Francis Gurry led WIPO as Director General from October 1, 2008 to September 30, 2020.

Statement by the outgoing Chairman of the WIPO General Assembly, Ambassador Martin I. Uhomibhi

(to be checked against delivery)


Honorable Ministers, Excellencies, Director General, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen.

I want to welcome delegates to the opening of these Assemblies as well as the high level segment. As outgoing President my task this morning is very simple and straightforward and our preoccupation is only with the first agenda item of the Forty-Seventh Assemblies. I would now like to deliver my opening remarks after which I will hand the floor to the Legal Counsel for agenda item 2 which deals with the election of officers.

Honorable Ministers, Excellencies, Director General, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen.

It is my pleasure to join the Director General, who will be doing so shortly, in welcoming you warmly to this Forty-Seventh Meeting of the Assemblies of the Member States of the World Intellectual Property Organization. I would like to extend a special welcome to those honorable Ministers and distinguished delegates who have traveled from far and wide to join us, as we consider the work performed over the past year by this unique Organization. This meeting should also afford us the opportunity to reflect together on the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead of us.


One year ago, in this room, I was privileged to preside over the appointment, by acclamation, of Mr. Francis Gurry as the new Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization.

I spoke on that occasion of the process of healing and reconciliation, which had already begun much to my delight and satisfaction. It was a memorable meeting, suffused with good will. In a spirit of unity, delegations joined with one voice in expressing our shared commitment not only to helping the Organization move forward, but to the values of international cooperation.


In the intervening year, we have seen strong evidence of progress. As Member States we have unanimously welcomed the high priority which the Director General has deployed to rebuilding trust – the cornerstone of effective cooperation. We have valued his openness and accessibility, his responsiveness to our diverse concerns. We have applauded the visible commitment from all parts of the Secretariat to improving consultation and communication. We have participated in his reappraisal of the Organization's goals and priorities. We have seen the Development Agenda placed at center stage. And we have witnessed a more active engagement with other UN and intergovernmental organizations in addressing the intersection of IP with public policy issues.

Nine months ago in December we agreed a new strategic framework for WIPO, together with an ambitious new program of activities. This began the process of reorienting the Organization so as to better enable it to fulfill its fundamental role: namely, that of seeking to ensure that the people of all nations can benefit from the opportunities offered by the use of intellectual property in promoting creativity and innovation.

The new framework has sought a balance between the interests of developed and developing countries. And, I would say, not just balance, but genuine synergies – a solid base of common needs and concerns. North, South, rich or poor, we have shared a common interest in certain policy imperatives: in creating environments in which innovation and creativity flourish; in accessing and building knowledge; in sharing good practices; in providing efficient services; in protecting and improving economic and social well-being of our citizens.

We all share stakes, therefore, in WIPO's goals: in promoting the understanding and use of intellectual property; in facilitating universal access to the benefits of IP systems, information and services; in identifying how IP can best contribute to the global challenges of poverty eradication, of disease, of climate change.

Excellencies, distinguished delegates,

In a rapidly changing world that is increasingly defined by knowledge, the flexibility and responsiveness of the global IP system will be tested and pushed to the limit with each passing moment. Creativity, innovation and invention will increasingly play a vital role in global wealth creation and disbursal. The extent to which IP law keeps pace with such a dynamic environment will greatly depend on the structure of normative processes that we put in place by actors on the multilateral stage. The international patent law is such a case in point. At the same time it should be allowed to play each traditional role of supporting creativity and inventiveness, first rewarding rights holders for their labors. It is essential that even as the IP system is made responsive to the changing environment it should also aim to meet public aspirations and the needs of countries with different levels of development. It should therefore be supportive of global development initiatives such as the United Nations millennium development goals. It should likewise address the needs of LDCs and provide the necessary policy platform for mitigating extreme poverty and hunger in many parts of our world. It is important that the IP system also addresses personal issues of concern such as access to medicine and knowledge, provision of clean drinking water, food security and environmental problems posed by climate change. The search for a balanced and sensible and responsive IP system is therefore in the best interests of all developed and developing countries and the LDCs.


The issues we seek to address at WIPO are often complex and multifaceted. In approaching them as delegates we sometimes lose sight of our common purpose. We have failed therefore to find a necessary compromise and consensus to enable to us to move forward on substantive issues of copyright, of patent law, and the protection of traditional knowledge. One of the most important tasks facing us during these Assemblies will therefore be to find a constructive path out of the impasse in the Intergovernmental Committee on IP and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore, the IGC. We must find a way to agree on the renewal of the Committee's mandate. We must make a fresh start. What is needed now is the political will to accelerate these processes with a view to recording substantive results. Therefore, the conduct of negotiations in these bodies should be managed with a clear sight of their expected outcomes. The outcomes that we are all striving for can only be achieved through compromise and flexibility by Member States, by all Member States. That being the case I would like to seize this opportunity to appeal to Member States to immediately seek solutions to the deadlocks in negotiations in the various committees. My hope is that Member States will be able to define the parameters for the success of these committees in their future meetings by making the necessary compromises and flexibilities in enabling processes. We need to remind ourselves that the failure of these committees cannot in any way be construed as WIPO's failure. If this should happen, and I hope it doesn't, it will be manifestly due to the inability of the Member States to meet on common grounds. That is very clear. There is however one process that has shown great prospects and contains the potential of resolving many of the outstanding difficulties in WIPO. I refer here to the successful negotiations and adoption of the WIPO Development Agenda. The advancement of the Development Agenda process to the present stage of implementation was achieved with the cooperation of both the developed and developing countries. The contributions of civil society and other stakeholders have also been vital to its success. This historic momentum must be maintained and carried over into the remaining processes in WIPO.

Honorable Ministers, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates,

Your participation in this High Level Segment of the Assemblies can provide the impetus and the political vision necessary to take discussions to a higher level, including fostering a climate for negotiated solutions in the wider interests of all Member States. I should not monopolize the floor any longer. My formal task this morning as I complete my time as Chair of the WIPO General Assembly will be to preside over the election of my successor and other officers to the Assembly bodies. Before doing so I would like to seize this opportunity to express my appreciation to my fellow Ambassadors and Representatives for the privilege bestowed upon me to serve the Member States. I also must pay tribute to the staff of the Secretariat for their dedication and professionalism and for their flexibility and openness in responding to the demands of the membership. I hope that we too, as Member States, we will be able to show greater flexibility and openness in our interaction with each other.

What is left for me to say is to wish these Assemblies successful deliberations and fruitful outcomings. And now I will hand the floor to the distinguished Legal Counsel for Agenda Item 2, Election of Officers. Thank you all for your attention.