The fourth day of the Provisional Committee on a Development Agenda (PCDA) for WIPO became saw even more excitement than the morning session during which Romania and Brazil got in a struggle:
Chaired again by the Paraguayan Ambassador, the NGO statements on the Friends of Development process became an issue of protest when the chair cut off several groups in mid-sentence: Consumers International (CI) and Fundacao Getulio Vargas (FGV) were interrupted for not having spoken in relation to the proposal of the Friends of Development, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) was cut off for time. Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) and IP-Justice were able to finish their statements managed to finish their statements significantly below three minutes, but all statements of NGOs were moderated by the chair with comments including multiple use of the term “propaganda.”
Whether or not the statements were proposal-specific is a question that can be argued, and something people could have different opinions about, although that certainly applies to almost all statements made during the entire meeting. Cutting off for time is arguably acceptable and in extreme cases the job of a chair, but public interest NGOs were the only ones such treated. During the previous days, all NGOs were given more leeway; some rights holder and business interest NGOs spoke up to 10 minutes with very general statements. Commenting repeatedly with derogatory terminology on statements made was definitely a first and entirely unacceptable, though.
After expressing my disappointment to the chair during the break, the chair apologised profusely for any offense, and emphasised multiple times how much he appreciated all NGOs and their participation. Apologising is not a common behaviour for someone in such a position, there was no formal need to do so, and many chairs would never have done no such thing, and even if they did, definitely not in such a way. That Paraguayan Ambassador Rigoberto Gauto Vielman did apologise so unusually profusely speaks very highly of him, and I expressed my heartfelt thanks after the meeting.
It also goes to show how much conflict was in the room, and how much the stress to possibly see this meeting end without any result affected everyone in the room. That stress did not seem to subside until the end of the meeting on Friday and will probably continue throughout the next week-long meeting in June.
Whether specific or short enough, all NGO statements deserve to be read, which is why I recommend reading them now:
The rest of the day was spent finishing the discussion on the Friends of Development proposal, followed by a discussion of the procedure to move forward. The chair suggested putting together all the proposals in one consolidated document which would list the substantial parts in actionable language without a reference to their source, avoiding a regional tagging and to break up the groups.
The exercise on Friday was to put together all the different parts of the proposals under these headings, which apparently proved a difficult exercise, in particular as the Friends of Development had the longest and most substantial proposal, and apparently did not manage the 10:00 deadline for Friday that the chair had set.
After some commotion about supposedly “late additions” by the United States and rights-holding industry groups, it appears the consolidated document is now on its way, however. Some discussions will take place between meetings, although it does not seem likely that the outcome will only become clear when the meeting in June starts.
With the help of others, including Thirukumaran Balasubramaniam and Teresa Hackett, Gwen Hinze of the EFF has been tackling the tough and not very glorious job of documenting the proceedings, which she cannot be thanked enough for. You can find the transcripts for day one, day two and the conclusions, more will follow soon. All transcripts are published as public domain works.