Remarks by UPU Director General, Bishar A. Hussein, at the Executive Council session of the Postal Union of the Americas, Spain and Portugal (PUASP), Montevideo, Uruguay
It is a great pleasure for me to be here today to interact with my friends from this important region of our Union. I am also very glad to be able to fulfil the commitment I made to attend all of your Council meetings in person during this cycle. This is my fourth trip to this region in the past two years. I plan to return for the strategy round table in June with the Deputy Director General, and also hope to attend your 2016 session.
I thank my dear friend, Roberto Cavanna, for inviting me and for giving me the opportunity to meet with you all. It is only through such interactions that we at the UPU International Bureau (IB) can understand challenges you face and develop meaningful programmes to support your needs. This kind of meeting also gives me the opportunity to meet with you individually or collectively to discuss various country-specific or regional issues.
Excellencies, I have been fully briefed on the agenda and content of this Council session. I can only congratulate you on the relevance and timeliness of the topics under discussion. Your approach is in step with what is going on in other regions and with the UPU's current global postal strategy. I am sure you can look forward to successful discussions and positive outcomes.
PUASP POSTAL TRAINING CENTRE
In my previous discussions with you, here in this room exactly one year ago, you emphasized that human resource capability and competence was your big concern. In response to your request, I immediately instructed the IB's Development Cooperation Directorate to give priority to this need. I am pleased to report that, with the support and cooperation of the PUASP Secretariat, we were able to open the regional postal training school, in this very building, in June 2014, in a record time of three months.
I am told that we have now trained more than 100 staff, who have, in turn, trained 750 colleagues in their respective countries around the region, using the knowledge and experienced gained in this centre. I am also aware that we have a number of courses lined up for this year. I want to thank Mr Cavanna and his team for a job well done. I will encourage all governments and postal organizations in the region to support the centre and make good use of it.
The success story of this centre is serving as a very good benchmark for similar training centres opened or planned in other regions. We opened the Caribbean Postal Training Centre in Barbados in September 2014. We are now in the process of opening similar training schools in Tunisia and Russia for the Arab and Eastern European restricted postal unions, respectively. We are also considering opening a training centre in Kenya for the English-speaking African countries later this year.
I hasten to add that setting up a training centre is only a first step. The real challenge is how to sustain it. Our resources at the IB are limited. However, I am optimistic that, with our collective political will, we will find the necessary resources to support the training centres. In this regard, I want to thank France and Spain, which have always provided financial support to UPU activities for the region. We are counting on their continued support.
Dear Colleagues, e-commerce has become the new engine for developing the postal sector. I am happy to report that UPU's work in this area has progressed very rapidly over the past year thanks to cooperation and team work between the IB, the Postal Operations Council (POC) chairman and the UPU member countries.
We have now developed the framework for an efficient global e-commerce delivery solution, which integrates all our external partners: airlines, Customs and border security agencies. The April POC will take some major decisions which we hope will be supported by the Council of Administration in October.
The IB will shortly be producing a short e-commerce "recipe book" for designated operators, showing what works and why it works, and how to implement e-commerce. I hope you will be able to make use of the information once it becomes available.
CREATION OF POSTAL FINANCIAL SERVICES AND CLEARING GROUPS
You will all recall that the creation of the postal financial services and clearing groups was deferred during the last POC session. I am happy to report that the IB has been working very hard on this issue since then and liaising with all the stakeholders, and has now come up with a very attractive proposal which we hope will be embraced by all the POC members at the forthcoming session. I want to assure you that the IB has been building consensus on the proposals that will be tabled during the POC session in April. I want to thank the countries of this region for their input.
Let me just add that financial services are an important aspect of our postal services that need to be developed urgently. We believe that the creation of these user groups will provide the necessary resources to develop the service.
