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There are 15 candidates seeking to become the next Director-General of the World Intellectual Property Organisation. As everyone knows, the present post-holder Kamil Idris is stepping down a year early following sustained criticism of his conduct and, very importantly I hazard, the negotiation of what looks likely to be a very generous compensation package.
An EGM of the WIPO Co-ordination Committee is to be held in May in Geneva. At this meeting, a preferred candidate from the 15 names will be selected for formal adoption by WIPO’s general assembly at its annual get together in September. Idris is due to leave his post soon after that. At which stage the long, hard job of rebuilding staff morale and the organisation’s battered reputation will begin.
The IP Watch website – which is always very close to events at WIPO – has today published responses from 14 of the 15 candidates to a set of five questions it set them. If you read the answers carefully and move beyond the flannel – of which there is quite a bit from a few of the respondents – you do get a decent picture of who knows what they are talking about and who is probably a little bit out of their depth.
In my view there are two or three outstanding candidates and I very much hope that the new DG s one of them. If that turns out to be the case, then there is hope that WIPO can rebuild its standing and make a central contribution to the vital debates that are currently taking place about all forms of IP right and how they will affect the development of the global economy.
However, the worry has to be that credentials and the ability to do the job will play a secondary role to geo-political considerations; so that the person who ends up succeeding Idris is someone representing a country or a bloc whose time has come to take control of a UN agency. That often seems to be how it works with these things and that's how you end up with people in charge who are personally compromised and/or just not up to it. Let’s hope that this does not happen with WIPO. If the wrong person takes over later on in the year, it will be a blow from which the organisation is unlikely to recover.
Could you let us know who you consider to be outstanding candidates. It's a virtual certainty that the matter will be settled along geo-political lines, given the absence of truly outstanding candidates. Unless, of course, Idris is called up to hold the fort for another year, while the Member States canvas for additional candidates.Philip Gough, free lance on 02 Apr 2008