A2K4 Workshop: The Right to Development and the WIPO Development Agenda

Organized by the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD)

The right to development (RTD), proclaimed in 1986, is "an inalienable human right by virtue of which every human person and all peoples are entitled to participate in, contribute to, and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development, in which all human rights and fundamental freedoms can be fully realized."  It requires the international community to promote fair development policies and effective international cooperation.

The WIPO Development Agenda (DA), adopted in 2007,  is a landmark initiative to ensure that IP rights are addressed within the broader context of economic, social development and the public interest. From this perspective, the implementation of the WIPO DA has enormous potential for advancing the implementation of the  right to development. At the same time, a human rights based approach, exemplified by the right to development, can also positively contribute to the effective implementation of the WIPO DA. However, this interconnection remains relatively unknown. The WIPO DA implementation process is not closely followed by the human rights community and the relevance of the RTD framework is often not well understood in the IP community. How can this gap be bridged?

The aim of the panel is to examine possible linkages and synergies between the WIPO Development Agenda implementation process and the Right to Development in the context of the wider nexus between intellectual property and human rights. Achieving greater coherence between the two requires a sustained effort of dialogue, information and policy analysis and research. The review by the High Level Task Force on the RTD of the WIPO DA within the framework of its work plan for 2008-2010 could provide a valuable opportunity for this purpose.

Right to Development workshop from Jason Eiseman on Vimeo.

Ahmed Abdel Latif, International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development

James Love, Knowledge Ecology International

Violette Ruppanner, 3D -> Trade, Human Rights, Equitable Economy

Moderator: Kaitlin Mara, Intellectual Property Watch

Kaitlin Mara opened by framing today’s panel in the context of new initiatives in Geneva to start a dialogue not about violations of IP laws, but about the possibility for sharing access to knowledge and improving access around the globe. The purpose of the workshop is to talk about how theories of the right to development can be used to allow for new policies in IP.

Ahmed Abdel Latif was up first. He began by talking about the background of this panel. He felt that the conference needed a panel on the right to development. He thinks the recent movement of this right has been important in IP and thus needs more discussing.

What is the Right to Development (RTD)? It was promoted by developing countries – it isn’t in the UDHR or any covenants. It emerged by developing countries that wanted a development friendly norm in international interactions and relations. Their argument was that the individual fulfillment of rights isn’t enough to capture the evolution towards development. Development should be the ultimate goal of human rights. It was in 1986 that the UN General Assembly declared the RTD. There is now an annual report on the right to development.

In 1998 a working group was established on the RTD, but there was a polarized discussion on the RTD: the US was not on board with this right, the EU believed that human rights were the way to achieve this right, and the developing world wanted an international instrument to point to for this right or a binding norm. In 2004, the chair of the Working Group, wanted to operationalize the right to development. He decided to establish a high level ask force of five experts to look at how to practically operationalize the RTD.  Note that by 2005, the Millennium Development Goals had been adopted. Goal 8 related to development. The High Level Task Force was asked to look more specifically at this goal 8 – the RTD. The High Level Task Force is now talking about the implementation of the RTD. They have goals like promoting access to the benefits of science and technology.

Read the Declaration on the Right to Development

Violette was up next and thanked people for “hanging in there” on the day before Valentine’s Day. Today she will be talking about the Right to Food. A High Level Task Force member has said that the Development Agenda really presents the best opportunity for promoting the right to development. It is a breakthrough for bringing the RTD into the realm of technology.

The Right to Adequate Food is mentioned in a lot of different international conventions. Most generally it is in Article 25 of the UDHR and under Article 11 of the ICESCR.  What is the Right to Food? UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Shutter, says that the Right to Food is not about being fed, but about being able to feed oneself. Food must be accessible – each family must be able to produce food or be able to buy it. So how does this relate to IP? It can change policies on protection of plant varieties, it can help promote government accountability, it can change the possibilities for achieving policies, it can change the way technical assistance is given etc.  WIPO can play an important role in encouraging the interaction of IP policy into strategies for achieving the Right to Food.

Jamie Love was up last. Jamie started by saying he was contacted last year by the High Level Task Force to look into the RTD and health. He wrote a report on his findings. The RTD is a meta-right – it is an obligation on everyone, not just governments, to work towards the realization of all these other rights.

He raised several issues related to the Global Fund and the TDR. He wrote about the role of the Gates Foundation as a none-state actor on the RTD. He notes that the Foundation didn’t deal with IP issues, yet wanted sustainable solutions related to their health programs. They are a great NGO – but there are things that they aren’t really ‘stepping up’ on. He made 15 recommendations related to the importance of including IP policies in achieving sustainable development. He believed they should look at patents, and that they should partake in other UN initiatives such as the WIPO development agenda.

Question Period

What are the criteria for achieving the R2D and how do we measure the success of the agenda? How does the WIPO Development Agenda’s success compare to the MDG? Ahmed doesn’t think there is a proper index yet. He spoke about how the criteria of the Agenda took many years to articulate and agree on. But applying them might miss certain aspects.

What are the pros and cons of using R2D as opposed to individual rights? Is the R2D an alternative to individual rights (right to food, health, housing etc.)? Violette says the R2D encompasses all other rights – it is the same but it is expressed differently. Ahmed says it also adds because it encourages the entire international community to make policies that are development friendly. But how do you do that? Well that is hard – but this is an important global tool that doesn’t replace individual rights but it gives a meta-dimension. Jamie says the interesting thing about the R2D is it obliges countries and governments to work together to achieve development outcomes.

For twitter commentary on this panel from the audience, check out http://twapperkeeper.com/a2k4/ entries for Saturday, February 13 at 19:00h to 20:30h.

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