The postal sector: a legitimate player in financial inclusion

Closing speech by Pascal Clivaz, deputy director general, UPU International Bureau, at the UPU's Forum on Financial Inclusion for Development - Geneva, 25 October 2013

This first forum on financial inclusion for development was a culmination of ambitions.

As I look back on our preparatory meetings for this forum, I remember my first meeting with Ambassador Bouabid, as well as our exchange of ideas with the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. Never could we have predicted such a success. I would therefore like to thank you all for having been part of ful­filling this ambition, and for your faith in the UPU in undertaking this role which, to be sure, is a role befitting of us.

Congratulations to all the speakers at this forum for the remarkable and impressive quality of their presenta­tions, and thanks also to the facilitators and moderators for their ability to lead discussions on numerous topics, sustain a rapid pace and give our debates a rare degree of intensity.

On behalf of the Universal Postal Union, thank you.

This forum has been a success in a number of respects.

We had three main objectives.

Yesterday, we celebrated United Nations Day, and so naturally we held this forum in the context of the Millennium Development Goals, bringing it in line with G8 and G20 ambitions for financial inclusion. In imple­menting its Doha Postal Strategy, the UPU wished to give this meeting in Geneva a new dimension and openness in comparison to the way in which our activities are usually conducted. The Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and the International Organization of La Francophonie have, from the start, shared these objectives, which I will remind you of now.

Firstly, the aim of this platform: Never before have we been able to gather together so many relevant parties to discuss a subject that is already leading to further exchanges and further meetings. The ongoing dialogue has not just been limited to the confines of this room, but has continued outside of meetings, through coffee breaks and even during dinner last night.

Next, the positioning objective: a new role. The Post is now embracing a new vision. The way we talk is evolving. We speak of opportunity, of development, of economic models, and we now also identify ourselves as a driver and facilitator of inclusion. I also see this progress reflected in the way in which the sector and the UPU are perceived, particularly in the emphatic messages of appreciation from the World Bank and, just a few moments ago, from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, IFAD and the UNCDF.

Finally, the overall objective, which is to encourage emulation and provide inspiration through disseminating experience and knowledge. Together, we have shown that we have the ingredients of a winning recipe. We must now adapt this to specific locations, development levels and environments. As our various partners have spoken during these past couple of days, several ideas have been generated, and I refer here in par­ticular to points made by the IOM Director General, Mr Swing, as well as by the representative for the ITU.

As you can imagine, it will not be possible to mention every speaker, even though every presentation de­serves to be recognized for having made a considerable contribution to our discussions, so please excuse me for this. I would instead like to refer you to the UPU website, where you will soon find all the contributions made to this conference. A final report will be prepared to fully wrap up this forum. Rest assured, further meetings are being arranged.

However, allow me to deliver a few thoughts and draw some initial lessons. 

What is immediately apparent from our discussions is that the legitimacy of establishing the postal sector and the UPU as genuine players in financial inclusion has been unanimously confirmed. It was also repeatedly said that international organizations should further unite their efforts, since financial inclusion is one of the components of sustainable development.

Furthermore, through the various examples highlighted, we have been able to confirm that Posts are capable of rising to the challenge. There is potential; however, this must be brought about by increasing responsibili­ties and changing attitudes.

Finally, we can see that issues can be expertly handled and resources made available within the framework of this multilateral approach. Provided that partners come together and energies are pooled, as has been done here in Geneva, we are confident in the ability of the postal sector to meet social and societal expecta­tions.

These lessons, and this conclusion, are supported by all the views expressed through the examples, approaches and experiences shared over the past 48 hours. 

They are also supported by the qualities, skills and knowledge of the choice speakers from international organizations, economic operators and the financial sector, not to mention the expectations of governments and other industry players who have taken to this stage.

The following figures further illustrate this point:

–      over 200 participants;

–      more than 71 countries;

–      10 international organizations;

–      17 representatives of central banks;

–      23 directors general and managers of postal businesses;

–      and I must mention and recognize the Minister of the Comoros for his participation.

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to give the following statements in summary of our discussions:

To our partners, we say let us continue the dialogue and undertake concrete and far-reaching actions to drastically reduce money transfer costs by linking money transfers to access to financial services for popula­tions excluded from the banking system. Together, let us pursue banking education. Let us support regional or national ambitions using suitable means. I also hope, echoing the words of our friend from the UNCDF, that you have come to know us a little bit better than before this forum.

To governments, we say that the Post is a service integrator, and more than ever an instrument of public service and a formidable tool for social and economic integration. Financial inclusion is not an issue linked exclusively to levels of development. Invest in your postal networks, and here I refer specifically to their three-dimensional nature, and position postal services at the heart of your development and economic growth strategies. Let us not forget that the Post is a proven driver of the economy, as shown throughout history and confirmed by the present day.

To central banks, we say act as partners and create conditions for Posts to become key players in financial inclusion. Through examining figures from the World Bank in particular, we have been able to confirm that postal financial players are capable of responding to the 5x5 objective, while others are lagging behind, even if an encouraging downward trend is emerging. The World Bank has shown that the postal sector is the least expensive operator in the remittance market.

To our postal colleagues and friends, we say develop clear strategies. Through the wealth and diversity of approaches and views put forward, this forum has undoubtedly provided a large number of the elements necessary to build a solid financial services strategy. The economic model is promising, provided that its continuity and development are ensured. Even though contexts differ from one continent to another, every region brings us successful experiences and as many reasons to envisage promising solutions for the eco­nomic model.

The UPU comes away from this forum with its ambitions strengthened and, above all, feeling completely enriched, not only by the presentations made but also by the fact that this forum has allowed us to meet people who are not typically involved in our discussions. These two days will undoubtedly allow us to de­velop strong new partnerships that are as beneficial as they are encouraging to us and, I hope, to those of our members who attended.

Allow me to acknowledge the remarkable work of our talented International Bureau colleagues. Personally, and on behalf of the Director General, I would like to say thank you. Thanks also to the interpreters who, once again, have demonstrated great professionalism and flexibility.

Finally, I would like to thank our sponsors – the FDFA, Swiss Post, and the Federal Office of Communications – for their confidence and generosity.