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India's Closing Statement at Marrakesh on the Treaty for the Blind

Posted by Pranesh Prakash at Jun 28, 2013 04:35 PM |
This was the statement that the Government of India made at the closing of the WIPO Diplomatic Conference to Conclude a Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works by Visually Impaired Persons and Persons with Print Disabilities (17-28 June 2013), after the Marrakesh Treaty (the "Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for the Blind, Visually Impaired and otherwise Print Disabled") was adopted.

Mr. President,

Flexibility is the life force in conducting any work and without this no progress happens in the work. It is the presence of flexibility which gave life to the negotiation work undertaken by the member states during this Diplomatic Conference. We salute this flexibility which brought smiles on the faces of millions of blind and visually impaired persons.

Today the member states attending the WIPO Diplomatic Conference have created history by adopting the Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for the Blind, Visually Impaired and otherwise Print Disabled. The treaty promotes sharing of books in any accessible format for the blind or visually impaired, and is expected to alleviate the “book famine” experienced by many of the WHO-estimated 300 million people suffering from such disability in the world. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), India has more than 63 million visually impaired people, of whom about 8 million are blind.

Considering the importance of access to knowledge, especially to blind persons, the Indian Parliament approved amendments to India’s copyright law which includes very robust exceptions for the physically-disabled persons, which are disability-neutral and works-neutral. We are happy that member states have the flexibility to continue with their national laws after joining this treaty. This treaty removes barriers to access, recognises the right to read, establishes equal opportunities and rights for blind, visually impaired and otherwise print disabled persons who are marginalised due to lack of access to published works. We are happy to note that this treaty strikes an appropriate balance between copyright and exceptions and limitations to it.

The Indian delegation would like to thank you for your able leadership and guidance in directing all the member states to achieve the objectives of this Diplomatic Conference. We would like to congratulate and appreciate Mr. Francis Gurry, Director General of WIPO, for his able leadership and initiatives taken by him for the successful completion of this Diplomatic Conference. We also congratulate Amb. Trevor Clarke, Assistant Director General, the chairpersons of the Main Committees, Drafting Committees, Credentials Committee and the informal groups for their significant contributions. We also would like to congratulate all the member states, WBU members and millions of visually impaired persons all over the world in this regard. We would like to remember the significant and valuable contribution of the late Mr. Rahul Cherian of Inclusive Planet, an accredited NGO of WIPO, who passed away recently.

The Indian delegation believes that member states will take special interest in ratifying this treaty which is the first step towards implementation of this treaty. Further, we believe that contracts should not create problems for cross-border exchange of accessible format copies and we hope that member states will take appropriate and effective measures in implementing the objectives of this treaty. We also understand that the provisions of this treaty will facilitate translation of content in the accessible format copies in the language beneficiary persons speak and read. We also believe that this treaty will strengthen the international copyright system.

Marrakesh which has given WTO/TRIPS agreement in 1994, has indeed proved lucky again for us by giving an important multilateral treaty for blind people. The Marrakesh spirit has set an unprecedented example in solving the problems in the international norm setting and it reinforces our confidence in the WIPO's significant role in managing and implementing the international copyright system. We would like to thank all the individuals who have contributed to this treaty and made it happen by showing flexibility in negotiation, and the WIPO secretariat for their secretarial work. The Indian delegation would like to thank the Government of the Kingdom of Morocco for the excellent arrangements made for organising this conference and the hospitality shown to us.

We are happy to celebrate and see that the treaty has finally took the form of a beautiful butterfly which is liked by one and all.

Thank you.