WIPO High Level Forum for Least Developed Countries

February 2008

“Using IP for development is not an option, but a necessity.” – Ambassador Debapriya Bhattacharya of Bangladesh, Chairman of the Coordination Council of LDCs

Ministers and top officials from least developed countries (LDCs) highlighted the importance of intellectual property (IP) as a strategic tool for alleviating poverty and promoting wealth creation at a high level forum hosted by WIPO in December. The Forum enabled participants to explore practical solutions to questions about how the IP system can be used to ensure that it serves the interests of LDCs in meeting their development objectives.

(Photo WIPO/Mercedes Martínez)

In his opening address, WIPO Director General Kamil Idris outlined WIPO’s assistance to LDCs and pledged further support in helping these countries develop their IP capacity in order to support the development of new products and services, and to increase market access, investment and trade.

Ambassador Debapriya Bhattacharya, Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh to the United Nations and other International Organizations in Geneva, who is the current Chairman of the Coordination Council of LDCs, described how IP can serve as a “strategic tool to promote innovation and give a boost to the SMEs, generate income for our artisans and performers, protect our traditional knowledge, healing practices and cultural heritage from misappropriation, help increase food production, bring benefit from geographical indicators, expand innovative and non-traditional ways of learning, facilitate investment and transfer for technology and generate wealth.”

Among the LDC ministers who addressed a special plenary session on the theme of Building IP Capacity and a Knowledge Base for Wealth Creation, Social and Cultural Development, Mrs. Mpeo Mahase-Moiloa, Lesotho’s Minister for Law and Constitutional Affairs and for Justice, Human Rights and Rehabilitation, and Chairperson of the Council of Ministers of the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO), suggested that enhancing awareness and illustrating how the IP system can lead to economic gain was one of the greatest challenges in African countries today. Senegal’s Minister for Mines and Industry, Mr. Madicke Niang, underlined the need to promote better understanding of the benefits of the IP system and to develop further training programs for IP professionals.

Mr. Mamady Traoré, Minister for Industry, Commerce, Tourism and Handicraft of the Republic of Guinea, highlighted IP capacity building as a priority for his government, referring to an IP component in the government plan of action for 2007-2009, which is designed to breathe new impetus into the national economy. While Mr. Fredrick Ruhindi, Deputy Attorney General and Minister of State, Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Uganda, called for the “transformation of economies through intellectual property” and emphasized the importance of promoting better understanding of IP among policymakers. He called on developed countries to support initiatives which would be of future mutual benefit and underlined the need for concerted action in this area.

Mr. Belele Negesso, State Minister of Capacity Building of Ethiopia, said that IP had undergone “tremendous changes with profound implications for least developed countries” in recent years, making it mandatory for LDCs to adopt comprehensive new legislative instruments.

Summarizing the discussions, Mr. Bhattacharya said that the success stories presented at the Forum – from Ethiopian coffee to Ghanaian chocolates – illustrated the potential for LDCs to reap economic benefits by using the different tools of the IP system to enhance competitiveness. The Forum called for WIPO to allocate additional resources to assist LDCs to raise awareness, enact and implement IP policies, build their capacities and institutions, support development of indigenous industries and promote innovation.

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