WIPO Elections: Member States get ready to settle on a new Director General
•Elections for a new WIPO Director General will be held on March 4 and 5, 2020.
•Intellectual property rights are vital to the proper functioning of the global knowledge economy.
•WIPO needs a candidate who can lead the organization into the future.
As the sun sets on the second term of Australia’s Francis Gurry, WIPO’s 83- member Coordination Committee will elect the organization’s next Director General in less than a week. This is a hotly contested and high stakes election that initially began with 10 candidates. At the present time, only 6 candidates remain in the running.
Based on articles published in specialized journals and magazines regarding the performance of the candidates during a closed interview session which took place with Member States on February 6 and 7, 2020, three candidates it appears are the likely front runners. It is important to recognize that all candidates have commendable careers and possess the requisite competencies worthy of the position of Director General.
Who are the three candidates leading the way?
Leading the way as the elections draw closer are the candidates hailing from China, Singapore and Ghana.
China’s candidate (Binying Wang) has the full might of Beijing behind her leaving nothing to chance by lobbying energetically in various capitals around the world. Beijing’s maneuvers have raised serious misgivings and concerns, most notably from Washington. These concerns relate to China’s ability to adequately protect intellectual property rights and rampant theft of IPRs (link to John Bolton tweet). The reputation that precedes China for improper handling of intellectual property is a very important element that has the potential of undermining China’s candidate.
Singapore’s candidate (Daren Tang) seems to be Washington’s preferred candidate (link to Bloomberg article). Whereas Singapore is ostensibly classified as a developing country, it is clear that Singapore’s positions vis-à-vis the interests and priorities of developing countries are at serious odds. The majority of developing countries do not share the position of Singapore on international economic and trade matters, especially in respect of IP related issues. As a result, it is argued by keen observers that Singapore’s candidate might not be able to adequately represent the interests of developing nations and this puts into question his ability to lead a complex organization where international and multilateral exposure is essential to meet the requirements of multiple stakeholders.
Ghana’s candidate (Edward Kwakwa) has succeeded to secure the endorsement of the African Union which accounts for almost one-fourth of the Coordination Committee’s voting share. This endorsement not only strengthens his candidature, but it highlights the view of several diplomats in Geneva that Ghana has a commendable track record in the multilateral world for producing candidates with proven consensus- building skills which will be vital for
WIPO Elections: Member States get ready to settle on a new Director Generalnavigating the complex waters of WIPO’s diplomacy. While it is not abundantly clear how Ghana’s candidate in practical terms will manage to bridge the wide gap between the interests of developed and developing countries in WIPO, he nonetheless cuts the appearance of a professional, knowledgeable and sober figure when compared against the other front runners.
How will it play out?
WIPO’s membership is faced with an important choice concerning the future leadership of the organization. While many good candidates have presented themselves to lead the organization, the fact remains that only one among them can emerge victorious. Far too often the practice on such occasions has been to succumb to narrow political considerations. Given the importance of WIPO in supporting the global knowledge economy through the registration of IP titles, Member States should ensure that the next Director General of WIPO has the requisite knowledge and experience to lead the complex organization into the future. Too much is at stake for national and geopolitical interests to override all else. How it will play out is an open question.
As the sun prepares to rise on a new dawn at WIPO, it is the hope and expectation that Member States will be up to the task of selecting the best candidate that can bring everyone together in the interest of the Organization and the wider IP community.