Centre for Internet & Society

As CIS’ observer in Geneva, I will be profiling NGOs and other prominent actors at the WIPO. In the first in a series of blogs, I profile the work of Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) at the various International Organisations in Geneva.

Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) is an NGO that searches for better outcomes, including new solutions, to the management of knowledge resources. KEI is focused on social justice, particularly for the most vulnerable populations, including low-income persons and marginalized groups.[1]

KEI has a strong presence in Geneva and their works revolves around the International Organisations that are located here. Their Geneva office is run by Thiru Balasubramaniam, who previously worked with the WHO.

International Organisations in Geneva

KEI is active in the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva. At the WHO KEI is represented at the World Health Assembly and the WHO Executive Board. KEI was alsoan active participant at the Intergovernmental Committee on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property (IGWG), which existed from 2006-08.

At the WTO, KEI is engaged in work around TRIPS council meetings- this includes technical assistance to Members and research and analysis of the outcomes of these meetings (the TRIPS Council unlike the WIPO is not open to Observers). KEI along with other NGO’s are also looking towards a possible Treaty on the Supply of Global Public Goods.

Work around WIPO

KEI is active at the following WIPO Committees: the General Assembly, the Standing Committee on the Law of Patents (SCP), the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR), the Committee on Development and Intellectual Property (CDIP). Their work in these areas is outlined below:

KEI has been actively involved in the Development Agenda at the WIPO from the beginning. They have actively participated in shaping discussions related to the transfer of technology and access to knowledge (A2K). Jamie Love, the Director of KEI was commissioned by the WIPO to author a paper on Alternatives to the Patent System. KEI had also mooted the idea for a Global Conference on Open Collaborative Research in 2003. The idea had widespread support from the scientific community, which saw fruition with the organization of the conference in January, 2014.

KEI was instrumental in the conception and passage of the Treaty for the Visually Impaired (TVI) at the WIPO. They are currently engaged in work surrounding the Broadcast Treaty and Limitations & Exceptions for Libraries and Archives. KEI’s stance[3] on the former is that the proponents of the Treaty have not made a strong enough case in favour of the Treaty and that it could potentially impede access to knowledge and create barriers to the enjoyment of the internet. On the latter, they believe that the Berne appendix must be revisited to recraft it to strengthen the education exception and that the Tunis Model Law on Copyright for Developing Countries (1976) should also be used as a way for developing countries to serve their education and libraries needs.


KEI’s publications and Research Notes can be accessed here. In addition, they run two Listserves on IP-Health and A2K which can be accessed here.

I would like to thank Thiru Balasubramaniam, KEI’s representative in Geneva for agreeing to do the interview which was the primary source of this blog.

[1]. See http://www.keionline.org/about

[2]. The proposal can be accessed here: http://keionline.org/sites/default/files/kei_wto_agreement_on_public_goods.pdf

[3].Interview with Thiru Balasubramaniam on file with the author.

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