Four candidates compete to head WIPO

Four WIPO candidates

WIPO has announced that the deadline for nominations has now passed, and four candidates will compete for WIPO’s top job as Director General: the incumbent, Francis Gurry (Australia), Geoffrey Onyeama (Nigeria), Alfredo Suescum (Panama), and Jüri Seilenthal (Estonia). IP Watch reports.

IP Watchdog speculates that the US will support the re-election of Gurry.  Australia has been a strong US supporter in recent TPP negotiations.  At the same time, there is also some US opposition to Gurry’s re-election.  Gurry is responsible for “signing, sealing, and delivering” new IP norms–including a new Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works by Visually Impaired Persons and Persons with Print Disabilities, the first WIPO treaty ever to focus on access, rather than on granting new rights to intellectual property holders.

 Two of the candidates, Francis Gurry and Geoffrey Onyeama, are WIPO insiders, while the other  two have experience in other international organizations; Suescum is the chair of the WTO TRIPs Council, while Seilenthal, a career diplomat, served a 7-month term as president of UNCTAD.

Suescum’s experience as chair of the TRIPS Council has not been without controversy; the Our World Is Not for Sale (OWINFS) Network and LDC Watch in May called on Suescum to “immediately cease facilitating the bullying of the LDCs in the TRIPS negotiations”.  Suescum was eventually praised for brokering a compromise that extended the deadline for LDCs to meet their TRIPs obligations.

IP Watch notes that the fact that WIPO was recently headed by an African may work against Onyeama, and that the fact that the WTO is currently headed by a Brazilian may work against Suescum, although, on the other hand, WIPO itself has never been headed by a member of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean countries (GRULAC).


Francis Gurry, Director General of WIPOFrancis Gurry

Deputy Director General Geoffrey Oneyeama (Photo: WIPO)Geoffrey Onyeama Amb. Alfredo SuescumAlfredo Suescum Amb. Jüri SeilenthalJüri Seilenthal
Country Australia Nigeria Panama Estonia
Group Group B African Group GRULAC CEBS
Current Position WIPO Director General WIPO Deputy Director General Chair of WTO TRIPs Council; Ambassador to the World Trade Organization Ambassador to the United Nations and other organizations in Geneva
WIPO Experience -on the WIPO top management team from 1997 as Assistant Director General, then Deputy Director General before becoming Director General -joined WIPO in 1985
-appointed Director of the Cooperation for Development Bureau for Africa in 1999
-appointed Director of the Cooperation for Development Bureau for Africa in 1999
  Former chair of the WIPO Coordination Committee
Other Int’l Org. Experience     Chair of WTO TRIPs Council Former President of UNCTAD; active in ITU
Education LLB, LLM (University of Melbourne)
PhD (Cambridge)
BA (Political Science, Columbia)
BA, MA (Cambridge) LLM (London)
educated in the US educated in Estonia and Sweden
Private Experience practiced as an attorney in Australia, and taught law at the University of Melbourne, Australia -worked for Nigerian Law Reform Commission; was solicitor and advocate of the Supreme Court of Nigeria    

About the Author

Sara Bannerman

Sara Bannerman is Assistant Professor at McMaster University. She is the author of The Struggle for Canadian Copyright: Imperialism to Internationalism, 1842-1971 and has published a variety of articles and book chapters on international copyright and international copyright history.

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