Opening Plenary, 26th Universal Postal Congress

Speech by UPU Secretary General Bishar A. Hussein, Istanbul, Turkey, September 21 2016

Dear participants,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I have great pleasure in welcoming you to the opening of the first plenary session of the 26th UPU Congress.

I wish to reiterate my thanks to the Government and postal authorities of Turkey for their excellent prep­aration of this Congress and the warm hospitality accorded to all participants. Yesterday, we witnessed a very impressive opening ceremony led by the Prime Minister, at which we also received a warm message from His Excellency President Tayib Erdogan.

I wish to thank the Turkish Government, not only for agreeing to host this Congress, but also for agreeing to meet all the costs relating to its preparation and hosting – the first time a host country has done so. Let us give them a big round of applause.

I would also like to thank the member countries and all participants for coming here to make this event a success. We look forward to fruitful discussions and good decisions from you that will help build our industry.

As I announced yesterday, this will be a "smart paper" Congress. Arrangements have been put in place for members to access all documents online. The International Bureau (IB) technical team will ensure that doc­uments are updated promptly. I call upon you to support this initiative as a means of cutting hosting costs and improving efficiency.

You can also access the Congress proceedings online as the deliberations are being streamed live. Please inform your colleagues back home to access the feed and follow the proceedings remotely.

Some of the key topics that will need your attention and support include the proposed Istanbul World Postal Strategy, which outlines three goals for guiding the future work of the UPU. These are: to improve the interoperability of network infrastructure; ensure sustainable and modern products; and foster market and sector functioning. The proposed strategy supports the UPU Vision 2020, developed in collaboration with the member countries and anchored on the three pillars of innovation, integration and inclusion.

During the next three weeks, you will be dealing with some important proposals, mainly on the postal busi­ness and particularly aimed at improving the postal supply chain and operations. You will also discuss our traditional clearing and remuneration systems, as well as the future of the Quality of Service Fund, and examine proposals aimed at redefining the various postal products, such as packets and parcels.

Another proposal that I expect will draw substantial interest is the one on reform of the Union. This subject generated considerable debate when it was discussed by the Council of Administration (CA) earlier this year. I hope this time round that all members will support the CA proposal, aimed at transforming the Union to create more efficiency and fair geographical representation in the decision-making process, and reducing operating costs.

Your Excellencies,

As you no doubt recall, the reform of the Union has been on the UPU Congress agenda for the last five cycles. I hope we will be able to nail this elusive subject this time round and not be asked to carry out yet another round of studies. We have done study upon study; in fact, our archives are full of studies. It is time to make a decision. We should muster the courage to move this organization forward. The market cannot wait for us much longer. 

Your Excellencies,

Four years ago, almost to the day, you elected me and Pascal Clivaz to lead the IB in fulfilling our pledge to deliver the Doha Congress mandates, to enhance the IB's efficiency, and to develop a transformative vision, strategy and business plan for the Union. With the support of the great team at the IB and the member countries, we have been able to deliver on those pledges.

Your Excellencies,

I am happy to report that our scorecard for the implementation of the Doha Congress resolutions stands at 98%.

We have modernized the IB rules and regulations, harnessing the talent and capacity of the IB team and converting it into a formidable outfit that delivers as one. We have also made significant progress towards achieving regional and gender balance at the IB, in line with the expectations of UPU member countries. 

We have put in place measures that will ensure continuous improvement in the delivery of all our projects and assignments.

We have developed a comprehensive vision, strategy and business plan providing for a proposed lean, effi­cient and cost-effective single Council structure, which has now been submitted for your decision at this Congress.

We have improved the Union's governance procedures and policies during the cycle, and introduced greater transparency and accountability in its affairs.

While I would like to pay tribute to the excellent performance of the IB staff, I know that most of the time they deliver under very difficult circumstances. This is because the Union's current structure is bloated with a lot of duplication of work. There are far too many meetings for our lean staff to cope with. The meetings are also expensive, especially in the production of documents. During the cycle, we hosted close to 600 meetings in Berne alone. Our staff also attended hundreds of other meetings organized outside our headquarters. These are heavy expenses that need to be addressed.

In our view, only comprehensive reform will redeem this Union from becoming irrelevant to its members. This is one proposal that we hope you will support.

As we come to the close of the Doha cycle, I would like to thank all of you for the tremendous support that you have given us at the IB. We are confident that we can always count on you.

In this regard, please join me in expressing my gratitude to Qatar, and in particular to Mr Abdulrahman Al Aqaily and Mr Mohamed Faleh Al Naemi, for leading the UPU Council of Administration during the past four years. Their dedication, support and leadership have been remarkable.

I would also like to express my appreciation to Japan and Mr Masahiko Metoki in particular for successfully leading the work of the UPU Postal Operations Council, which did a great job, posting over 230 deliverables during the cycle.

We are grateful to the Consultative Committee for its leadership, as well as the various other Union bodies which assisted in the delivery of work throughout the cycle.

Your Excellencies,

During the cycle, we have raised the visibility of the Union by organizing various forums bringing together key industry players to discuss the trends and direction of the Post. At the same time, we have entered into collaborative frameworks with various international and intergovernmental bodies to build synergies that will help facilitate development and better the lives of all the citizens of the world.

Our focus is to closely engage with various industry stakeholders and provide platforms for sharing ideas and best practices. In this regard, we have continued to hold our annual forum on regulation at UPU head­quarters. This year, we also held our first ever forum for postal CEOs, which was well attended. I wish to thank all those who participated in and supported the event. We plan this to be an annual event to be hosted in different parts of the world. At this Congress, we have planned a ministerial conference whose subject of discussion has been informed by the other earlier forums. In the near future, we intend to hold a major forum bringing together ministers responsible for Posts, CEOs of regulatory organizations, and CEOs of designated operators to stage a high-level tripartite debate and discussions on how they see the development of the postal sector to 2020 and beyond. We will inform you once we have crystalized the idea. The intention is to keep all our stakeholders engaged and informed about the industry and the future of this great Union.

In closing, I would like to thank all of you for your continued trust and confidence and the tremendous sup­port accorded to me and my Deputy in managing the affairs of the IB. I also want to thank you for the support you continue to give the international secretariat in carrying out its mandates to serve you effectively.

Thank you for your attention, and I look forward to your productive deliberations during the plenaries at this Congress.