Ghanaian vies for top WIPO post

GHANAIAN Dr Edward Kwakwa is running for the position of Director-General of the Geneva-based World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).

The 83-member WIPO Coordination Committee is to meet on March 5 and 6 to nominate a candidate for appointment as DG by the organisation’s General Assembly scheduled for May 7 and 8.

Initially, the names of 10 candidates were submitted but four – from Argentina, Estonia, Japan and Nigeria – have pulled out from the race.

Kwakwa was the sole African candidate endorsed by the African Union at its recent summit in Addis Ababa.

Thus, he starts with a block vote of the 19 African members of the Coordination Committee, which would decide who would become the next DG to take office from October 1, 2020, to September 30, 2026.

Ghana has been a member of WIPO since June 1976 and is party to several other treaties administered by the organisation.

WIPO is a self-funding UN agency composed of 192 member states.

It serves as the global forum that promotes innovation and creativity for the economic, social and cultural development of all countries through a balanced and effective international intellectual property system.

Kwakwa is currently a Senior Director in charge of the Department for Traditional Knowledge and Global Challenges at WIPO.

It oversees the negotiations that take place at the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore.

The department also addresses how global issues such as climate change, public health, and food security affect innovation and intellectual property (IP).

Kwakwa was WIPO’s Legal Counsel from 2004 to 2016 and served in the Office of Legal Counsel for almost 20 years.

Over that period, he provided legal advice to the African Group of countries, including at several diplomatic conferences.

He has continued to engage closely with African countries in his current position.

Kwakwa served as WIPO’s General Counsel for 13 years.

Having also served on the senior management teams of the organisation, he gained extensive managerial experience and has acquired a strong knowledge of WIPO’s legal, constitutional and administrative system.

Kwakwa has a strong background in IP and public international law.

After graduating from the University of Ghana with a law degree, he pursued a master’s degree in international law at Queen’s University in Canada.

He subsequently received a master’s and a doctorate at Yale Law School in the US.

Prior to his 23-year tenure at WIPO, Kwakwa was in legal practice with a Washington, DC-based law firm.

He went on to provide legal advice for the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), both in Geneva.

Although an African has held the position before, there is no written or unwritten rule about geographical rotation for the head of WIPO. There are seven regional groups in WIPO, and there have been four DGs.

At each successive election, the prevailing argument has been that levels of expertise, competence and qualifications, rather than the region from which they come, should be the overriding criteria in selecting a DG.

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