of economies through intellectual property" and emphasized the importance of raising awareness and promoting better understanding of IP among policy-makers. He further called on developed countries to support such initiatives which would be of future mutual benefit and underlined the need for concerted action in this area.
The special plenary session was followed by a series of presentations on various IP issues by international experts (full program at http://www.wipo.int/edocs/mdocs/mdocs/en/wipo_ip_ldc_ge_07/wipo_ip_ldc_ge_07_inf_1_prov_3.doc).
In summarizing the day's discussions, Mr. Bhattacharya said "there was general agreement that IP can help LDCs attain their development targets, contribute to wealth generation, and propel them in achieving the Millennium Development Goals." He said that the success stories presented at the Forum – such as Ethiopian coffee and Ghanaian chocolates – showed that LDCs have the potential to reap economic benefits from using difference aspect of the IP system to enhance competitiveness. Mr. Bhattacharya also noted a number of challenges that had been identified during discussions, namely, building IP awareness, strengthening legal and institutional frameworks, resource constraints, and expanding the IP knowledge base. The Forum underscored the need for WIPO to intensify its assistance to LDCs, Mr. Bhattacharya concluded. He said WIPO should allocate additional resources to assist LDCs raise awareness, enact and implement IP policies, build capacities and institutions, support development of indigenous industries and promote innovation.