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Achieving the SDGs is an all-hands-on-deck affair and requires strong partnerships

By Edward Kwakwa and Irina Chicu, Global Challenges and Partnerships Sector, WIPO

In September 2015, world leaders gathered at the United Nations and adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It is a bold action plan to end poverty, inequality and injustice, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for future generations. At the heart of the 2030 Agenda are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a universal call for urgent action and a strong commitment to build a sustainable future together while leaving no one behind.

WIPO Training and Mentoring Program on IP for Women Entrepreneurs from Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities. (Photo: Emmanuel Berrod / WIPO)

From eradicating poverty and hunger to promoting health, innovation, gender equality, and environmental sustainability, the ambitious SDGs encompass a wide range of interrelated issues that require comprehensive and collaborative solutions on top of individual commitment. Concerted efforts and strong partnerships among national, regional, and global actors are essential. The 2030 Agenda authors note that “All countries and all stakeholders, acting in collaborative partnership, will implement this plan.”

Partnerships foster innovation by joining diverse perspectives and ideas

It is no secret that great achievements can rarely be obtained by a single person or entity, or, as one of the greatest basketball players of all time, Michael Jordan, put it “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” Therefore, WIPO has always been interested in joining forces with international organizations, governments, civil society, businesses, academia, and others to build a better future for all by promoting creativity and innovation as underpinned by intellectual property.

SDG 17 is often seen as an enabler for attaining the other goals and does not receive as much spotlight as other SDGs.

While traditionally WIPO’s work is primarily connected to SDG 9, that calls for the development of industry and infrastructure, IP, innovation and creativity are instrumental for advancing the other SDGs and their specific targets. Therefore, beyond its fundamental mandate to act as a neutral, inclusive, and transparent multilateral forum fostering cooperation among its Member States, WIPO also adopted a multi-stakeholder approach to address pressing global challenges for which IP has a role to play.

SDG 17 is often regarded as an enabler for attaining the other goals, and therefore does not receive as much spotlight as other SDGs. Our experience, however, shows that strong partnerships are essential for several reasons. First, no single stakeholder or entity has all the resources and expertise necessary to address the complex challenges outlined in the SDGs. By using our complementary strengths and pooling resources together, partnerships enable the global community to develop and implement solutions that are more effective and efficient.

Our experience shows that strong partnerships are essential for several reasons.

Additionally, partnerships foster an innovative approach by bringing together diverse perspectives and ideas. Collaborative initiatives promote cross-sectoral learning, knowledge and experience exchange, and lead to the development of novel strategies and practices for achieving successful outcomes.

And finally, partnerships help us to amplify impact by promoting collective action and generating broader support for the SDGs. By engaging a wide range of stakeholders, including grassroots organizations, youth, women, SMEs, Indigenous Peoples and local communities, we work side by side to help build momentum and foster a sense of shared ownership and commitment to the SDGs.

WIPO Director General Daren Tang (center) World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (left) and World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (right) at the WHO, WIPO, WTO Joint Technical Symposium on the COVID-19 Pandemic. (Photo: Violaine Martin / WIPO)

Prominent WIPO initiatives and activities with partners contribute to the SDGs

In global health, the trilateral cooperation among WIPO, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) is focused on coordinating the efforts of all three organizations. This is to support policymakers worldwide and help them in addressing public health issues, particularly as they relate to IP and trade. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, WIPO, WHO and WTO Directors General agreed to enhance the existing cooperation framework. Three workshops have already been organized, reflecting on IP licensing, technology transfer, and sharing of know-how and clinical trial information; accessing and using information resources for the pandemic response; and innovation and access to diagnostics for COVID-19 and beyond.

In the pursuit of advancing global health, WIPO also partnered with the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) of the Ministry of Science and Technology of India, the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi (IIT Delhi) and the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT Bombay) to launch the WIPO Global Health Innovation Fellowship. This program is to provide training to aspiring medical technology creators, enabling them to recognize unaddressed health challenges, invent corresponding technologies, and equip them with the skills to integrate these technologies into patient care. Four fellows from Africa will be sponsored by WIPO to form the first cohort in 2024.

In the area of clean energy and climate action, the WIPO Green online platform brings together key stakeholders to catalyze green technology innovation and diffusion through its database, network, and acceleration projects. Over 150 organizations partnered with WIPO Green so far to build a network committed to fighting climate change and environmental challenges. From IP offices to ministries, SMEs, and Fortune 500 companies, WIPO cooperates with various local stakeholders on developing innovative solutions to address climate change on the ground. For example, the Acceleration Project in Latin America is aimed at fostering sustainable technology solutions related to climate smart agriculture and to further developing connections between technology seekers and providers around the issue of food security. WIPO’s project partners include the national IP Offices and other government entities in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Peru.

Regarding quality education, the WIPO Academy leads our work on inclusive access to IP knowledge and skills. For example, in collaboration with UNESCO, the WIPO Academy is scaling up education opportunities for girls and female scientists in STEM. The ATAL Innovation Labs constitutes a cooperation agreement between WIPO and the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) aiming to work together on aiding WIPO Member States in the creation of innovation labs, incubators, and other activities that will cultivate essential IP skills among youth. The Innovation Hubs – TANIT Project was developed in collaboration with the Tunisian Ministry of Youth and Sports (MOYS), the National Institute for Standardization and Industrial Property (INNORPI), and the Tunisian Organism for the Protection of Copyrights and Related Rights (OTDAV). Within the framework of this project, WIPO already delivered a preliminary training for fifty Tunisian youth at the Mannouba Youth Center.

On gender equality, an IP and Gender Working Group was set up by WIPO in 2023 to promote and support gender initiatives and partnerships focusing on the economic empowerment of women and other underrepresented communities. The International Trade Centre (ITC), WTO’s Gender Research Hub and other organizations are WIPO’S key partners in developing these initiatives.

(Photo: Emmanuel Berrod / WIPO)

Building collaboration comes with challenges

While these and many other successful partnership examples are at the heart of WIPO’s work on SDGs, that does not mean that building collaborations is a challenge-free process. WIPO is very careful about choosing the right partners and examining their accountability and transparency. The recently established Partnerships Review Committee has the role of reviewing the due diligence process undertaken by WIPO’s divisions and units before entering partnership arrangements that involve a financial contribution from the Organization. The goal is to ensure that our prospective partnerships will generate the best results in the safest and most cost-effective manner.

Achieving the SDGs is indeed an all-hands-on-deck affair that demands strong collective action.

Despite potential challenges, the imperative for forging effective partnerships remains essential for WIPO and its commitment to reaching the SDGs. As we already surpassed the halfway mark of the 2030 Agenda implementation timeline, accelerating progress towards the SDGs requires renewed commitment and action on all levels. Achieving the SDGs is indeed an all-hands-on-deck affair that demands strong collective action. By working together across sectors and borders, we can harness the collective power of humanity to build a more equitable, sustainable, and prosperous future for all. The time for action is now, and the success of the SDGs depends on our ability to unite in pursuit of a shared vision of a better world.

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