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Archived updates for Friday, March 21, 2008

Chatham House Rule Comes to WIPO Development Agenda

According to William New writing for Intellectual Property Watch on March 21 in "Proponents: Low Better Than Poor For WIPO Development Agenda" much of the latest meeting on the WIPO Development Agenda was held in informal status, an increasing practice at WIPO which participants said results in no record being produced by the secretariat on that part of the proceedings:

An unusual arrangement was made that kept accredited nongovernmental
participants from reporting on what was said in the room for most of the
meeting, according to committee sources. WIPO has nearly 200 accredited NGOs (a
majority are industry-oriented), and they are allowed to sit in the plenary room
and even make scheduled interventions during negotiations (unlike the press, who
are never allowed to enter the room). A number of NGOs [such as the Third World Network] usually report on activities in the room, including through almost real-time blogs.

But frequently, meetings have been moving into informal status, leaving accredited nongovernmental participants outside the room. In last week’s meeting, a different kind of deal was struck that could set a precedent for WIPO meetings. When the meeting was heading into informal status on the second day,NGOs brokered a deal whereby they could stay in the room if they agreed to follow a form of Chatham House rules, meaning they might report on what was happening, but without mentioning specific nations or individuals’ names.
According to Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House, the benefit of using the Rule is that

It allows people to speak as individuals, and to express views that may not be those of their organizations, and therefore it encourages free discussion. People usually feel more relaxed if they don't have to worry about their reputation or the implications if they are publicly quoted.

Is the Rule used for all meetings at Chatham House?

A. Not often for Membership Events; more frequently for smaller research meetings, for example where work in progress is discussed or when subject matter is politically sensitive. Most Chatham House conferences are under the Rule.

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