Press Breakfast

Berne. The following is an edited transcript of the press breakfast at the UPU Handover ceremony attended by the incoming UPU Director General Masahiko Metoki and Deputy Director General Marjan Osvald. The format for the press breakfast invited opening statements followed by a question and answer session.

Masahiko Metoki: Good morning. Very Happy New Year to you! Thank you for joining today's ceremony. Sorry, unfortunately, there is no reception. I am very honoured, and at the same time, I am very humbled to be the Director General of the International Bureau of the UPU. As you know, the UPU is one of the oldest international organizations. However, I believe it does not mean it is an old-fashioned organization. Around 150 years ago, the UPU was established as one of the most advanced international organizations to create communication tools. Now we are facing a very difficult time when we are trying to respond to the demands and the changes of society. As a Director General of the UPU, I will do my best to understand current tendencies and to overcome such challenges together with member countries. I am very happy to answer your questions. Thank you very much.
Marjan Osvald: Good morning, Guten Morgen. Frohes Neues Jahr! If I may say some words in German, which is my first foreign language! My name is Marjan Osvald, I come from Slovenia, where I was working for 25 years for Slovenia Post, and I was, in a way, a customer of the UPU within these past 25 years. So now, I have changed the role. As my Director General just mentioned, I am happy and proud to represent Slovenia as an elected official. We had strong competition when it comes to candidates. I believe that the members decided on a change, and I will be happy to accompany Mr. Metoki-san in our endeavors to make this organization stronger and better. Digitalization entered our lives very strongly, and we need to find a way to maintain contact with customers. Unfortunately, the gap between developed and the least developed countries has increased. One of our goals, of course, is to reduce this gap. I look very much forward to working with the UPU member countries and supporting the Director General Masahiko Metoki. And as I mentioned in my campaign, I strive for accountability, transparency, and business ethics. It will be a basic principle of my work for the next four years. Thank you and I am ready to answer any of your questions.
Q & A
Kyodo News: What are the most challenging priority tasks you will be trying to achieve after taking the office?
Masahiko Metoki: Yes, during my campaign, I mentioned the call for commitment to member countries. I have never assumed it was necessary to change my opinion. However, now we face the reality, COVID-19. It is necessary to find all possible solutions, to work and to overcome this very difficult situation for our member countries. I understand that COVID-19 is an absolutely awful situation. However, at the same time, because of this experience, we now get new opportunities such as the development of remote communication and the outstanding improvement of e-commerce. I have tried asking the member countries about their demands. To meet them, I will use the capacity of the International Bureau to provide member countries with a solution to improve each case. It is very important to us.
Marjan Osvald: The first priority from my side will be a discussion with all UPU employees. I have worked with the IB. I believe that personal touch and a personal discussion mean a lot to the employees. With the recent change of the new leadership, commencing on 1 January 2022, I believe it is a way to show respect to our employees who work here and to motivate them for future achievements. As to the work of the Union, we intend to strengthen the communication with restricted unions, who are actually part of this organization. Moreover, we will have sessions of Postal Operations Council and the Council of Administration, and we have some work to perform when it comes to these activities. In addition, some activities will be related to the opening of this organization, and we will have the UPU Extraordinary Congress in 2023. Therefore, the Director General and I will have to evaluate many priorities in a short period of time and then come up with good proposals.
AllAfrica Global Media: The COVID-19 pandemic has been around for two years now. There has been a huge growth of e-commerce, and you have suggested potential opportunities for the Post in this industry. Could you please tell us retrospectively how this has been affecting developing countries in the last two years? Thank you.
Masahiko Metoki: This time has not been easy, especially for developing countries. Because of COVID-19, we have realized the importance of the social responsibility of postal operations. The developing countries have suffered especially from COVID-19. Even before, they had suffered from an unfortunate shortage of resources and inefficient operations. In a sense, it is a very good occasion because we have a chance to talk directly to the developing countries and their governments, and to provide them with direct possibilities. The Post will become a solution to medicine transportations by using its vast infrastructure. It has not been easy to arrange, and only in the case of an emergency, governments could understand the necessity. Therefore, we will try to use every occasion to persuade and inform them about this necessity. It is also a very important role of the UPU, I believe.
