Wednesday 22 April 2020

A word about COVID-19 from the UPU Director General

22.04.2020 - Last year was spent discussing the future of the Universal Postal Union, but I never dreamt that in March 2020 I would be shuttering its headquarters for an unknown time to protect the safety and health of our staff.

COVID-19 has rampaged across countries and made our globalized world feel vulnerable, and at times, almost defenseless. Posts and their partners in airlines, shipping and logistics have all faced dizzying downturns. The world was placed in crisis mode and teeters on a recession every bit as desperate as the one we faced in 2008.
With the declaration of a global pandemic by our friends at the World Health Organization, I knew we confronted a crisis of unparalleled proportions. Our reaction was both proportionate and coherent. We closed the office for all non-essential personnel on 16 March and cancelled travel and all meetings at the headquarters. Non-essential staff were sent home to work remotely.
The health and safety of our staff was my overriding priority, and this is why the office was quickly closed. Business continuity was another concern for the General Management and we swiftly organized ourselves to ensure we could continue to deliver our groundbreaking services and products to member countries.
I am proud of the response from the UPU staff. We pulled together and with very little fuss managed to make the transition from headquarters to home in a short period of time. The crisis has not yet receded and I urge everyone to follow the guidance of the World Health Organization and the medical advice of countries. To all of UPU's many friends, colleagues, members and stakeholders: stay safe.
To all of UPU's many friends, colleagues, members and stakeholders: stay safe.
A new year, a new direction
On a more positive note, a new year is always built upon the success of previous years, and this is especially true of the Universal Postal Union’s work in 2020. Over the year we will be broadening the organization’s involvement with the private sector, while continuing the essential work of building capacities and offering technical assistance to the international postal sector.
Our efforts to catalyze the private sector have been a long time in the making. The subject has been the source of numerous discussions among member countries over the decades. However, there is a feeling this is the year we will finally agree on the way forward. If so, it would be a game-changing decision for the Union.
To kick start the process, on 13 February, I held a High-Level Forum on Wider Postal Sector Engagement bringing together experts to discuss the matter. The discussions were incisive, honest and innovative.
I was particularly taken by the remarks of Andrew Bremberg, United States’ Ambassador to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva, who said it was important to create a roadmap for the change and then work backwards.
Another inspirational speaker was the Secretary General of the International Telecommunications Union Houlin Zhao who offered his full support and said that ITU's processes had accelerated with the inclusion of private players. To do this, the organization had to, in Mr Zhao's words, “have good contact with the industry to encourage them to have confidence to come to us.”
In my closing remarks, I encouraged members to consider the relevance of the Universal Postal Union and the post as they go forward. I said, “You will be the ones to determine what to open and how it will be opened. Please, let’s take the first steps.”
The Taskforce created for this purpose will now evaluate the recommendations that were proposed to the Council of Administration, refine them and we will debate the issue once more in Abidjan at the 27th Universal Postal Congress. I hope that the end of this particular road is in sight and we will now be able to move forward in partnership with our colleagues from the private sector.
It is my firm belief that we are on the cusp of a truly exciting future for the Universal Postal Union.
Bishar A. Hussein, Director General, Universal Postal Union

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