U.S. Statement at the WIPO General Assembly on Review of the OIOS Report

Statement by Ambassador Hamamoto
during the 2016 WIPO General Assembly
on Agenda Item 29
“Review of the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) Report

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

The United States welcomes the advancement of important reforms agreed to during these Assemblies, reforms that will make WIPO a stronger and more transparent organization with greater accountability for employees at all levels.  We appreciate the efforts of the Independent Advisory Oversight Committee, WIPO Member States, and the WIPO Secretariat, for their contributions to the important progress that we have made.

For several years, allegations of wrong-doing have undermined confidence in the organization, shifted focus away from its important work, and diminished perceptions of its integrity.  On repeated occasions, WIPO staff have asserted that they have been retaliated against for speaking up about perceived wrong-doing, or for expressing concerns about the organization’s leadership.

We know from experience that organizations that encourage frank and open dialogue, and are committed to addressing concerns in a constructive, transparent way, perform better than organizations that do not.  Therefore, we have been and remain strongly committed to reforms such as those that we have adopted this week to ensure accountability and provide for the expeditious and fair resolution of disputes and reports of wrong-doing.

But we mustn’t stop there.  We as Member States have a responsibility to establish and continuously refine robust policies and prompt action to achieve a goal of zero wrong-doing and zero retaliation.

As Member States it is our collective responsibility to ensure that WIPO staff and others who participated in the recent investigation and whose identities have been disclosed suffer no adverse consequences for having participated in the investigation.  The posture that we as Member States and the head of the organization take, and the way that we communicate on these issues sets the tone by which others, including the staff of the organization, view us.

We thus need to work together to promote a culture and an environment at WIPO where trust and respect are rebuilt and become the foundation of the relationship between WIPO leadership and WIPO member states, and also become the foundation of the relationship between WIPO leadership and WIPO staff.  We need to promote accountability and adherence to the highest ethical standards, and ensure that WIPO staff feel free to express concerns and make suggestions for improving the organization without fear of retaliation or negative consequences for their careers.

We applaud and welcome the reforms member states have adopted today, especially the revisions to the Internal Oversight Charter.  These reforms address flaws in WIPO’s internal processes that made it more difficult for us to discharge our oversight responsibilities.

In this regard, it was especially troubling to the United States that the Chairs of the GA and the CoCo concluded an investigation concerning the Director General when most Member States had not had adequate access to the OIOS investigative report and were thus not prepared to engage in detailed or meaningful consultations on it.  In spite of our best and resolute intentions to ensure accountability, this lack of clarity has made it more difficult to address the issues forthrightly.  In short, the matters raised in the OIOS report and its recommendations have not been well handled.  Despite the fact that most Member States believe continuing this discussion would not be productive, we will remain vigilant to ensure that this period of turmoil at WIPO is not repeated.

Finally, we wish to highlight the ongoing duties of all UN agencies to fully implement whistleblower protections.  We welcome this Assembly’s decision directing reporting on any retaliation against witnesses who cooperate with investigations and directing WIPO to review its whistleblower policies to ensure effective implementation and enforcement of those policies across the board. Especially following such a divisive chapter in WIPO’s history, the United States sees no greater responsibility for WIPO leadership than to restore the credibility and the integrity of the organization in this fashion.

I thank you, Mr. Chair.