Inaugural Marrakesh Treaty Assembly

October 10, 2016

The inaugural session of the Marrakesh Assembly was held at WIPO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland on October 5, 2016. The contracting member states of the Marrakesh Treaty met for the first time and celebrated the entry into force of the Treaty.

One of WIPO’s “great successes”

The Director General of WIPO, Mr Francis Gurry, stated that the Marrakesh Treaty is not just one of the successes of recent history of WIPO, but one of the great successes of the organization in its more than 130-year history. The mood in the conference hall was very positive and upbeat. A new WIPO video was shown during the proceedings about the making of Marrakesh: watch on YouTube.

WIPO Director General's welcoming address at the Marrakesh Assembly: watch on YouTube.

WIPO Director General welcomes the Chair of the Marrakesh Assembly, Brazilian Minister of Culture, Mr. Marcelo Calero (Photo: WIPO)

Earlier in the week, during his welcoming address to the WIPO General Assembly, the Director General praised the “significant progress” of the Accessible Books Consortium (ABC).

Marrakesh Assembly highlights

The Australian delegation acknowledged this very special occasion would allow people with print disabilities to have a “greatly enhanced capacity to access books and other material in formats suitable to their needs”. The delegation also emphasized its commitment to funding WIPO’s practical initiatives for making accessible books globally available. The Government of Australia has been a key supporter of the capacity building activities of the ABC.

The Republic of Korea, another generous contributor to ABC initiatives, commented that it would continue to support ABC activities; it urged other governments to do the same so that visually impaired people can read books and other published materials independently for their own educational and artistic development.

The Canadian delegation highlighted that a first transfer of accessible format works took place from the Canadian National Institute for the Blind to Vision Australia on September 30, the day the Marrakesh Treaty came into force. This milestone occurred through the ABC Book Service, and was lauded by the Canadian delegation for its timeliness.

Voices from the floor

The CRPD is quite clear that the Marrakesh Treaty will contribute to the full inclusion of people who are visually impaired or otherwise print disabled. We know that this will facilitate access to education, information, culture, and also to recreation.

Maria Soledad Cisternas, Chair, Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)

Without books to share, the dream of equal access will remain an unfulfilled dream. The Marrakesh Treaty is much more than a treaty about books. It is an historic human rights instrument. Access to published works means the potential for blind and partially sighted children and adults to live integrated, productive lives.

Frederick Schroeder, President, World Blind Union (WBU)

We are firmly committed to pursuing the promise of the Marrakesh Treaty until it is reality for all blind people.

Mark Riccobono, President, U.S. National Federation of the Blind (NFB)

When I was in college, I wanted to become a major in Spanish to get my degree in the Spanish language [...] I could not, and the reason I could not is I was unable to gain access to works in Spanish that I needed to complete my degree […] but my story is not unique. These are the barriers that blind people and other people with print disabilities face.

Scott Labarre, WBU Representative to the ABC Board; President, U.S. National Association of Blind Lawyers

There are 150 million children with disabilities in the world. […] while blind and visually impaired children will benefit directly from the Marrakesh Treaty, the environment of accessibility that will be created will also have significant positive effects for all children with disabilities...

Gopal Mitra, Programme Specialist – Children with Disabilities, Disability Section, UNICEF

This vision, this conviction that what we have achieved is not a solution that is vague or temporary, but clear and definitive, is what gives us this great satisfaction that we would like to share with you today.

Francisco Javier Martínez Calvo, Technical Advisor, National Organization of Spanish Blind Persons (ONCE)

The Marrakesh Treaty proves that positive change can be made even in giant global institutions and against great odds.

David Hammerstein, World Blind Union (WBU)