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14 Apr, 2015

Global Post Offices Seek to Redefine Themselves in the Digital Era

United Nations, (UN News Centre) 13 April 2015 – In a message delivered today to delegates at the World Strategy Conference for the United Nations postal agency, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon underlined the essential role to be played by postal services in global efforts to build a sustainable future.

“As the world shapes a new sustainable development agenda and strives to address the threat posed by climate change, postal services can and must be part of the solution,” said Mr. Ban. “Postal administrations offer essential communications and logistical support. They provide important financial services and make other contributions to social advancement and human well-being.”

In an introductory message to the Conference, wraps up on April 14, he looked forward to commencement of the process of drafting the next world postal strategy for the Universal Postal Union (UPU), which will be delivered at the Universal Postal Congress in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2016, and he said he hoped delegates would grasp the opportunity to consider what could be done to help improve the lives of people all over the world.

The Conference seeks to take stock of the UPU’s current four-year roadmap – the 2012 Doha Postal Strategy – and discuss the issues and trends that will shape the organization’s future blueprint. The UPU’s chief, Bishar Hussein urged the 750 delegates attending the Conference to take a critical look at how postal services are created and delivered and to consider how the 21st Century is forcing public postal services to redefine themselves.

Sorting mail. Photo: Universal Postal Union (UPU).

“Let’s step out of our comfort zone and test new ideas upon which we can build the future of the Post,” he said as he launched the discussions. “The roadmap that guides our actions and decisions reflects the global postal environment, an environment marked by profound changes and tipping points representing both challenges and opportunities for the postal sector.”

Traditional mail has declined in importance for postal services in recent years, while logistics and financial services have grown in importance. E-commerce has boomed and parcel volumes have increased, too, fuelled by changing consumer behaviours, brought about by new technological applications.

“The modern consumer is digital, concerned with sustainable development, and has a totally different gauge for the value of a product or service,” said Hussein. “Clients today want to access services anywhere, any time. They want products tailored to their preferred method of consumption, and they want those products to be delivered at home.”

Letter-post volumes have traditionally accounted for the bulk of postal revenues but in 2013 they dipped below 50 per cent of total revenues for the biggest 20 Posts in the world. In addition, UPU data shows that Posts are increasingly handling more merchandises than documents, an indication of the impact of e-commerce on the postal business. The Director-General underlined the importance of seeing the new reality as an exciting opportunity, rather than as a constraint.

“E-commerce, the digitization of financial services, new mobile payment solutions and big postal data are all major assets that position the postal sector at the heart of the technological revolution,” said Mr. Hussein.

Posts must explore new delivery models to meet customers’ expectation to receive their goods when and where they want them, especially as business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce is expected to generate $2.4 billion in 2018.

Among the 135 UPU member countries are represented at the Strategy Conference are 20 ministers as well as many regulators, postal executives, leaders of labour, trade and migration organizations and representatives of United Nations and other international organizations.

Established in 1874, the Universal Postal Union (UPU) has its headquarters in Berne, Switzerland’s capital. It is the world’s second oldest intergovernmental organization and has been a United Nations specialized agency since 1948.