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WIPO Director General Francis Gurry Opens WIPO Assemblies, Reports on Progress during 12-Year Tenure at Helm of the Organization

Geneva, September 21, 2020

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Director General Francis Gurry opened the WIPO Assemblies on Monday, outlining the Organization's progress during his 12 years as Director General.

Mr. Gurry, whose second and final six-year term ends on Sept. 30, 2020, also reported on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic while warning that the diminished state of multilateralism poses a major challenge to the world.

Mr. Gurry told delegates - some attending in person, others virtually - that technological progress has connected humanity in never-before-seen ways, but has been accompanied by increasing signs of closure, including protectionism.

"So we are in the position in which the logic of technological development is pitted against the movement of policy geopolitically. On the basis of history, I would be surprised if, in the long run, technology did not prevail," Mr. Gurry said. "There are many risks associated with the collision of these two currents, ranging from the separation of peoples from governments to the disruption of economic and social life. In view of the global nature of both currents, there seems to be only one way in which the two currents may be guided into a peaceful confluence. That way is through international cooperation that is global in nature or, in other words, multilateralism," said Mr. Gurry. 

"We are all aware that the appetite or the capacity for such multilateral action is regrettably diminished at the moment. The reconstruction of this appetite or capacity, with the inevitable changes in architecture that it may entail, is one of the major challenges that confronts the world in the coming years and decades," said Mr. Gurry.

Mr. Gurry said that COVID-19 pandemic had yet to adversely affect the financial position of the Organization, which funds its activities primarily through the provision of global IP services, but that close attention had to be paid to the evolving global economic situation.

Mr. Gurry welcomed to the Assemblies meetings Mr. Tang, who officially assumes his duties as WIPO Director General on October 1, 2020.

"I wish him every success in his tenure, which I am sure will be an outstanding one that leads the Organization forward in every way," Mr. Gurry said.

Director General Elect Daren Tang said he wished to place on record his “high admiration” for the “stellar results” achieved by Mr. Gurry during his tenure as Director General. “It is thanks to your leadership, and to the dedication of my future WIPO colleagues, that this Organization is deeply respected and highly valued. The future is full of promise, thanks to the foundations you have laid, and I look forward to continuing your outstanding work as WIPO enters a new chapter. I am confident that everyone will join me in sending to you our warmest, deepest and best wishes for your many endeavors to come,” Mr. Tang said at the opening of the Assemblies.

In a far-reaching speech, Mr. Gurry outlined the positive changes in the Organization during his 12 years as Director General.

"The Organization has been able to prosper and to thrive in the past 12 years," said Mr. Gurry.

Mr. Gurry highlighted growth in WIPO's global IP systems that help stimulate and spread innovation across the globe, as well as adherence to WIPO-administered treaties - with over 400 new accessions to those treaties, the majority coming from developing and least developed countries, Mr. Gurry said. He highlighted two new agreements - the Beijing and Marrakesh Treaties - that had had been concluded and entered into force during his tenure.

Mr. Gurry said that the financial situation of the Organization has flourished, with consistent surpluses enabling the Organization to be debt-free while building its net assets, now some CHF 364 million, beyond the target-level set by the Member States.  At the same time, fees under the global IP systems have remained constant, Mr. Gurry said.

Development-related activities have been mainstreamed as the Development Agenda advanced from a series of recommendations to concrete implementation in many areas, Mr. Gurry said. He noted a number of successful public-private partnerships that contribute in various ways to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Mr. Gurry said that the Organization has added new programs and services, such as IT platforms, databases and services economic analysis, the Global Innovation Index and statistical and data analytics.

Mr. Gurry highlighted the renovation of WIPO's Geneva campus, with the addition of two major buildings that were delivered on time and on budget. 

The Organization has also embraced digital transformation, with all externally facing services operating on electronic platforms. All administrative and management procedures have been digitized, contributing to the Organization's smooth transition to remote work at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Mr. Gurry.

"I believe that all stakeholders and the many contributors to the Organization’s operations, starting with the Member States, have reason to be pleased with the progress that the Organization has achieved as a result of a collective effort," said the Director General.

Director General Gurry thanked Chair of the General assembly, Ambassador Omar Zniber,  Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Morocco to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva, and, Ambassador François Rivasseau, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva, the outgoing Chair of the WIPO Coordination Committee. He also thanked his Senior Management Team and the staff of the Organization which he said is “extremely talented and professional.”

"It has been a privilege to have the opportunity to serve as Director General. The greatest privilege of all has been the opportunity to meet so many people from so many different walks of life," said Mr. Gurry in concluding his remarks. "This has provided the opportunity for opening to the richness and diversity of the world and for understanding that we all share a common human heritage, experience and identity."

The Director General presented a fuller report detailing WIPO's advances since he took office in 2008.

About WIPO

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is the United Nations agency that serves the world’s innovators and creators, ensuring that their ideas travel safely to the market and improve lives everywhere.

We do so by providing services that enable creators, innovators and entrepreneurs to protect and promote their intellectual property (IP) across borders and acting as a forum for addressing cutting-edge IP issues. Our IP data and information guide decisionmakers the world over. And our impact-driven projects and technical assistance ensure IP benefits everyone, everywhere.

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