Welcome address by the UPU Director General Bishar A. Hussein, Exceptional session of the Council of Administration, 26 October 2020
Chairman of the CA, Mr Hakan Gülten,
Vice-Chairmen of the CA,
The Deputy Director General, Mr Pascal Clivaz,
Members of the CA,
Your Excellencies Ambassadors who have joined our meeting today,
Heads of Delegations,
Distinguished Delegates and Observers,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you, Chairman, for the opportunity to make some brief remarks at the start of this exceptional CA Plenary.
First, let me start by wishing you good health for you and your families for those who are with us physically in the meeting hall and those connecting from various parts of the world.
Let me welcome you all to the first Council of Administration to be held under these new normal circumstances caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. It feels strange to hold such an important meeting in this manner, but it’s a learning process for all of us under these circumstances.
It has not been easy to achieve the goal to hold this meeting today.
Since March 16th the bulk of the International Bureau staff have been working from home as we observe the guidelines of the Swiss Authorities on confronting the Covid-19 pandemic.
I wish to thank our staff who, in spite of the challenges we have faced, have continued to assist member countries in many ways including sharing important information about the pandemic as well as assisting some of our members with protective equipment.
Against this backdrop, the 27th Congress that had been planned for August, was affected by the pandemic and had to be postponed. This unforeseen situation provided a big challenge to members, the Congress host country and the International Bureau.
You may recall that during our last CA meeting in February, you approved a number of key proposals for the Congress, notably among them the Draft Strategy, the Draft Business Plan and gave guidelines on the corresponding budget for the next cycle.
The February CA meeting also marked the conclusion of the implementation of the Istanbul World Postal Strategy. I am glad to recall that we posted an impressive 99.8 per cent of all our Key Performance Indicators for the cycle. The only remaining assignment for us then was the preparation and holding of the 27th Congress.
Even on the latter, we had made considerable achievement. We had agreed on the deadlines for members’ proposals to the Congress. The IB team had also made numerous visits to Abidjan and ascertained the readiness for the hosting of the Congress. The Congress venue was ready and all the other logistical preparations were in top gear. We were all set for the Congress before the pandemic hit the world.
Just one month after the lockdown in Switzerland and in many other parts of the world, on 15 April 2020, the Government of the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire proposed that the 27th UPU Congress be postponed until a later date, to be agreed mutually by the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire and the International Bureau (IB) as soon as the COVID-19 health situation allowed within the exceptional global health crisis.
After consultation with the Chairman of the CA, on April 20, we issued a notice on the postponement of the Congress. The IB also established on the UPU website a Frequently Asked Questions page to address the many members’ inquiries relating to the event.
We have also been benchmarking with various United Nations bodies on how they have managed their meetings since the declaration of the pandemic.
Even with the technological advancements, there are still major challenges that have not been resolved for holding successful decision-making meetings within the UN system.
It is as a result of that reality we today have this hybrid form of meeting, where some members are attending physically and others are connecting virtually.
While we were still in consultations to address the best way forward for the Union under the Covid-19 circumstances, we received a request from members for the convening of an exceptional session of the CA, under article 12.2 of the CA Rules of Procedure. The Exceptional CA was to discuss the postponement of the Congress and other urgent matters of importance to the Union.
Subsequently on 3rd August 2020, the UPU informed member countries of this request from 18 CA members. At the same time, we continued with our consultation with the CA Chairman to fulfill all of the legal requirements for holding such a meeting.
It has been a very busy and challenging process to get us here. I thank my IB team, the CA Chairman and members who have undertaken this journey with us to make today’s meeting possible.
Apart from the technological and logistical challenges that form part of a meeting of this nature, we have had, in consultation with the CA Chairman and CA membership, to seek modification of relevant UPU rules to accommodate the holding of such a meeting.
These are processes that take a lot of time to conclude, but we worked very efficiently and I am glad that we have now been able to fulfill all the required conditions for the meeting.
Ladies and gentlemen, as you are aware, the proposals we have on our agenda today have divergent positions that require your examination, approval and direction.
In doing so, I wish to urge you to be guided by the global pandemic situation that seems to be surging back, the need to make important decision to facilitate the continuity of the work of the Union, and the position of the host country, who has consistently confirmed their commitment to host the Congress as soon as conditions permit.
I am aware these are not easy conditions within which to work, but I am encouraged by the members’ quest to work on a consensus position and avert a further crisis within a crisis. It is my expectation we will find a suitable solution to our current challenges.
Given the success on a similarly difficult agenda item in Geneva last year, I have no doubt that you shall be guided by the same spirit to resolve the current impasse for the benefit of the unity for our Union.
I am sure you are all aware that the decision you are going to make today is of historic nature and one that shall be remembered for many years to come as having averted one of the biggest crisis to face our Union.
Let us strive to make the right history and one that we will be proud to be associated with.
The IB team shall be on hand to facilitate you in all ways possible to achieve this goal.
I wish you fruitful deliberations.