Marrakesh Diplomatic Conference

Marrakesh, June 17 to 28, 2013

Closing Speech by Francis Gurry, Director General, World Intellectual Property Organization

Your Excellency Mustapha Khalfi, Minister for Communications,
Honorable Ministers,
Distinguished Delegates,

It is a great pleasure to be able to speak on this wonderful occasion of the signing of the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons who are Blind, Visually Impaired or otherwise Print Disabled.

I speak for the whole staff of WIPO in saying that we are really proud to be part of, and to serve, an Organization whose members were able to conclude this Treaty. It is a very good Treaty that will have a positive and concrete impact on the problem that brought us all here to Marrakesh, the book famine that causes over 300 million visually impaired persons, the majority of them in developing countries, to be excluded from access to over 90% of published works. The Treaty provides a framework for addressing that problem which is simple, workable and effective, thereby responding to the desired characteristics that the beneficiaries of the Treaty, the visually impaired, sought and claimed throughout the whole process of the negotiations. Moreover, in providing that enabling framework, the Treaty respects the architecture of the international copyright system, thus achieving what so many of the delegations have described as a fair balance.

This remarkable result has been achieved in an environment in which multilateralism is increasingly challenged by a wide variety of fora and methods for achieving the results that international organizations were originally designed to deliver. It shows that, despite the challenges, a good multilateral process is superior to all others in the legitimacy and universality that it confers on its outcomes. But good multilateral processes are, regrettably, a somewhat rare phenomenon. At WIPO, we have the good fortune that the Member States have delivered two such good multilateral processes in successive years, at Beijing in 2012 and now at Marrakesh in 2013. It is worthy of reflection to consider how they have achieved this.

Certainly, one condition for success would seem to be the existence of a clearly articulated, specific and manageable problem that needs to be addressed at the international level and around which the member States form a consensus for action. Last year, the consensus formed around the injustice of the exclusion of actors and audiovisual performances from the international copyright framework. This year political will crystallized around the exclusion of the visually impaired from the full enjoyment of our literary culture, which, for so many of us, commences with the magnificent stories of the blind author, Homer.

There is no doubt that another condition of success is the commitment and engagement of the Member States. Let me go further and say that, today, success also requires the engagement and commitment of all those sectors in society who are directly involved with, and affected by, the problem being addressed. They bring the necessary reality checks to the negotiation processes. In Marrakesh, this commitment and engagement was present in abundance. The Member States worked day and night. I should like to express my admiration for the dedication of the negotiators and their facilitator, Martin Moscoso. But they needed also to be supported by all other Member States who were, here at Marrakesh, always involved, even if at a slight distance. Likewise, the beneficiaries and the rights holders and their associates have always been fully engaged and expressive in the process that has led to this Treaty.

Engagement is insufficient without a capacity to listen and to understand the position and the interests of the other side. This was certainly the remarkable chemistry that occurred in Marrakesh, which explains why we have a Treaty that achieves a fair balance.

I would like to think that a professional and neutral Secretariat that facilitates the discussions among Member States and helps to transmit information to other stakeholders is also a key element of success. I thank the delegations (I believe it was all delegations), which complimented my colleagues on their professionalism. I believe that my colleagues did an outstanding job and I include in their number our interpreters, who also did a wonderful job.

Last, but not least, the negotiation did not take place in a vacuum. It took place in the beautiful and culturally and spiritually special city of Marrakesh. Our Moroccan hosts were wonderful. I express our gratitude to His Majesty King Mohammed VI for his message of encouragement. I thank Minister Mustafa Khalfi for his inspired leadership. I thank Ambassador Omar Hilale for his constant attention and thoughtfulness. I thank all of our gracious hosts, the very charming, warm and welcoming people of Morocco. It was a privilege to be with you.

As many of you have remarked, the treaty is but a first step in addressing the problem that we set out to solve. It provides the enabling framework, which must now be operationalized. That process starts with the signature of the Treaty, continues with ratification and with the development of practical systems for moving works in accessible formats around the world to needy beneficiaries. I assure you of the commitment of the staff of WIPO to put into effect the political will so eloquently expressed by the Member States in the Treaty that has just been adopted.

May I conclude by making a plea to Member States to carry the spirit of Marrakesh back to Geneva and to breathe it into the future normative work program of WIPO? We have a number of questions on the agenda that are each capable of becoming a clearly articulated, specific and manageable problem that needs to be addressed at the international level and around which the Member States might form a consensus for action. But, assuming that they do reach this stage of expression, they will also need the other elements that have produced the successful outcome here and that can best be described as the spirit of Marrakesh.