Opening up of the Universal Postal Union to the wider postal industry

At the 27th Universal Postal Congress in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, from 9 to 27 August 2021, one of the key topics to be discussed is the opening up of the UPU to wider postal sector players.

Opening up of the Union to wider postal sector players is informed by market realities, where designated operators (DOs) no longer cover the bulk of the market. The bigger share of the global postal market is in the hands of the wider sector players. Admitting them into UPU would, therefore, also help the organization retain its universal nature, as the foremost specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for postal business. With that, a truly one global postal network would be achieved.

Opening up the UPU to wider sector postal players will strengthen the universal service and catalyze e-commerce development. The need for opening up follows the transformation of the postal sector, which has seen wide scale liberalization, privatization and a surge in e-commerce activity. It is Important to note that wider postal sector players now also include customs authorities, postal suppliers and supply chain service providers.

To address the need for opening up, the UPU set up the Consultative Committee in 2004 as the inlet through which the wider external players could join the Union. Most recently, UPU established a taskforce to study and advise on the best ways to open up the Union to the other players. The taskforce has addressed a wide range of aspects that would lead to eventual participation of other players in UPU activities. Among other aspects, the study will look into developing access policy to products and services, transparent management, control and integration of the postal supply chain; wider postal sector payment for access to UPU products and services; and putting proper security mechanisms in place to ensure data protection and privacy. The future role of the Consultative Committee will also be defined.

The UPU’s first priority has been to identify the products and services that help improve the interoperability between DOs and wider sector players. These include e-commerce development, postal payment services and postal quality of service and supply chain integration.
So far, progress has been made in a number of areas. The top-level domain, .POST, for example, is developing a plan for the registration of domain names by other players, such as logistics entities, payment entities, suppliers, and technology entities. Meanwhile, the Global Monitoring System (GMS), which continues to perform statistics-based quality of service measurements on letter-mail items in international and national postal streams, has developed a business plan covering the introduction of new value-added services targeting regulators and other stakeholders. It has also set pricing conditions for access to a comprehensive range of GMS services by wider sector stakeholders.

At the same time, the International Bureau in collaboration with national regulators and non-DOs has launched a pilot project to gauge the interest of non-DOs in using the UPU’s Online Solution for Carbon Analysis and Reporting (OSCAR).  Feedback from the project will be used to draft a plan for rolling out OSCAR to a larger global user base.

At the Abidjan Congress, the taskforce for opening up the UPU will make a number of recommendations aimed at seeking ways to best achieve the objective that has been under discussion for over two decades. Given the impact that is expected  to come with the eventual opening up the Union to external players, the taskforce has opted for a step-by-step approach. This will allow for progressive opening of products and services to other players on a case-by-case basis. Additionally, the taskforce proposes strengthening of the Consultative Committee to attract more players to join the UPU through it. The taskforce will further propose the holding of an extraordinary Congress in the next cycle to take a final decision on the subject.

Speaking about the moves within the UN specialized agency, the UPU Director General Bishar A. Hussein said, “If we are to retain our universality, we must also embrace the wider postal sector players. Such a step also sends a powerful message that the organization and its DOs recognize that liberalization, privatization and the global surges in e-commerce have transformed the postal sector.”