Postal Union of the Americas, Spain and Portugal High-Level Postal Conference

Speech by UPU Director General Bishar A. Hussein, San José, Costa Rica, 8 June 2016


Dear delegates and participants,

I wish to take this opportunity to thank the organizers of this High Level Conference; PUASP secretariat and the Government of Costa Rica, for inviting the Deputy Director General and I to this forum. I am most grateful for the facilitation and good reception accorded to the UPU delegation in San José.

It’s now exactly a year since we met at our last meeting in Dominican Republic, where we discussed the next World Postal Strategy as well as cooperation priorities for the region for the next cycle.

The outcome of that forum culminated into five key resolutions that contributed positively to the development of the global vision for the Post. The meeting also came up with a clear direction for the Post in the Latin American region. I am particularly glad that you picked the Universal Service Obligation of the Post as an essential factor of national infrastructure and facilitator of economic and social inclusion in your individual countries.

Moreover, you recognized the key role of governments and urged them to support postal development in the region. Furthermore, you identified the postal sector as a key actor for delivering sustainable communications services for all, promoting economic and social development, and enhancing inclusion to support the SDGs.

I recognize the focus for this High-Level Conference is, among others, to look at the international and regional postal trends, address the challenges that come with them as well as harness the opportunities to make the Post contribute more to national development.

You will also be looking at the role of the postal sector in the facilitation of trade, e-commerce and as an important partner for the business supply chain.

All of these topics are key to the future of global post as we position our businesses to a platform that relies more on innovation and use of modern technology. This is an environment where we have new competitors and some of whom are better tooled in the new trading space. We, therefore, are faced with great challenges as we play catch-up at some point and focus on winning the market share.

But we also have many advantages—some which have been harnessed over a long period of time. Whichever way you look at the situation, this is a turning point for the Post. We all must ready ourselves for the changing situation and adapt to the conditions.

As you focus on the forthcoming Congress and discuss the main topics of focus, I would like to share with you some of the highlights of the Doha Cycle; our performance, success and challenges. We will also share with you priority areas of focus for the future of our Union and the postal industry in general.

Dear colleagues;

When you elected Pascal and I in Doha in 2012, we made certain pledges to you.

We promised to;

  • Protect, promote and project the fundamental values of our great Union, built upon the noble principles of sovereign equality of nations and respect for all member states.
  • Transform the IB to make it more transparent, efficient, flexible, responsive, representative and fit for purpose.
  • Champion and advocate  for meaningful transformation of UPU for the benefit of all member states.
  • Enhance the role and relevance of the Union by engaging with governments of member states  and other important stakeholders.
  • Support technical cooperation programs and strengthen the UPU network.
  • Implement the Doha World Postal Strategy and all decisions of the 25th UPU Congress.

I am delighted to report to you that we have made tangible progress in all these areas.

As we prepare for the forthcoming Congress in a few months’ time, I am happy to inform you that we have so far implemented up to 98 per cent of the decisions, resolutions and recommendations handed to the UPU councils and the IB from the last Congress.

I am equally delighted to inform you that we have developed a comprehensive vision, strategy, and goals to guide our future work.  We have also come up with projects, priority areas, business plan and a new organization structure that will deliver the UPU of the future. All these proposals were approved and adopted by the last CA session in February. The proposals will be submitted to the Istanbul Congress for further deliberation and decision.

On IB reform: the DDG and I have made remarkable changes on the structure, composition, character and quality of the international secretariat. We have introduced greater transparency, enhanced regional and gender balance and modernized our hitherto outdated human resources rules, regulations and policies. We have instilled ethical practices, developed performance monitoring systems and state-of-the-art tools (control tower/dashboard).

We are happy to report to you that the current IB is now truly international and representative. It also upholds high ethical standards, discipline, professionalism and team work.

On UPU reform: we have presented to you comprehensive proposals that we believe, if approved, will bring about sweeping transformation of our Union that we have for so long sought. The proposals have been approved by the CA and will be presented for decision at the Congress.

The reforms are expected stem the decline of postal business and bring about efficiency, faster decision making and reduce on bureaucracy and wastage of resources. This transformation will fit well with the UPU’s strategic Vision 2020 that is anchored on innovation; integration and inclusion focus of the postal business.

Sovereign equality of nations: this is sacrosanct for us. We believe that all member states of the UPU should have equal opportunity for making decisions of the Union. Equitable representation to decision-making organs of the Union is therefore of utmost importance. Fair geographical representation of members into various decision-making bodies makes our Union a truly inter-governmental institution. We must ensure this is always guaranteed.

On role and relevance: we have held over 25 major international postal conferences and postal forums where UPU members exchanged views and best practices. We have initiated the first ever UPU CEOs’ Conference in Paris in September and a Ministerial Conference during Istanbul Congress.

We have engaged with governments, other inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations to build synergy and attract the much needed resources for the implementation of projects in the field. We have championed environmental issues and provided support and advocacy for the UN Sustainable Development Goals at international, regional and national levels.

Dear friends,

I would like to draw your attention to another existential risk of the Union to which you may all be familiar with, but one which in our opinion has not been given much attention for a long time. This is about funding mechanism of UPU activities.

The regular contributions from UPU member countries is the major source of funding for the Union’s work. This is based on contribution class chosen by member states. Today, countries voluntarily choose their contribution class and they can raise or lower them at will during every Congress cycle.

During the current cycle, the Union lost 13 contributory units after Doha Congress. The 2013 CA declined to activate the cost sharing mechanisms in our rules, leading to a huge net deficit. This forced the IB general management to undertake austerity measures that affected our work. As a result we froze 15 positions and abolished five others. The consequence was additional workload for the IB staff, delayed programs and scaling down of other activities. We also experienced a serious knock-on effect on staff morale and health.

I am afraid a repeat scenario could be the case after Istanbul if some members step down their levels of contribution as already indicated.

I wish to further inform you that the funding mechanism of UPU is considered one of the top risks to the union by MS Ernest and Young, UPU's internal auditor in 2014.

It is high time we considered the financial stability of our Union. One that is guaranteed, and upon which plans for projects can be made. I would like to urge members to consider other funding mechanism that guarantee financial stability.

It is important for us to always think about the future of our institutions and continuously transform them to fit the purpose for which they exist.

Distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen, with those remarks, I wish to thank you very much for according me an opportunity to address you.

I wish you fruitful deliberations.

Thank you