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The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), a UN agency, has approved a new development-oriented agenda that takes into account the needs of developing countries.

The WIPO development agenda was announced at the WIPO general assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, last week (28 September).

"It's gratifying that WIPO member states accept that we can no longer go on this way, and realise that WIPO's orientation needs to shift towards a more pragmatic and pro-poor agenda," said Graham Dutfield, co-director of the Centre for International Governance at the UK-based University of Leeds.

The agenda includes 45 proposals designed to harness intellectual property arrangements for development. These include promoting scientific cooperation between research and development institutions in developed and developing countries, as well as exploring intellectual property related policies and initiatives for the transfer and dissemination of technology to benefit developing countries.

It also calls for a database to match specific intellectual property related development needs with available resources — such as genetic resources — in developing countries, and international guidelines to protect genetic resources and traditional knowledge.

WIPO approved the creation of a new committee to implement the 45 proposals, which will meet twice in the next year.

Argentinean ambassador Alberto Dumont told a press briefing that these decisions will not be implemented overnight. "Some will take time, a lot of discussion and a lot of political will," he said.

The idea for a development agenda was first introduced by Argentina and Brazil at the 2004 WIPO general assembly and was backed by a group of 13 other developing nations (Bolivia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Iran, Kenya, Peru, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uruguay and Venezuela) under the banner 'Friends of Development'.

Negotiations have been taking place for three years and the proposals met resistance from WIPO members and some developed countries.

Dutfield said the approval of the agenda came largely thanks to the persistence of the Friends of Development. "WIPO is in no position to actively oppose such a large grouping of developing countries, including fairly powerful ones like Argentina and Brazil, for any length of time."

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