Opening plenary of the Second Extraordinary Congress, September 2018

Speech by AMB. Bishar A. Hussein, Director General of the UPU, during the opening plenary meeting of the Second Extraordinary Congress, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 3 September 2018

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I welcome you all with great pleasure to this historic Extraordinary UPU Congress being held this week in the historic city of Addis Ababa and hosted by the hospitable people of Ethiopia. The only other Extraordinary Congress for the Union was held in Berne, Switzerland in 1900, 118 years ago.

On behalf of my self, the International Secretariat and the entire membership of the UPU family, I want to convey our deepest gratitude to the government and postal and regulatory authorities of Ethiopia for hosting this historical event and meeting all its attendant costs. In addition, I want to express my appreciation to the warm welcome and hospitality you have accorded to all the delegates in your beautifully country.

The International Bureau Secretariat has worked tireless since Istanbul Congress to provide the member countries all the technical and professional support to the work of the Union bodies and have prepared all the necessary documents for this congress in record time.

I want to pay tribute to the Chairman of CA Mr. Kenan Bozgeyik, the Chairman of POC Mr Masahiko Metoki, the chairs and co-chairs of all committees, ad-hoc groups and task forces together with the member countries, restricted unions and observers who have all contributed immensely to the work before you. Last but not least, I want to thank the DDG, the senior management of the International Bureau and entire IB staff for their hard work and a job well done.

Your Excellencies,

Why are we gathered here this week and what is the outcome we desire?

The 26th UPU Congress held in Istanbul in October 2016 decided that we should hold an Extraordinary Congress in 2018 to address some specific but fundamental topics for which some members requested for more time to build consensus upon. We have all worked hard during the last one and a half years trying to build this consensus. We have conducted many studies and tried hard to accommodate all views from all regions and individual countries. I am optimistic that the proposals before you this week incorporate the views of the majority of the member countries and I hope that we can all find a common ground to conclude them here in Addis Ababa. I wish to underline that the five items on your agenda are crucial to the future continuity and sustainability of this Union.

Proposals on these subjects have been circulated to you online for some time now and will also be presented to you here for discussion and for you to make informed decision.

The Istanbul Congress adopted the following five resolutions:

Resolution C28/2016 - Organization of Extraordinary Congress in 2018

This Resolution directed the holding of an Extraordinary Congress in 2018 to address various issues relating to the current and future world postal strategy as well as any urgent postal sector issues. The resolution has been achieved today through this assembly.

Resolution C27/2016, Management of the work of the Union - Reform of the UPU

The Istanbul Congress decided to establish an ad-hoc group led by China to study and advise on the reform of the Union and submit its conclusion to the CA before further consideration by the Extraordinary Congress in 2018. This was done and the proposal is now submitted for your deliberation and decision at this Congress.

The resolution also instructed a review of the Extraordinary Congress be presented to the 2020 Congress to determine whether the midterm congress will be desirable as a permanent UPU event in future. I am optimistic that the lessons we will learn from this Extraordinary Congress will be fundamental in making this decision. 

Resolution C29/2016. Reform of the system applied to contributions by union member countries

The Congress instructed the CA to prepare for submission for the Extraordinary Congress, an alternative contribution model proposal to guarantee the union’s long-term financial sustainability. The proposal is now on your agenda and will be dealt with comprehensively tomorrow.

Resolution C 31- Future sustainability of the Union’s Provident Scheme.

The Istanbul Congress instructed CA, with the support of the International Bureau to present the result of the study concerning the continued stability and sustainability of the Union’s Provident Scheme to this Extraordinary Congress. This work led by United States has now been concluded after wide consultations and the proposals will be presented on Wednesday. I want to commend USA for their steadfast leadership. Viable options will be discussed to resolve the problems of the scheme. 

Resolution C 15/2016 - Integrated Postal Plan implementation.

The 26th Congress instructed the Postal Operations Council to carry out a comprehensive review on the optional and mandatory supplementary services, with recommendations made to this Congress. This has been a lengthily debated subject, which pitted the interest of the exporting and importing countries of small packets, which were hitherto classified within the letter category. The importing countries want the small packets reclassified as parcel in order to receive commensurate compensation for their delivery. I am hopeful we will be able to resolve the debate at this Congress.

The Resolution also instructs the Congress to address the associated Integrated Remuneration Plan (IRP)

The IPP will help UPU members to develop a fully integrated portfolio of physical products. In turn, the IRP will respond to changes to the UPU product portfolio, and will modernize, rationalize and integrate the UPU remuneration systems.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In a nutshell, the above-mentioned resolutions provide the relevant mandate and scope of activities for this Extraordinary Congress. 

I wish to conclude by reiterating that these important topics I have outlined are crucial to the future sustainability of this Union. The decisions you will make here in Addis will go along way in determining the future direction and sustainability of the Union. I am hopeful your decisions will take us to the next level in developing the Post and the Union.

Ministerial Strategy Conference 

Within the Congress schedule, 6th & 7th September have been reserved for high-level forum where ministers responsible for posts will have an opportunity to express the views on the future strategy direction of this Union and the postal industry. We look forward to informative and lively discussions sessions. The outcome of this Ministerial Strategy Conference will lay the beacons of the road to Côte d’Ivoire UPU Congress in 2020 and beyond. 

Concerns of fragile states  

Even though all proposals are of utmost importance, I wish to declare here my heart and sympathy goes to the developing and less developed countries and small island states, many of which are not here with us today either because they under sanctions or are under crippling debts which they cannot afford to pay. Some could not even afford to travel here because of financial reasons. Consequently these countries lose their privileges and rights to participate fully in the activities of the Union.

I wish to pose some fundamental question to all of you members:

How true are we to the universal principles of UPU being a single postal territory?

For how long do these countries have to face exclusion from the Union’s activities?

For how long should they bear financial burden beyond their means to be member of this Union?

When will they ever re-pay their crippling debts some of which have been outstanding for decades?

What is the remedy to the plight of these states?

I want to extol members of this Union to consider and address the plight of these countries as we review the future contribution model of the Union tomorrow. The current system doesn't address cases of countries that cannot be with us, simply because this is beyond their reach. As a result, they are excluded from the Union’s activities. We should come up with a system of contribution class that addresses such cases for inclusion.

In addition, we need to address the outstanding debts. Some of these debts will not and cannot be recovered. It is high time we considered this issue with a view to resolving it conclusively. Most importantly, we need to look for a sustainable way of bringing back these members in order to complete our global network. We need all of us. 

Can we have a fresh start for these countries?

Apart from the inability to pay, some of these countries cant play any role in our Union affairs. I have in mind small least developed island in particular, and other marginal economies in general.

I am sure you can find ways of correcting this situation. Then and only then can we proclaim and say we have achieved our universal objective of single postal territory envisaged by the founding fathers of this union and the inclusivity agendas of the United Nations. It is my earnest hope that you will consider and support my proposal.

Your Excellencies,

In conclusion, I want to remind myself, and all of us, that the decision of the 26th Congress was quite clear. Decisions have to be taken on all the topics on your agenda and I hope this will be the case.

The decisions you will take this week will have a big effect on the future of our Union. I have seen very positive spirit as we have been preparing for this Congress. Let us be guided by the same spirit and take the right decisions that will take this Union to the next level.

Thank you for your attention.