Covid warrants global unity for innovation

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Covid warrants global unity for innovation

Sunday, 26 April 2020 | Makhan Saikia

Covid warrants global unity for innovation

Since its inception in 1967, the World Intellectual Property Organization has been launching numerous initiatives either to stimulate creativity or to inspire many in the periphery to surge ahead. Hope this mission to innovate will be able to show the humanity a new road for hope and prosperity. However,unless the global liberal order takes charge amid the Covid-19 crisis, the WIPO’s mission for innovating sustainable future is not possible

The “World World Intellectual Property Day” is celebrated today (April 26) on the theme, “Innovate for Green Future”. Unlike the past, this year, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the special agency of the UN, has urged people to spread awareness purely through virtual campaign because of the global pandemic Covid-19, widely believed to be originated in China. Otherwise each year, the WIPO celebrates this day with a new mission and vision only to inspire and show pragmatic means to realise the goal.

The WIPO has adopted a very unique path this time. This World IP Day is simply bringing innovation and the IP rights that support it to herald a green future. The very idea of IP rights is embedded with innovation.

Further, these rights make it absolutely possible for the creators and innovators to receive their dues with fair legal global regime. Of course countries do vary in their legal practices and statutes, but the basic tenets of enforcing IP rights remain almost uniform across the world.

With globalisation and post-globalisation, we all have almost forgotten to sustain nature, resulting in irreparable losses to humanity. Last year we all saw the rise of youngsters like Greta Thunberg to bring back the planet to sustainability. She has called out the global leaders to save the earth. And this Times Person of the Year has categorically warned the UN saying how the world leaders or elders can spoil the future of the coming generations. She has added more strength to the warriors who have been fighting to save this planet. What we all are yearning for is sustainability that has lots to do with what the WIPO on this World IP Day is doing. Our joint efforts to innovate for a green future can definitely save the earth.

Creating a global IP regime, equally applicable to all, poses a serious concern between the developed and developing nations. Since the birth of the WTO and its historic Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement in 1995, the fight between these two groups of nations has been going on. The central controversy around the TRIPS for developing countries is all about the protection of indigenous rights, traditional knowledge-related resources and standardisation of the IP governance systems to the level of advanced nations. Herein Peter Drahos rightly underlined this struggle way back in 2002: “The reality of standard setting for developing countries is that they operate with an intellectual property paradigm dominated by the US and the EC and international business interests…TRIPS sets minimum standards. Bilaterally the bar of IP standards continues to be raised. When developing countries turn to WIPO for legislative assistance it steers them down the TRIPS-plus path. They are not in a position to mobilise webs of coercion and have to rely on webs of dialogue.”

And in this war for survival, the global governance of IP has clearly divided the nations into two mutually exclusive camps. Unfortunately the major chunk of the war revolves around sheer corporate greed of the top global corporations of the advanced nations. Therefore, the very purpose and vision rightly emphasised by the articles of the TRIPS is not leading to a global IP regime wherein all nations can have a shared future. To tackle such imbalance, the need of the hour is to move international IP policy from IP cooperation mostly informed by narrow corporate and national interests of the developed nations to global governance that squarely balances public and private interests in knowledge creation and distribution around the globe.

The role of private actors need to be minimised in international fora such as the UN, WTO, WIPO, World Bank, the IMF, etc. It is to be done just to secure a shared vision of the globalisation wherein the developing countries and the less developing nations could find a commonplace to survive along with the developed countries and definitely forge ahead.

Though sceptics argue that this global governance is doomed to fall when notions of governance are fluid and susceptible to customary dynamics, where notions of globalism, democracy and individual rights are divergently interpreted, where notions of fairness, justice, participation and welfare are irreconcilable and where limited national and corporate interests dominate. But we need to move much beyond this and proved the naysayers wrong.

We sincerely need to flash back why we all have become so greedy. What has contributed to our sudden desire for accumulating more wealth, space and power is nothing but the trio-junction of liberalisation, globalisation and privation (LPG). At the centre of this, acceleration is the comfort and ease of doing almost everything under the superior grip of excellent application of information and communication technology.

Technological innovation has played a significant role in erasing our territorial boundaries in the recent past. It has largely affected the broad contours of our economy, trade, political order, identity formation and warfare at the moment. This has necessitated the remapping of the post-international global political order on an urgent basis.

While altering this global order, many more actors have tried to occupy their spaces or the existing powers have tightened their hold over it to remain there wherever they are. This has led to a continuous power struggle worse than the yesteryears Cold War. And this virtual war, so to say, has moved us to a no point of return.

