Home Institution

University of Virginia

Publication Date

Summer 2013

Program Name

Switzerland: International Studies and Multilateral Diplomacy


The world has come to a stage where technology is the crux of development and growth. Vast technological advances allow for opportunities to produce at rates more efficient than even the most prodigal of scientists could have imagined. As the world simultaneously experiences development and growth, there is an unfortunate environmental tradeoff. The same industries that lead to economic advancement are causing extreme environmental degradation and least developed countries are the ones to bear the burden.

LDCs are dependent upon natural capital as their economic survival base. If the world continues to develop without considering the detrimental impacts on LDCs, business as usual will lead to extreme environmental repercussions. The planet has reached a bio-physical tipping point; environmental degradation threatens to undermine the collective well-being of all citizens.[1] New pathways for creating prosperity within a resource-constrained world are required, and developed nations have the capacity to create technology to increase sustainable development. Conversely, LDCs lack the capacity and skills to innovate and use such technology in a rural environment. The solution to this technology gap and the problem of sustainable growth seems simple. If the North possesses what the South lacks, then technology transfer is the answer.

Yet, these TTs do not occur at a rate necessary to maintain sustainable development. In a world where the occurrence of natural disasters can affect the well-being of citizens on the opposite side of the globe, it becomes a moral obligation of developed nations to aid LDCs. The argument posed by many developed countries is that it is not in their interest to give aid to nations that will not use it effectively. If LDCs cannot use the transferred commodity to the liking of the developed country, then it is their responsibility to instill capacity building programs to increase the skills and knowledge of LDC inhabitants in order to effectively use technologies that will save the environment.

Of the 48 LDCs, 34 have chosen membership in the WTO.[2] This shows progress towards global interdependence. Countries can no longer act as separate entities. Every action taken by one nation affects citizens of another. As countries are beginning to realize they have a responsibility to aid LDCs with TTs for sustainable development, there emerges another obstacle—intellectual property. Intellectual property rights (IPRs) give creators exclusive rights over the innovation for a distinct period of time.[3] As of January 1, 1995, the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) came into effect. The agreement provides minimum standards for IPRs and applies to all members of the WTO.

The TRIPS Agreement was created to protect the IP of countries and to eventually establish effective competition and production. However, there are a few downfalls in regards to LDCs. Again, developed nations do not have an interest in transferring technology where it is likely to fail, and due to new IP laws in the TRIPS agreement, LDCs are not able to imitate developed country technology without access to it. The TRIPS Agreement could lead to higher protectionism among developed nations, whereas market liberalization toward LDCs would help catalyze growth for sustainable living. TRIPS negotiators do recognize the issues with IPRs and LDCs and integrate an extended transition phase for LDCs to adapt to the TRIPS policies.

This paper analyzes sustainable development and the challenges respecting IPRs within technology transfers. Case studies of Ethiopia (applying for membership to WTO-TRIPS) and Uganda (a current member) demonstrate the multifaceted nature of the TRIPS Agreement and the tailored aspects of technology transfers to different LDCs.

[1] Gainza-Carmenates, Ronal, and Simon Lobach. "Presentation_IEH_GEN_2013_RONAL_SIMON.pptx." Green Economy. United Nations Environment Programme, n.d. Web. 1 July 2013. .

[2] "WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION." WTO. World Trade Organization, n.d. Web. 12 July 2013. .

[3] "WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION." WTO. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 July 2013. .


Growth and Development | Place and Environment | Politics and Social Change