April 7, 2011

1. Overall Structure of the Councils

  • The U.S. delegation is generally satisfied with the current organizational structure of the two UPU Councils, the Council of Administration and Postal Operations Council. Under this structure, each Council has four Committees, and there are several “direct reporting bodies” that report directly to the POC Plenary.
  • Nevertheless, consideration could be given to proposals currently under consideration for modifying this structure, which concern the areas noted below.

- The United States is generally supportive of the proposal to establish a “regulators’ platform” within the CA. It would be preferable that such a regulators’ platform be established on the basis of a Doha Congress resolution, similar to the resolutions establishing (or continuing) the EMS and Telematics Cooperatives adopted at previous Congresses, rather than through adoption of provisions for this purpose in the UPU General Regulations. The objectives, frequency of meetings and costs of such a “platform” would have to be carefully considered. In the meantime, the United States found that the UPU Forum on Postal Regulation, originally proposed by China, offers an adequate “platform” from which the national postal regulators are able to meet and consider issues of common interest. Participation by regulators in any “regulators’ platform” that could be established should not preclude their participation as delegates in the other Councils.
- The United States supports maintaining a strong presence and involvement of the private sector in the UPU. Currently, the private sector is represented in the UPU through the Consultative Committee. It seems that there is a general sense in the UPU that the Consultative Committee, as it is currently constituted and functioning, is not ideal, but the United States has not been able to identify the particular shortcomings that a new structure for private sector involvement would be expected to improve. Admittance of individual private sector firms to the Consultative Committee is, for example, an issue that could be addressed without making changes to the Consultative Committee’s structure. If specific desired improvements were identified, then consideration could be given to alternative structures for private sector involvement in the UPU or other changes that would lead to the desired improvements. In any event, the United States believes that private sector participation in the UPU cannot be supported by the UPU budget. All the costs of private-sector participation in the UPU should be borne by the private sector firms as a self-supporting endeavor, like the DMAB. The suggestion that the POC Plenary could meet twice yearly should be explored further.

  • Greater efforts should be made to distinguish the governmental/regulatory functions and operational functions of the UPU. Some areas, such as terminal dues, customs and quality of service, may have aspects that are both governmental/regulatory and operational.
  • The U.S. delegation strongly supports the creation of self-financed extrabudgetary groups, such as the Telematics and EMS Cooperatives and other such groups (e.g. the DMAB and UPU*Clearing), under the umbrella of the UPU. These entities should be given as much autonomy as is practicable to make them as effective and efficient as possible, keeping in mind that they are (or are supposed to be) supervised by their member countries – which support them financially – through management boards and other arrangements.
  • In particular, the United States supports the creation of a self-financed group for postal financial services, since the Postal Payment Services Agreement is a stand-alone agreement distinct from the UPU Acts, and the services described in that Agreement are optional.
  • Consideration should be given to affording full legal status to certain extrabudgetary groups, such as the Cooperatives. Currently, the Cooperatives have no legal status: all of their contractual obligations, for example, must be signed by the Director General. Alternatively, the General Regulations could be amended to delegate authority to certain other UPU officials, such as the Head of the EMS Unit, enabling the self-funded groups more flexibility in managing their day to day operations.
  • All of the extrabudgetary groups, including the Consultative Committee, should fully pay the costs that they impose on the UPU. The formula for calculating these costs should be the same for all the extrabudgetary groups. The International Bureau should develop a method for determining the costs attributable to support for the extrabudgetary groups and a method for distributing those costs among them. These must be transparent, easily understood and applied, and sustainable in the face of likely changes between Congresses.

2. Structure and work of the Councils – now and after the Doha Congress

  • If the CA maintains four Committees, then CA Committee 3 (Finance and Administration) should have at least two formal Groups. These Groups would address human resources issues and the UPU budget. Closer coordination between C3 and C4 could help to strengthen both committees and ensure that the priorities set by Congress are reflected in the use of UPU resources between Congresses. CA C3 could be mainly responsible for budget oversight and oversight of the alignment of human resources with the accomplishment of the goals of the strategy. Committee 4 (UPU Strategy) could be strengthened by giving the Committee the responsibility to set the draft priorities in the annual UPU budget or even approve the actual amounts allotted to each program in the budget. Tasking CA C4 with setting the priorities and amounts in the UPU budget might help to foster greater member country engagement in UPU budgetary matters. After establishing the budgetary allotments consistent with the UPU Strategy approved by Congress, the work of CA C4 could turn to strategy development for the next Congress.
  • The agendas of Council Groups and Committees could be altered so that the items requiring decisions are separated from those items which only ask the Group or Committee to “take note” of a document. Priority on the agendas should be given to those agenda items requiring a decision.
  • The IB has not solved the problem of the late publication of Council documents. The Ad hoc Group should discuss this subject at its March 2011 meeting in Oslo and put forward specific proposals in this regard to the April 2011 meeting of the Reform of the Union Project Group.
  • Provisions should be made for “virtual participation” in meetings when circumstances prevent member country delegates from physical attendance, at least under extraordinary circumstances, such as the volcanic cloud situation. Under “normal” circumstances, consideration should be given to encouraging or limiting certain group meetings to teleconferences to limit costs whenever possible.
  • Consideration should be given to the question of whether participants who attend meetings of working groups during Council sessions:

