Transcript of the opening press conference of the Second Extraordinary Congress
Ubah Muhammed Hussien, Ethiopian Minister of Communication and Information Technology
Thank you so much! I just want to make a brief statement on how we prepared this Extraordinary Congress. As you heard in this morning’s ceremony, this is the Second UPU Extraordinary Congress and it will be held over five days here in Addis Ababa. We are expecting almost 2,100 participants from 192 countries around the world. The Ethiopian Post did much to ensure the perfect accomplishment of this Extraordinary Congress.
The fundamental idea of this Congress is the transformation of the UPU. Over five days, the Congress focuses on: the Reform of the Union, the Reform of the system applied to the contributions of the UPU member states and sustainability of the UPU Provident Scheme. We will also look at ways of cooperating at the international and regional levels. The basic point is to make the services efficient and effective for all our common customers. Not only companies, but also private customers.
Both the Ministry, and Ethiopia, would like to thank the UPU. This Second Extraordinary Congress is unique in its nature and I value the very good working relationship that we have with the UPU member countries. We are glad to host this Congress, and we wish all the participants very fruitful discussions and a great stay in our country.
Bishar Hussein, UPU Director General
We are a special intergovernmental agency of the United Nations. The UPU is composed of 192 countries. It was established in 1874. Just to give you some idea about the nature of the Congress, it is about the international postal sector. The history of the postal service goes back far longer than 1874. All civilizations, China for example, had postal networks before this time. I have seen postal history archives in China dating back to 1600 BC. So this is not a new business. Before 1874 there were bilateral postal networks; however, with the advance of services, experiences and society, the need for communication was increasing. Therefore, many postal networks began in different countries. But they were bilateral.
The world needed one single postal network that could organize these bilateral systems. That is why the UPU was born in the city of Bern, Switzerland. Many countries subsequently joined the Union over the years. Today, the number has increased to almost 200 countries, which are bound by international treaties. So the question is how can we make the transition of mail and parcels from one country to another efficient, fast and reliable? With the international export and import mail you have to know the standards. Because, if mail arrives in Oman, for example, you need to know the date and time of its arrival, as well as where it stops on its way, etc.
This information requires the cooperation of many different countries all using different languages and linguistic symbols. For example, Chinese, Japanese, and Arabic. To recognize those symbols requires a lot of technical capacity. Who is responsible for this? Who sets the rules and controls their implementation? It is the UPU which unites the post and people all over the world.
Different countries use different means of transportation, for example airlines, railways, even donkeys are still used in some countries. But I can tell you, no matter how much technology progresses, if you order goods from China or eBay, the technology cannot deliver that mail to its recipients. Someone still needs to physically do that and that is UPU’s invaluable experience.
The postal network is the world’s widest distribution network. But we are much more than just a delivery service of letters. E-commerce today is a booming business. You can order anything online. The Post is offering so many services to societies, and there are so many more market segments to be explored.
The UPU Congress is the body that brings governments and posts together to agree on the rules of mail exchange. When customers send their mail, posts need to think about delivering on time. But if somebody sends the items, somebody needs to pay for that service. Where does the money go? It is a sensitive issue. After all, international mail exchange is a business.
UPU member countries at the Congress will be discussing the Integated Product Plan and Integrated Remuneration Plan that decide how parcels can be sent, received and paid for. We use networks, ships, planes and railways. The aim of the Congress is to improve the efficiency and profitability of postal networks and this is the main discussion over the next five days.
Kenan Bozgeyik, Director General and Chairman of the Board of Turkish PTT Corporation
Thank you very much for giving me the floor. As you were already notified, I am the CEO of the Turkish Post and I also serve as the Chairman of UPU’s Council of Administration. I would like to share a few words with you about the Extraordinary Congress in Addis Ababa. The decision to organize this Extraordinary Congress was made during the previous regular Congress in Istanbul in 2016 in order to cover numerous issues related to our sector.
We are here today with 192 member countries of the UPU and we are looking forward to taking further decisions about our common challenges. The Ethiopian representatives have welcomed us during the morning session with traditional dance performances that we will remember for a long time. However, I would like to assure you that, over the next five days we are going to work.
