This week, the Coordinating Committee of the World Intellectual Property Organization meets to take a provisional decision on a new Director General. Getting the right candidate could provide helpful support for libraries and wider efforts to promote access to information in support of development.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the United Nations agency responsible for copyright amongst other forms of intellectual property (IP), will soon have an idea of who will lead it for the next six years.

With the current Director General, Dr Francis Gurry, not standing, six candidates are aiming to take on his job, and with it, a crucial role in the governance of IP internationally, and its shape into the future.

WIPO is a key institution for IFLA. It is the guardian of the Marrakesh Treaty, supporting governments worldwide to pass legislation and implement policies to remove unnecessary copyright restrictions on access to information for people with disabilities.

Its Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) is also the venue for ongoing discussions about potential legal action to ensure that libraries globally benefit from the rules they need to meet the needs of users in the 21st century.

While – as with any UN agency – the Member States themselves take the final decisions, the approach of the new Director General will have a major influence.

One who understands the need for balance in intellectual property – and the value of institutions such as libraries, archives and museums in achieving public interest goals – will be able to make a positive difference to people globally.  

One who sees IP in narrow terms, for example seeking only to strengthen rights without consideration of the value of exceptions, could stall progress not for libraries, but also miss opportunities to advance towards achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

It is for this reason that a coalition of civil society organisations working to promote the rights of IP users, has sought the views of candidates on a set of questions. These have aimed to understand what they plan to do if successful.  

Responses received from Ivo Gagliuffi-Piercechi, currently head of the Peruvian IP office (Indecopi) underline for example the need to engage with and listen to all stakeholders, but also make strong use of evidence in decision-making. He highlights in particular the value of identifying and sharing best practices, and of transparency in WIPO’s own work.

We look forward to the results of the process, with a provisional decision due later this week and a final one in May, and of course to working with the successful candidate.

Read more about IFLA’s work at WIPO.