Opening address by Bishar A. Hussein, director general, Universal Postal Union
Postal financial services conference, Paris, France - 28 February 2013

It is an honour and privilege to address you at the opening of this important event organized jointly by La Poste Group and the Universal Postal Union (UPU). I am delighted to welcome you on behalf of the UPU.

First, I should like to thank La Poste Group and La Banque Postale for organizing and hosting this conference on the key issue of postal financial services.

France and La Poste Group play a key role at the UPU, and not only in the development of postal financial services. France holds important responsibilities within the UPU bodies, and provides invaluable support in the implementation of numerous UPU projects and actions. I would like to take this opportunity to thank France and the French Post for everything they do for the worldwide postal community in general and for the UPU in particular.

It is a great pleasure for me to open this conference as the new director general of the UPU. And what better place than France for me to pay tribute to my predecessor, Edouard Dayan.

I should also like to extend a warm welcome to the directors general of all the Posts that participate in the UPU's IFS network, and to our international partners. This dialogue between all stakeholders interested in the development of postal financial services should be pursued in a spirit of openness and partnership.

As you know, the relationship between the UPU, Posts and financial services goes back a long way. Since 1878, international postal payments have been governed by the Postal Payment Services Agreement, a unique and pioneering UPU international agreement enabling postal payment services to be provided from a multilateral perspective, but within a single postal territory.

This agreement has naturally evolved over the years, in line with technological innovations and the global environment. The UPU, however, not only provides an appropriate regulatory framework, but also a tool in the shape of the International Financial Service (IFS) network, developed by the UPU's Postal Technology Centre, which comprehensively integrates all the various technological, legal, operational and financial requirements. Some 60 UPU member countries have adopted IFS to date, many of which I am pleased to see here today. You are all critical to the development of the IFS network, of which the French Post has been, and will continue to be, a key component.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The development of postal payment services and postal financial services via the UPU's worldwide network is a top priority for the Union. Indeed, postal financial services are one of the three pillars of the Doha Postal Strategy, adopted by the 25th Universal Postal Congress.

It is now widely recognized that migrant fund transfers are a factor in development and poverty reduction. In 2012, these transfers totalled some 400 billion USD, exceeding the combined total for official development assistance and foreign direct investment.

The proximity networks offered by post offices constitute an unrivalled structure for access to fund transfers, particularly where no alternative exists, and can significantly reduce the cost of money transfers, in line with international targets. I refer here to the "5x5" initiative adopted by the G8 in 2009, aimed at reducing the cost of sending remittances by 5 percentage points in 5 years.

According to UPU studies, in addition to money transfers, postal networks may also provide a solution for the 2.7 billion people worldwide without access to basic financial services, such as insurance, microcredit, payment and savings services.

As shown in a recently published UPU study, around 75% of the world's postal operators now provide financial services in one form or another, and some 1.5 billion people have access to financial services via the postal network. As you know, in the current environment, Posts need to diversify their activities if they are to find new opportunities for growth. It has become more important than ever that the postal network be used as a means of providing the unbanked with access to financial services. It is with this in mind that the Doha Congress adopted a roadmap providing for:

–     the further development of the UPU money transfer network;

–     the continuation of dialogue with financial stakeholders, particularly central banks and regulators;

–     the provision of assistance to member countries wishing to develop postal financial services through an inclusive approach; and

–     the development of projects with international partners, to whom we must be able to demonstrate our ability to make an important contribution in the area of financial inclusion.

To fulfil this ambitious mandate, we will need all our partners on board: governments, postal operators and development stakeholders alike. I am convinced that this conference will be an important milestone, which will allow us to pursue the twin objective of development and financial inclusion.

I thank you for your attention and wish you all very fruitful discussions.