The journey from Istanbul to Addis Ababa is only half the story because we are still working on making very important decisions to get ready for the Congress in 2020. Apart from bilateral meetings that we are going to have, we will also exchange our best practices and experience, especially when talking about the Integrated Product Plan, Integrated Remuneration Plan, Provident Scheme, the Reform of the Union and the Reform of contributions system.
Here, in Addis Ababa, we do not only have postal operators, but also postal regulatory authorities and there are many ambassadors participating in this Congress. All of us will be talking about shaping the future of our sector. Today we are marking an historic moment and therefore I would like to thank all the participants, especially the UPU colleagues for their efforts in organizing this Congress, and I would also like to thank you, the representatives of the Ethiopian media, for your interest in this press conference and in the Extraordinary Congress itself.
Q and A:
Q: There have been many postal strikes around the world, for example in South Africa. What role does the UPU play in solving such issues. And, I would also like to ask about delivery of parcels. We all heard about what happened with the Palestinian mail for example. There is a conflict from both sides and I would like to hear your opinion as the Director General of the biggest postal organization in the world.
Mr. Hussein: UPU is not involved in national postal businesses and especially national political issues. Every country has their own responsible government dealing with these kinds of issues. We are a UN organization and we operate on the international level. Postal strikes are a local issue between the local postal employees and their postal companies and we cannot put any pressure or influence on solving these issues. As a former CEO, I can assure you that every country has a different way of managing these relations.
As to the Palestinian mail issue, it has become internationally known and a very difficult political situation, a very longstanding one between Israel and Palestine, in the Middle East. You probably saw the issue being discussed on CNN or BBC or on other well-known channels. Of course, we are concerned. We want to see efficient mail exchange everywhere, between every countries in the whole world, not just between Israel and Palestine. But since we cannot influence the politics involved in this sensitive issue, we want these countries to sit down and have fruitful discussions and to come up with a relevant solution. And we are hoping this will happen as soon as possible. I think it is a highly political issue, but my mandate as the Director General is just to advise the Parties involved to resolve this issue as soon as possible.
When customers send their mail, they do not expect the other side to delay. At UPU we try to help these countries’ postal sectors develop by investing in their relevant projects with our Quality of Service Fund, and we also consider and decide on different amendments and proposals to the UPU Acts which are the governing rules for the UPU member countries. Other than that, I think it is the responsibility of the countries to solve their local conflicts. My mandate as the director general is to help these countries to find a consensus.
Q: Explain the key topics discussed at the Extraordinary Congress especially regarding to African countries.
Mr. Hussein: the Minister and Mr. Bozgeyik have already described them briefly. One for instance is about the Reform. We need to change our structure so that the representation of delegations is more efficient. This also concerns the election process. The structure of the Union has been the issue for a long time and it will be debated during this Congress. Other issues to discuss are the Integrated Product Plan and the Integrated Remuneration Plan, also the Provident Scheme and the Contributions System. If the engine of a vehicle breaks down, the vehicle cannot move. We, the UPU, are the engine, so we have to be efficient and structured so that the postal sector at large not only keeps existing, but also develops and improves for its customers.
Q: What improvement should take place for the packages to be delivered on time to and from Ethiopia and other developing countries and what can you do to make sure they do not get lost?
Minister Mohammed: postal services need transformation, especially in developing countries. Ethiopia is also a member state of the UPU and we are working with different treaties and agreements on the international arena. But when we come to specific countries there are normally many ups and downs. The Ethiopian government works closely with the Ethiopian Post to counter these specific problems. So we always have to focus on customer needs and always upgrade the quality of our service. We have to achieve the universal service obligation (Note: the USO duty is to deliver globally) for all areas, especially rural areas in Ethiopia.
Mr. Hussein: Problems with parcels do not happen only in developing countries, but with all other countries too. Ethiopia is a very big country and therefore it has a massive network. Of course, we can improve the security of mail, sorting systems, training, automation and the tracking systems that are used. But, it depends from one country to another. Sometimes we highlight too many minor issues, but we do not see the millions of parcels that go through successfully. Humans do make mistakes, but we try and help member countries to solve them and therefore we have their trust.
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