Letter of Director General of UPU Bishar A Hussein: COVID19 and urgent support for the postal sector
Dear Sir Madam
The world is facing an acute health and economic crisis caused by the rapid spread of COVID-19 Governments across the world are deploying a variety of measures aimed at ensuring the health and safety of their citizens securing access to goods and services, and limiting damage to the real economy caused by disruptions to manufacturing, transport and global supply chains
The postal sector is viewed as critical infrastructure in many countries, providing an essential service and crucially serving as a trusted partner of governments in the implementation of these measures Posts and other players in the sector are actively engaged in the delivery of medicines, medical equipment, food and other important items to people's doorsteps in these times of national lockdowns Posts are also being used by governments to deliver a range of social and financial services to the public, including wellness checks for the elderly, remittances, pension payments and other forms of cash transfers
The varied roles of Posts and other players in the sector underscore the key strengths of the postal network: the trust premium it enjoys with the public, its physical reach and reliability, and, most importantly, local and community knowledge. Additionally Posts play a critical role in securing and delivering on the universal service objectives of governments including the delivery of written communications and goods. In doing so Posts help governments to build more equal inclusive and sustainable economies and societies. These strengths make the postal network a unique and essential service and a natural partner to governments especially in times of crisis.
However, the postal sector is not immune to the social and economic impacts of the pandemic. Postal sector employees are risking their lives every day by helping to ensure the delivery of goods and services to citizens They too are at the front line of the global effort to fight COVID-19 The current lockdowns are significantly affecting the sustainability of postal sector players Social distancing disruptions in air transport and other restrictions on mail exchange are having a severe impact on their business operations and commercial viability. Designated postal operators in particular carry additional commercial and operational burdens because of their universal service obligations Of particular concern is the fact that the pandemic Is disproportionately affecting the Posts of least developed countries (LDCs) and small island developing states owing to their pre-crisis resource and capacity constraints
Against this backdrop the International Bureau (IB) has adopted a three-pronged strategy to support the needs of postal sector stakeholders during the pandemic
Firstly, we are monitoring the disruptions caused by the pandemic ta the global postal supply chain and are identifying possible ways to mitigate the impact We are working with a variety of postal sector players on alternative transport channels ( railroad and sea) by which postal dispatches can be carried across borders, with information on such channels being shared widely. The IB is also working closely with other inter national Organizations, such as the World Customs Organization and the International Air Transport Association to address the bottlenecks that are occurring in postal supply chains as a result of the pandemic including customs clearance on land borders and passenger fight restrictions Further information on these measures can be found at www.upu.int/enactivitiesupu-action-on-network disruptions caused-by-covid-19
Secondly, there is an urgent need to highlight the work being accomplished by Posts assisting governments in protecting and expanding social and financial services during the pandemic. We have met this need by creating a dedicated platform through which knowledge, experiences and solutions can be shared between policymakers. This can be accessed at www.upu int/en/activities/postal-social-and-financial-services-during- covid-19
Thirdly, to promote the health and safety of frontline postal employees, the IB has worked closely with UNI Global Union to communicate the importance of workplace safety measures against COVID-19. It has also collated and shared individual Posts best practices on such measures In addition, as part of our development cooperation activity, we have just launched a plan to source personal protective equipment supply it to employees of Posts in several LDCs.
However, these initiatives at the global level need to build on and reinforce those taken by national governments to support the sector
Therefore, I urgently call upon the governments of UPU member countries to recognize and address the difficulty that their postal sector players, especially their posts are facing in this pandemic. Governments can adopt a variety of effective and creative measures to support the sector from regulatory relief to direct financial assistance Naturally, support measures will have to be tailored to the specific circumstances of each member country. I urge you to continue or if necessary, begin- discussions on these matters in national policy circles.
This unprecedented threat demands decisive whole-at-government approaches to keeping the postal sector fully functional and effective so that it can deliver on the demands that citizens make of it. I am counting on your unstinting support for your country's postal sector to ensure that this essential service, as part of a global network, continues to serve the citizens of the world in this time of crisis
Bishar A Hussein