Terminal dues has been an important yet very sensitive topic within the UPU for many years. Over time, the compensation system has grown very complex, and frankly outdated in comparison with the needs of the customers and markets we serve. Our customers really do not understand the different tariff structures we apply to the different products offered by our Posts. We need to simplify this system. The Co-Chairmen of POC Committee 3 have been carrying out comprehensive analysis of ways to reform our terminal dues system over the past two years. Mr Terry Dunn and Mr Marc Paingt will lead discussions on this important topic. I believe we all need to support their initiatives. Your thoughts and positive input will be needed as we prepare to submit this work to Congress.
As you all know, contributions from member countries are the main source of funding for implementing UPU activities. The annual budget ceiling of 37 million CHF has been subjected to zero nominal growth over the past three cycles. Indeed, the budget has shrunk, despite the increasing workload of the IB as secretariat.
During the last Congress, some of our member countries reduced their annual contributions to the regular budget by a total of 13 units – equivalent to nearly 600,000 CHF annually. This means a shortfall of 2.4 million during the cycle.
Against this backdrop, the CA and POC have been increasing their activities and workload over the last two years by doubling their decision-making sessions. Suffice it to say that over the last two years, the sessions and forums organized by the IB exceeded what was done during the whole previous four-year cycle.
These additional sessions did not happen by chance. A lot of planning, consultation and sometimes very hard decisions were required on the part of IB Management, and this has had an impact on our staff. Management has carried out two major restructuring exercises in the last two years (June 2013 and January 2015).
In realigning functions and building synergies, the General Management was forced to freeze some positions and abolish others. This was intended to enhance IB efficiency and save costs. Management will provide a full report to the CA in October 2015.
The changes made in the IB did not come without some staff challenges. Management is now dealing with the human dimension in the most appropriate and professional way possible.
The message I want to give here is a financial one. We need more resources for the IB to deliver its mandate efficiently to member states. It is time for the Union to examine its funding mechanism in order to ensure its long-term sustainability.
Following the recent CA decision to disclose the internal audit reports, IB Management has now established a unit within the executive office that deals with all governance issues. This unit will monitor the implementation and reporting of all internal, external and Joint Inspection Unit audit recommendations.
In addition, the unit will be responsible for procurement, ethics and financial disclosure functions. The unit will also develop what we have dubbed the IB "control tower". This is basically a dashboard that tracks all important UPU activities and provides a high-level summary for top management. A link to this dashboard, once active, will be accessible to all member countries. This will not only provide information to UPU members, but will ensure and enhance IB transparency.
HUMAN RESOURCE ISSUES
The IB is the engine that drives the work of the Union. I am very proud of the professional staff at the IB who provide expert support to the UPU bodies and member countries.
The General Management regularly monitors and adjusts the structure of the Bureau in order to best serve the member countries. In the process, we also pay special attention to the staff composition to ensure that the organization is truly international and representative. For example, in addition to professional competence, we take into account geographical and gender balance.
In January 2015, the General Management once again carried out some structural adjustments, realigning some functions and reorganizing teams – always with a view to enhancing IB efficiency and making the best use of the financial resources at its disposal. The new structure, which was released yesterday, is available on the UPU website.
REFORM OF THE UNION
During the last two years, our UPU Councils have been asking for faster decision making in all our bodies (Congress, CA, POC, IB). The rules and regulations governing the Union, which were established way back in the 1960s and 1970s, are holding us back. These rules are not in tune with the needs of modern organizations and the changing expectations of our customers.
While we have some CA bodies dealing with issues relating to the reform of the Union, I have commissioned my management team to examine our rules and regulations with the aim of bringing proposals for amendments to the CA later this year. I will request your input on some of the things you would like changed in our Convention, Acts and Regulations. I believe that we have a short window of opportunity before the 2015 CA to come up with proposals which can then be submitted to Congress in 2016. I look forward to your input.
UPU STRATEGY CONFERENCE
Preparations for the UPU Strategy Conference, scheduled for 13 - 14 April, are now nearly complete. We have the programme and the confirmation from all the invited speakers and panellists. You are all invited. The outcome of the conference will be submitted to the regional round table meetings scheduled for all the UPU restricted unions later in the year. PUASP will have its round table meeting in June 2015 in the Dominican Republic. I look forward to your participation.