Universal Postal Union faces a critical crossroad on its 145th anniversary: Op-ed
As the most important postal organization around the globe, the Universal Postal Union (UPU) is going through one of the most challenging periods of its 145 years of history, while experiencing a very profound change down to its core. With debates focused on the postal remuneration system titled “terminal dues,” the regulating authority of the sector is on the verge of an extraordinary congress that will affect both its own future and numerous other sectors connected to postal services.As the most important postal organization around the globe, the Universal Postal Union (UPU) is going through one of the most challenging periods of its 145 years of history, while experiencing a very profound change down to its core. With debates focused on the postal remuneration system titled “terminal dues,” the regulating authority of the sector is on the verge of an extraordinary congress that will affect both its own future and numerous other sectors connected to postal services.
The Istanbul Strategy, produced by the 26th Congress we hosted in 2016, has provided a framework that guides the transformation of the sector, with the principles of innovation, integration and inclusion that it encompasses. The Strategy has served as a basis for the endeavors of this historic term.
In order to have a better grip on the issue in a critical time of strategic decisions, we have to understand the mission and gravity of the UPU. Like postal operators, UPU also has a rich history and it bears the title of being the second-oldest international organization. Found to establish a single postal territory on a global scale, the UPU now consists of a unique network that integrates 192 member countries. And, of course, the rules it introduces to govern this integration, helps standardization and improvement aimed at the postal service quality at a global scale.
The main reason behind the convention of the extraordinary congress, the “Terminal Dues” system, regulates the remuneration needs arising from cross-border transportation of items and it plays a crucial role in the operation of the global postal network under the UPU. In order to understand why “postal services” are at the center of such strategically important talks in a time when emerging technologies have significantly reduced the use of traditional communication methods like letters and correctly interpret all the discussions, it is important to know what today’s postal services sector represents. In addition to traditional communication routes like letter posts, the sector we generally entitle as postal services, contains a very extensive and integrated service network that offers parcel transportation, logistics and financial service solutions. Today, the continuously growing e-commerce market has also become a significant line of business for the postal sector. While the e-commerce sector offers essential opportunities for the sustainability of the postal network, the postal network and its components actually emerge as a crucial factor for the continuity of e-commerce.
The concept of e-commerce, with a new system, has brought discussions that have echoed in various sectors. Due to the impact of these echoes on the postal sector as well as the criticism of some of the member countries, the Universal Postal Union will hold its Third Extraordinary Congress in Geneva between Sept. 24 and 26 to make reforms in its “terminal dues” system. Unlike its normal operation through the quadrennially held congresses, the 145-year-old union now holds its third extraordinary congress, right after last year’s second extraordinary congress. That alone, is a clear indicator of the difficulty of the issue. During such a critical time, acting as chair of the Council of Administration of the UPU on behalf of Turkey, we are heading to the “Extraordinary Congress,” bearing the responsibility of the chairmanship of the congress to reach a balanced and fair solution by assessing the discussions from different approaches through a multi-directional perspective.
In the upcoming “Extraordinary Congress,” the discussions will be held according to the three main proposals currently on the table. As the chair of the Council of Administration of the Union as well as one of its founding members, we believe that all parties should bear certain issues in mind, during the congress, which will yield results that will impact a lot of areas:
- The mission and goals of the UPU are valuable on a global scale and these are important and influential on each member nation and their citizens,
- The UPU operates with an understanding of the postal sector’s contribution to social and economic development and as the global regulator of the postal sector, it provides an essential framework for the constitution of this sector, according to the sustainable development goals,
- The UPU’s sectoral common standards and structure of promotion/harmonization of development accordingly, serve as a function that helps globally improve the service quality for everyone.
- Although cross-border commercial issues lie at the heart of the discussions, the “Designated Operators” of the member countries have very important public responsibilities like universal service obligation and in order to ensure fulfilment and sustainability of these responsibilities, they require mutually supportive service channels.
In light of all these facts, we should not forget that each of the 192 member countries have different levels of development and economic conditions. Ensuring a fair solution is only possible through an approach that balances these differences. In our capacity as chair of the Council of Administration of the UPU and chairman of the Congress, our perspective as Turkey, is shaped through such an understanding. We are aware that, while preserving our own national interests, a global network can only be sustained through a common ground taking into consideration the differences of the member countries that form this network.
I believe that the members of the UPU, an organization that is older than the United Nations itself and that has been operating as a specialized agency of the U.N. for the postal sector since 1948, will approach the issue as members of an international organization that acts and, so far, has always acted on the U.N.’s principle of equal opportunities for every nation, and I also believe that the efforts towards creating a consensus is an indicator of these sensitivities. Conclusion of the efforts to achieve a consensus that Turkey also supports among others is important for all nations.
The solution to the issues at the focus of these discussions must be searched through the spirit of union, within the “Union” itself.
Kenan Bozgeyik is the chairman of the Council of Administration of the UPU and the chairman of the Board and Director General of Turkish Post Corporation.