LDCs Reaffirm Commitment to Integrating IP in National Development Strategies
July 24, 2009
Ministers from least-developed countries (LDCs), senior government officials and heads of regional intellectual property (IP) organizations reaffirmed their commitment to integrating intellectual property (IP) and innovation strategies into their national development planning during a High Level Forum on the Strategic Use of Intellectual Property for Prosperity and Development organized by WIPO on July 23 and 24, 2009. The ministers also discussed the challenges facing LDCs in this area, in particular the difficulties for LDCs to obtain better access to technological information.
WIPO Director General Francis Gurry told participants that IP is a key element in reducing the knowledge gap and the digital divide. The Director General stressed that WIPO, in line with the objectives of the WIPO Development Agenda, is working closely with developing and least developed countries to help realize their creative potential and facilitate their integration into the global knowledge economy.
In this context, WIPO launched at the Forum a new public-private partnership - Access to Research for Development and Innovation (aRDi) - which aims to provide industrial property offices, universities and research institutes in least developed countries with free access and industrial property offices in certain developing countries with low cost access to selected online scientific and technical journals. “Access to the knowledge contained in scientific and technical literature is critical to the innovation process,” Mr. Gurry said.
A Ministerial Declaration adopted at the end of the meeting urged WIPO to intensify its capacity-building assistance for LDCs and to support LDCs in improving competitiveness of their enterprises through regular access to new technologies. The Declaration also appealed to development partners to make more funds available for LDC-specific projects.
Addressing the high level segment of the Forum, Mr. Dilip Barua, Bangladesh’s Minister for Industries and Chairman of the Coordination Council of the LDCs, said access to technological information contained in patents and scientific journals is “extremely important.” This, he said, would “contribute to providing affordable access to new technologies, improve technology transfer [and] research and development to ensure sustainable productivity.” Mr. Barua said this will promote economic diversification.
Ethiopia’s Minister for Science and Technology, Mr. Juneydi Saddo, described a division of the world based on economic considerations – ranging from the wealthy G8 countries to disadvantaged LDCs. “This reality is stark,” he said, noting that 34 of the 50 LDCs are in Africa. Mr. Saddo observed that “the gap in economic development is almost the gap in technological capability. This means that any meaningful development agenda should focus on capacity building.” The Minister called for WIPO’s support in manpower training and bridging the technology gap, noting that “intellectual property is critical to this.”
Mrs. Mpeo Mahase Moiloa, Lesotho’s Minister for Law and Constitutional Affairs, said the LDCs face “huge challenges” to building IP institutions, including capacity building, human resource development and creation of relevant institutions that contribute to economic growth. Formulating national policies that integrate strategic use of IP is a priority for LDCs, she said, noting that “governments have an obligation to put in place national policies.” Mrs. Moiloa said LDCs will reap the benefits of IP once IP considerations are fully integrated into national policies.
Mr. Richard Fienena, Madagascar’s Minister for Economy and Industry, said there is an increased interest in LDCs in IP issues, but it is still in the early stages. Madagascar, he said, is aware that access and dissemination of knowledge to inventors and research institutions is a necessary precondition to ensuring their ability to strategically use IP. The Minister said his country looked forward to intensifying cooperation with WIPO to strengthening Madagascar’s national IP stragegy and infrastructure.
Mali’s Minister for Industry, Investments and Trade, Mr. Ahmadou Abdoulaye Diallo, said there is a critical need to ensure that innovation efforts in LDCs are developed and that the IP infrastructure is strengthened. The Minister said there is significant talent in Mali, but the innovative process needs to evolve to provide support in implementing the inventions.
Mr. Mohamed Rasheed, Maldives Minister for Economic Development, said his country gives “utmost priority” to protecting and promoting IP and “to foster an environment conducive to establishing a holistic IP regime and IP culture in the Maldives.” The country’s aim, he noted, is to graduate from LDC status in December 2010 and to be in full compliance with international IP obligations at the same time.
Nepal’s State Minister for Industries, Mr. Dan Bahadur Chaudhary, expressed confidence that knowledge gained from the Forum will provide valuable input for LDCs to include in national strategies. He expressed particular interest in measures to help Nepal protect its wealth of traditional knowledge, traditional expressions of culture and genetic resources. The Minister acknowledged that “strategic use of intellectual property is critical to the development of other policy” but noted that LDCs are not yet in a position to take full advantage of IP. “We would therefore appeal to development partners to support LDCs both technically and financially to develop this sector,” he said.
Mr. Fredrick Ruhindi, Deputy Attorney General and Minister of State of Uganda, said his government has embraced IP as a strategy to achieve prosperity and economic development. He noted that a series of legal reforms are being implemented and expressed confidence that by year’s end a number of laws will be enacted to ensure that the legal framework with respect to IP is strengthened.
Tanzania’s Minister for Industry, Trade and Marketing, Mrs. Mary Nagu, said that while LDCs once viewed IP as a monopoly tool, they now see it as “an instrument for sustainable development.” Mrs. Nagu said her country has put in place comprehensive copyright laws that have created opportunities for developing the entertainment industry and contributing positively to the country’s gross domestic product. In spite of these successes, she pointed out that Tanzania faces critical challenges in the field of science and technology and welcomed WIPO’s efforts to make patent information more easily accessible to LDCs. The minister joined other LDC counterparts in emphasizing the need to protect the rich traditional knowledge, traditional cultural expresses and genetic resource that abound in LDCs.
Benin’s Minister of Industry, Mr. Roger Dovonou, said that IP would help LDCs meet the challenges of poverty and generate employment opportunities. The Minister welcomed initiatives aimed at improving access by LDCs to technological information, noting that owning raw materials is not sufficient and that technology must be used to add value and extract profit.
The Forum provided an opportunity for senior policy makers to exchange views and share individual country experiences with a view to identifying best practices and solutions to common challenges. The program covered a range of topics, including the role of IP in poverty reduction and transfer of technology, as well as the importance of technological information.
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