WIPO Director General Opens WIPO Assemblies, Calls for Collective Action to Overcome COVID-19 Pandemic and Other Global Challenges

Geneva, October 4, 2021
PR/2021/881

A range of intellectual property-related indicators showed great resilience despite the economic shock from the COVID-19 pandemic and WIPO's work must evolve to mirror this trend toward the increasing centrality of human innovation and creativity as principal drivers of economic growth, WIPO Director General Daren Tang said in opening the WIPO Assemblies.

Hundreds of government delegates, including ministers, and observers attended the inaugural session of the Oct. 4-8, 2021, WIPO Assemblies, with many attending in person under strict COVID-19 pandemic protocols and others connecting remotely.

In welcoming the attendees, Mr. Tang outlined his Administration's vision for the future of the Organization, which he said retained a strong financial position and had weathered the pandemic so far thanks to the adaptability and professionalism of the WIPO personnel.

Citing the Global Innovation Index 2021, Mr. Tang underlined 2020 growth in IP filings, research and development expenditure and venture capital activity, which expanded during the pandemic-related economic turmoil unlike in other recessions, where those indicators also slid.    

“At the same time, we face global challenges that threaten the very existence of our lives, and pose an existential challenge to our planet – the pandemic, climate change, unequal growth and others enshrined in the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” said Mr. Tang,  “In these times, the work of WIPO, and indeed for all of us, cannot be business as usual.  In these times, we must harness our energies and deploy our expertise to help to overcome these global challenges as well as lay the foundations for future growth.”

Mr. Tang said his administration's ambition is to enable all countries – especially developing countries and least-developed countries (LDCs) – to use IP as a powerful tool for economic and social development.

He cited the example of Caroline Matovu, a Ugandan entrepreneur and alumni of a capacity building WIPO project, who created a new detergent brand in her back yard to help in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr. Tang said that WIPO's relationship with an in-country non-governmental organization is enabling the Organization to provide intensive on the ground support for Ms. Matovu and other entrepreneurs - sustained engagement lasting weeks and months.

"The power of this approach is that it transforms IP into a clear driver of business growth – allowing innovators and creators from anywhere to recognize IP as a powerful tool for realizing their hopes and aspirations," said Mr. Tang.

Delegates will consider a wide range of items during the week-long meeting. They include a proposed Program of Work and Budget for the 2022/23 biennium for the Organization, based on a five-year strategic plan established by Mr. Tang's Administration.

Mr. Tang said that a priority for his administration is reaching groups traditionally under-represented in use of IP, such as youths, women and SMEs.

"As we move forward, we will continue to find new ways of reaching groups such as youth, women and small and medium sized enterprises who have too often been on the margins of the IP ecosystem," he said.

Mr. Tang highlighted a new package of measures supporting member states as they seek to build back better after the pandemic subsides. He also underlined WIPO's stepped-up engagement with the World Health Organization and the World Trade Organization, through a trilateral program, to also support those organizations' members amid the pandemic.

"We meet against the backdrop of the greatest challenge humanity has faced in modern times – an inflection point which will come to define our collective future and that of generations to come," he said. "While the path ahead will not be easy, it is through innovation and creativity that we will overcome the pandemic and build back in a fair, inclusive and sustainable way," he said.

The WIPO General Assembly is being chaired by Ambassador Omar Zniber, Permanent Representative of Morocco to the United Nations and other International Organizations in Geneva. 

In addition to his opening statement, the Director General presented a wide-ranging annual report highlighting the Organizations activities over the past year.

About WIPO

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is the global forum for intellectual property policy, services, information and cooperation. A specialized agency of the United Nations, WIPO assists its 193 member states in developing a balanced international IP legal framework to meet society's evolving needs. It provides business services for obtaining IP rights in multiple countries and resolving disputes. It delivers capacity-building programs to help developing countries benefit from using IP. And it provides free access to unique knowledge banks of IP information.

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