The US sponsored liberal international order has seen cracks as of now. The problem is that both the order and its sponsor are in crisis today. With President Donald Trump at the helm of affairs and again hoping to come back to the White House next year, the declinists have only predicted gloom for this order and its leader. Is it so? To many as the liberal order is fast decaying, its position is all up for grabs. But then who will grab it? Is it China under Xi Jinping number one in the list? Of course not. China needs to manage its own borders before it tries to grab the rest of the world. It has too many problems though it pretends to overcome all. Starting from Xinjiang to Hong Kong through Taiwan to South China Sea, its plate is absolutely full of thorns. Why to get obsessed to compete with the US? In that case, many experts say China is not trying to replace the US as a global hegemon. Precisely it is working hard with both its money and muscle power to resist the US coming to its own sphere of influence, particularly in the India-Pacific. And for some the unipolarity dominated by the US after the Cold War has just vanished. The much awaited new bi-polarity has once again returned with China at one end and the US at the other pole. By only looking at the Covid-19 crisis and its serious impact on the globe, it would be unwise to project China as a re-emerging power to counter the US.

The American leadership, its long held influence and the superior leadership it has offered in the past would simply not vanish as the naysayers say as it is. Building up a green and sustainable future, demand a definite world order to persist. In such an order, nations must feel secure and converge their interests so as to surge ahead. When China’s much talked about rise has been questioned by many and particularly by its immediate neighbours, the advocates of the liberal order led by the US must rethink how to re-arrange it or so to say re-fashion it. The planet demands a stable leadership. Certainly rise and fall of such orders are part of the game. To celebrate basic democratic values and credentials enunciated by liberalism, an order based on a democratic framework is what the world is looking for.

Human faculties need space to pursue research, innovation and development in a free atmosphere. Not the one bound and encircled by horrors of authoritarianism and single party structure as the one we see now in China under the Communist Party of that country. It simply negates the underlying philosophy of multilateralism.

China is vying for top global leadership position without even guaranteeing the basic human rights to its own people. In an atmosphere as brought by this Covid-19, China is not coming up transparent.

It is resisting opening up how the virus has originated in the Wuhan city if at all it has started there. Its movements seem to be doubtful when the whole world is witnessing simply disaster. It was a rare opportunity for China to demonstrate its leadership, but it has already lost it. It has once again offered the West to take charge of the globe and offered hope back to this planet. Unless the global liberal order takes charge amid the crisis of the Covid-19, the WIPO’s mission for innovating green future would not be possible. Such a mission demands free access to knowledge, information and communication. This lies at the heart of a progressive humanity.

World is now a civilisation with no time even for ourselves. To cut short our greed, and to open up our creativity, we all have to somewhere enhance our human connectivity wherein we minimise the role of technology to a great extent. Technology will surely guide us but we it should not take us to that point wherein it simply dictates our life cycle. Arguably, technological change has always been necessary, but not sufficient to infuse innovation and creativity at all time.

The yammering of a “Green Future” is long felt by humanity. Indeed the green cover across the world has increased in the last one or two decades. This is not enough to offer a sustainable solution to humanity.

At a time when the world is grappling with an unprecedented coronavirus crisis that is leading us to the death of almost two lakh people and affecting nearly 28 lakh globally, the WIPO can certainly show us a unique road to counter this menace. But then we all need to resolutely stand behind the shared objectives enunciated in the basic framework of the WIPO.

The hurdle for us today is our madness to achieve our target before time. In this race, we are simply gulping what even we cannot digest. Whether we respond to Covid-19 or any such catastrophe in future, the international community needs to stay united. But practically speaking, marshaling our actions towards such a course of action is full of hurdles either conditioned by ideological pathways or competitive rivalries.

Thus countries such as the US, China, Russia, India, Germany, Japan, etc, can no way think of linking their goals and visions to a single point. And even if they can, they are again racing for reaching the same point at the same time.

Much beyond traditional rivalries, China and America today are fighting a massive trade war wherein their mutual stake lies. Hence global experts opine that China’s quiet rise can no more be peaceful. It’s going to shake the global status quo for sure. This should not come on the way to realise a sustainable future of humanity. Chinese leadership must be able to visualise a future wherein all the nations have a future. It’s not just expanding a regime of international grab and it is all about directing the world to survive.

Finally, a Covid-19 of this magnitude can largely be minimised by the noble initiatives of the WIPO. Since its inception in 1967, the organisation has been launching numerous initiatives either to encourage creativity or to inspire many in the periphery to surge ahead. Hope this mission to innovate for a green future will be able to show humanity a new road for hope and prosperity.

We have witnessed many more crises in the past. Covid-19 is not an exceptional one. But what we need is pure innovation either from the international scientific and health community or from our leaders a path-breaking solution to stamp this virus out from this planet. Global economic slump may soon be stropped once its drivers that is humanity becomes fit and fine. At this juncture, only innovation can offer options. This innovation can rightly indicate the keys to unlocking the solutions and approaches to create a green and sustainable future for humanity.

(The writer is an expert on international affairs)

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