Marjan Osvald: Corona has had a positive and negative influence on our work, if I may say so. If I may start with a positive one, which unfortunately goes mainly to the industrialized or developed countries. I believe that now we are more efficient. Conferences have switched to the online environment. I believe we are now even more connected than we used to be in the past. I remember how difficult it was five years ago to organize a conference for 20-30 countries, it was almost impossible to find a suitable date. Now with Zoom and MsTeams, it has become easy. Unfortunately, when it comes to developing countries, the negative impact is much stronger. The airline industry has almost come to a standstill and mail exchange has become very much abstract. The least developed countries suffer very much. As the Director General has mentioned, it is one of our goals to try to find ways to help the least developed countries in order to overcome this crisis. Last year, actually, when we intended to organize the UPU Congress 2020 in Africa, we thought COVID time would end. It looks like it is like a never-ending story, and we have to adapt to it and find ways to solve it.
Assahi Shimbun: Regarding the positive impact of COVID-19, Director General, you mentioned that the Post could deliver medicine. However, could you speak specifically about the central role of the Post in vaccine deliveries?
Masahiko Metoki: Our goal is to help countries. For the vaccine deliveries, we need to control specific temperatures, for example. I would like to tell each government that we have realized the necessity and we have all physical feasibility for such deliveries. Just a weekend is needed for such an exchange. We have to transport something physically, and only the postal network, the single postal territory all over the world, can do it. As the Director General, I will take the oath today and I will find a possibility for the future. Medicine and especially medicine against COVID-19 will change in the near future. These efforts by postal operators are essential.
Marjan Osvald: That was one of the negative impacts I mentioned in my previous intervention. Postal networks are a part of critical infrastructure. In industrialized or developed countries, Post has been able to accommodate and to help in distributing vaccines. Of course, it is a specific task and you have to have the infrastructure for that, while in the least developed countries, unfortunately, that has not been the case. As the Director General has mentioned, we need to find a way. Having the right to be vaccinated is also a very political question. Of course, we will do our best to help member countries, to the ones who request to have this kind of assistance, to help them distribute the vaccines. In the end, it is the member countries and designated portal operators, which will define the way to do it. We can guide, we can help, but the member countries need to do that.
Logistik Express: I would like to ask about climate change and the environmental impact of postal services. How do you plan to drive the postal sector into a clearer perspective of necessity, sustainability, and climate change? Thank you.
Masahiko Metoki: It is a really good question. As you know, each postal operator is trying to make its own efforts in this matter. In Japan, I really respect this movement. The UPU’s leading priority is to assist each member country to achieve the SDGs. More motivation will be necessary among member countries. Reinforcement for the developed countries is also very important. Member countries have different specific issues. Therefore, the most important thing for the UPU is to harmonize and share solutions for these global issues between member countries.
Marjan Osvald: The UN Sustainable Development Goals should be inherited by all industries. I would like to remind you that due to the initiative of Austria, Germany, and France, we passed a resolution on the goals at the last Universal Postal Congress. I can only say, coming from a small postal operator, which I can use as an example, that designated operators need to do more to achieve these goals, and governments need to assist the operators. Our role, together with the Director General, would be to show the way and to reinforce these goals, which should be an everyday discussion. Climate change is forcing us to do this.
Yomiuri Shimbun: Thank you. You mentioned the gap between developed and developing countries. Could you tell us again how you are planning to bridge this gap?
Masahiko Metoki: The gap between developed and developing countries controls the operations revenue. You probably know that the matter of terminal dues also arises from this gap. There is also a big gap in the global economy. The UPU is originally a technical organization that ensures that the technical, not political, matters are solved. Therefore, the role of the UPU is to react very fast and to assist the developing countries practically so that their needs are met. Coordination is the most important role of the UPU, but also a possibility to discuss and compromise.