WIPO, technical assistance and UN sanctions

Not all technical assistance
has military significance ...
"Information and Clarifications Concerning WIPO’s Technical Assistance Programs" is the somewhat startling title of today's media release from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).  According to the this release:
"Following some recent media attention and requests for information from certain member states relating to WIPO’s technical assistance programs, WIPO Director General Francis Gurry provided the following information and clarifications concerning the actions that have been undertaken, or are being undertaken, by the Organization in relation to the provision of technical assistance to countries that are the subject of United Nations (UN) sanctions.

The Director General reiterated that the Secretariat is treating concerns relating to the Organization’s technical assistance programs to countries that are the subject of UN sanctions with the utmost seriousness.

The actions undertaken include:
  1. Following the expression of initial concerns over the provision of standard IT equipment to patent and trademark offices for the processing of intellectual property (IP) applications, new internal procedures were established and made operational on May 1, 2012. Under these procedures, all managers must refer any activity proposed in a country subject to UN sanctions to WIPO’s Legal Counsel for guidance and clearance. The Legal Counsel will, wherever necessary, consult the appropriate UN Sanctions Committee. Additionally, any work plan for a country subject to UN sanctions will be submitted at the commencement of each calendar year for guidance by the appropriate Sanctions Committee.

  2. The provision of standard IT equipment to the IP offices of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Islamic Republic of Iran that occurred in the preceding years, within the context of the Organization’s business modernization program for IP Offices in developing countries, is being referred to the relevant UN Sanctions Committees for their information and guidance.

  3. The initial steps are being undertaken for a full external and independent review of the technical assistance provided to countries subject to UN sanctions.

  4. A new internal instruction has been issued ending any provision of IT hardware in any of WIPO’s technical assistance programs.
The Director General reiterates his commitment to transparency and re-affirms the readiness of the Secretariat to continue to provide any information requested by any of the member states of the Organization.

While the legal advice received with respect to the technical assistance provided to DPRK and Iran was that the technical assistance was not in breach of UN Sanctions, it is hoped that the measures outlined above will provide assurance that the Organization is treating this matter with the seriousness that it warrants".
Only two countries are mentioned here but, with the help of the Hong Kong Trade and Industry Department's list, the IPKat has counted no fewer than 12 countries -- including some of the poorest and most war-torn -- which are subject to UN sanctions of one form or another.  To the extent that the intellectual property infrastructure of any country fulfils its functions, it provides a means for identifying and accessing technologies that can be put to tragically wrongful use as well as those which assist the most needy.  

This Kat looks forward to a time when the UN's member states forge a true community in which none threatens its neighbours and in which the UN's agencies can deliver their services to all without the impediment of sanctions. In the meantime he welcomes the Director-General's statement and his commitment to transparency and to the seeking of appropriate sanctions advice, which is the only proper and responsible course that a UN agency such as WIPO can realistically take. 
WIPO, technical assistance and UN sanctions WIPO, technical assistance and UN sanctions Reviewed by Jeremy on Thursday, July 19, 2012 Rating: 5


  1. Would Merpel say that a true community is not something that can be wished for but must, at least on an international level, be forged by the application of aid on the one hand, but also the appropriate imposition of sanctions? Should the question instead be how much carrot and how much stick?

  2. Derek
    It's not a question of either/or, I think, but a matter of both/and. If there is no shared pre-existing wish to establish a community - as appears to be the case here -- the application of sticks and carrots in order to achieve a balance between aid and sanctions is surely that much more difficult to achieve.

  3. Best intentions, but really were WIPO badly advised? where was the risk assessment in the early project development on providing 'aid' to Iran and North Korea. Don't they watch the news in Geneva?

  4. Merpel should know that "Technical Assistance" is a nice phrase to cover interventions which contravene principles of Article 2 UN Charter. Here is another one "Capacity Building".


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