Royal Activities
Tuesday 18 June 2013

Royal Message To The Diplomatic Conference For Facilitating Access To Published Works By Visually Impaired Persons

Royal Message To The Diplomatic Conference For Facilitating Access To Published Works By Visually Impaired Persons

 Full text of the message addressed by HM King Mohammed VI to the Diplomatic Conference to Conclude a Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works by Visually Impaired Persons and Persons with Print Disabilities that opened on Tuesday in Marrakech.

“ Praise be to God

May peace and blessings be upon the Prophet, 

His Kith and Kin

Your Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are particularly pleased to host this Diplomatic Conference of the World Intellectual Property Organization in Morocco, and wish to extend a warm welcome to all our guests, the representatives of this prestigious Organization’s Member States, WIPO officials as well as the representatives of regional and international organizations, civil society and the private sector.

We are also most gratified that you decided to hold this WIPO Diplomatic Conference in an Arab and African state of the South for the first time, and more specifically in the city of Marrakesh, the venue for a large number of major international events. This is an important conference with a lofty objective, namely the adoption of an international treaty on limitations and exceptions for access to copyrighted works by visually impaired persons and people with print disabilities.

I should like to take this opportunity to commend Mr. Francis Gurry, WIPO Director General, for his praiseworthy initiatives to improve international copyright measures and promote balanced, efficient action. I also wish to express special thanks to all those who have contributed to ensuring that justice is done to the large number of visually impaired people across the world, and to all governments and stakeholders - of both the North and the South - who are meeting today in Marrakesh with a view to achieving this noble objective.

Your Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

More than 300 million people worldwide are visually impaired. According to the World Health Organization’s statistics, 45 million of them are blind, a figure which is expected to double by the year 2020.

Your conference is therefore of crucial importance. Indeed, now is the time to adopt the Marrakesh Treaty, and we look forward to the endorsement of the first international document in the history of the World Intellectual Property Organization that provides for exclusive exceptions and limitations to copyright as an exceptional measure in copyright doctrine.

Allow me in this respect to stress the magnitude of the legitimate hopes pinned on this conference from a human rights perspective. Indeed, without such a treaty, the visually impaired, the blind and people with other disabilities who cannot fully exercise their right of access to copyrighted works in various areas would remain deprived of the right to equal opportunity. To preserve their dignity, we must enable them to overcome their disability and achieve personal fulfillment.

There is no doubt that the adoption of the desired international treaty will be a proud moment in the history of the World Intellectual Property Organization. This is not just because it will be a creditable piece of legislation, but also because it will reflect the humanitarian depth of our collective commitment to upholding the values of mutual assistance and solidarity.

I wish to commend the ethical and human rights dimension underpinning this historic initiative whose lofty ideals are based on the principles of non-discrimination, equal opportunity and integration. Its aim is to ensure the full and effective participation of persons with disabilities, not just in community life, but also as key players in their countries’ economic development efforts.

The statistics and reports produced by international organizations confirm that there is a close link between visual impairment and poor social and economic conditions. This is clearly substantiated by the fact that 90% of the blind are from developing countries, mostly in Africa.

I believe we should do our utmost to help the visually impaired and the blind remove barriers to their involvement in sustainable development projects and make sure they enjoy the same rights as the rest of the community when it comes to access to science, knowledge and information.

The limitations and exceptions treaty will not only give tangible substance to the principle of international solidarity, but it will also be an effective mechanism for the promotion of North-South and South-South cooperation.

The treaty should enable the blind and the visually impaired not only to enjoy the same rights as their fellow citizens but also to make substantial contributions to their countries’ economic development as they overcome their disability and ensure self-fulfillment. 

The consensual agreement to which we look forward in Marrakesh will allow us to make up for what was missing in the 2000 Millennium Development Goals concerning persons with disabilities, and which was later remedied by the 2010 Ministerial Declaration. The above considerations point to the importance of such a treaty, not simply as a WIPO instrument but also as a step towards including the rights of the blind and the visually impaired in the Millennium Development Goals’ post-2015 agenda.

Your Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

By hosting this conference, Morocco is confirming its active involvement in global efforts and initiatives to achieve the lofty objectives of the proposed treaty. By the same token, it is expressing its full support for WIPO’s efforts to harmonize member countries’ national legislation and promote compatibility with a view to adopting a treaty on limitations and exceptions regarding copyrighted works for blind and visually impaired persons.

For a long time now, my country has been particularly attentive to the situation of persons with disabilities, especially the blind and the visually impaired. Morocco has thus sought to implement a nationwide reform project for the full integration of blind people into community life.

Several measures were taken at an early stage for the benefit of this segment of the population, and in 1980 a social welfare law for the blind and the visually impaired was passed. It provides, among other things, for special education and training programs for this category of the population to facilitate their social, professional and cultural integration.

I should like, in this connection, to commend the dynamism displayed by Moroccan civil society organizations and their keen sense of commitment to bringing about the right conditions for the social integration of this category of the population, supervising their education and attending to their needs. Special thanks are due to the Alawite Organization for the Protection of the Blind for its lofty, committed action in this regard.

At the international level, Morocco was among the first countries to adhere, without reservation, in 2007, to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol.

In keeping with its international obligations in this regard, and considering the special importance I have always attached to this segment of the Moroccan people, a national strategy has been developed to strengthen the legal framework in this area. The draft law on the promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities, which will soon be presented to Parliament, is part of this endeavor. Another law, which will shore up the aforementioned draft legislation, will be tabled to further promote the social participation of persons with disabilities.

Morocco prides itself on being one of the few countries which have enshrined the rights of persons with disabilities in their constitution. Indeed, the Kingdom’s new Constitution provides for the right of persons with special needs to exercise all of their fundamental rights. According to the Constitution, public authorities are required to rehabilitate and integrate into social and civil life people with physical, mental or sensorimotor disabilities, and facilitate the exercise of the rights and freedoms all citizens are entitled to.

Your Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The international community in general, and the Member States of the World Intellectual Property Organization in particular, have the moral obligation to remove all obstacles which prevent blind people and visually impaired persons from having access to culture, science, modern technology as well as media and communication outlets.

In today’s globalized world, your diplomatic conference can help give globalization a human face through the adoption of the international treaty you will be discussing in Marrakesh. Such a treaty will enable the blind and the visually impaired to access, research and take advantage of written copyrighted material across the world.

Through the limitations and exceptions it stipulates, the treaty will also enable these people to help expand the scope of human knowledge.

I would like, once again, to welcome all participants in this important conference to Morocco, your home away from home. I wish you every success in your negotiations as well as a most pleasant stay in Marrakesh, the symbol of openness and intercultural dialogue.”