Francis GurryInterview with Francis Gurry, WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) Director General.

Imagine that your organization didn’t exist and you were asked to invent it. What would you build? How would it be fundamentally different from the existing organization? What would the differences be regarding mandate, resources and objectives?

First of all I should acknowledge all that has been done collectively in the organization. As that has taken place over the course of more than 100 years, it’s quite a successful example of international cooperation when you look back. So I couldn’t, and wouldn’t wish to, change that history. Now, of course, we are in a very different world from the one of 1880, so naturally one would organize things differently. 

What are the major changes? Well, I think the first set of changes is to do with globalization - the increased capacity for the movement of people, goods, services and ideas, and the technologies that facilitate that movement. The second area of change is around information and communication technology, including social media, which means that all organizations communicate internally and externally in a vastly different manner from the way in which they did previously. The third major change has been the redefinition of the roles of private and public sectors over the course of the last 120 years. ‘Who does what’ has changed considerably, as well as the relative power of the public and private sectors. Nowadays it is quite common for corporations to possess much more economic power than many States. Fourthly, there has been a shift in the balance of power with respect to the control of information. Once, we thought that elected governments possessed the information to enable them to take decisions, and we expected them to decide. Now of course, with the Internet and the democratization of information, this assumption is no longer valid. A lot more people have a lot more information, and the consequent changes in public and private roles are very significant. Another major difference between now and the 1880s is the vast change in the geography of economic and technological production. 

What do all these changes mean with respect to the design of this organization? I would say a couple of things: substance and modality. As for substance, throughout this period there has been an increase and expansion of the knowledge component in production, and this means that innovation and creativity have become much more important. Perhaps WIPO should now make innovation its primary focus, become the World Innovation Promotion Organization rather than the World Intellectual Property Organization. This is not incompatible with the original mission, where IP was the instrument and principal public policy concerning information. There are other routes to innovation than just intellectual property – although intellectual property remains the core. As for modality, the means through which influence is exerted, the changes mean that we have to take into account the multi-stakeholder process to a greater extent than the traditional Westphalian system would suggest. In our present world you cannot deal with policy through States alone. We need to take into account the shifts in power. The balance of power in information control has changed; the balance of economic power has changed. There are a lot of changes; they are terrifying changes for some people and for some states, but we have to acknowledge this evolution. So, the new framework has to involve multi-stakeholders.

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