- should be formally registered for the Council sessions and appear on the List of Participants;
- should be allowed to vote.

3. Proposals to, and organization of, UPU Congresses

  • Ideas should be considered for reducing the number of proposals submitted to UPU Congresses. As far as we know, no other UN specialized agency deals with anywhere near the number of proposals to its plenipotentiary conference (500-800 proposals at recent UPU Congresses) as the UPU. This is a sensitive and difficult issue to broach since each member country has – and should continue to have – the sovereign right to submit proposals directly to the Congress. In contrast, the ITU, which is three times larger than the UPU, deals with about 100 proposals at its plenipotentiary conferences. Nevertheless, there may be scope for referring certain highly technical proposals to the International Bureau, or to restricted groups of experts, to analyze prior to a decision by the appropriate Council. Additionally, more restraint could be exercised in making sweeping, non-substantive changes to the Acts in every Congress cycle. The benefits of such changes should be more carefully weighed against their costs to both member countries and the UPU. The process of submitting and voting on proposals between Congresses could be made more “user friendly” to facilitate passing some of them outside the Congress sessions, which could help to reduce the burden during Congress.
  • Normally, the quadrennial UPU Strategy is adopted at the start of Congress. Congress subsequently adopts additional proposals of a general nature which are not included in the Strategy. One possible solution would be to adopt the Strategy late in the Congress calendar so that the proposals of a general nature that are also adopted can be folded into the Strategy in some manner. Once the final Strategy is adopted, the Congress Finance Committee (normally Committee 2) would have better information to set the budget ceiling for the quadrennial period.
  • The format of the Program Budget Impact (PBI) statement currently in use by the UPU could include an indication of the financial or other resources that the proposing country would contribute towards carrying out the elements put forward in a proposal. The PBI statement might contain a section in which the proposing country explains how the proposal would be aligned with the UPU Strategy. (Please note that the current PBI statement currently used by the UPU is the result of research and work done by the U.S. delegation in 2007 as part of the work of the Results-based Management Team of the Strategic Planning Group led by Russia.)
  • To the extent possible, proposals submitted to Congress should generally be aligned with the draft UPU Strategy, and could even be required to identify the goal and objective in the draft Strategy that it supports. (However, it is not certain whether this approach would actually work in practice.)

4. UPU Mission statement

  • The U.S. delegation believes that there is no need at this time to revise the UPU mission statement.

5. UPU Strategy (and budgetary issues)

  • Efforts should be made to develop a definition of the “postal sector.”
  • There may be scope to reduce the number of objectives in the Doha Strategy (18 objectives in the current version of the Strategy).
  • The U.S. delegation strongly supports issuing a questionnaire to survey the views of member countries about ranking the priorities in the Doha Strategy, in a manner similar to the questionnaire on the Nairobi Postal Strategy issued by the IB in late 2007.
  • Ideally, the UPU Strategy should reflect all of the UPU’s activities, or at least all those activities or programs that are included in the UPU Programme and Budget. Just as the overall goals in the UPU Strategy are prioritized, so should the individual programs in the UPU Programme and Budget be prioritized. To determine this prioritization, the views of member countries should be sought, biennially if necessary.
  • It is recognized that there are some UPU programs that are high-priority and low-cost, while others are high-cost and of somewhat lesser priority. This should be taken into account in the prioritization of programs in the UPU Programme and Budget.

6. General comments on the PWC study on “new market players”

  • Page 5. We note with concern and interest that only “one quarter” of the private-sector new market players which are interested in participating in UPU activities are willing to support the UPU financially. Consequently, any new or revised structure put into place to allow private-sector market players to participate in the UPU will be limited by the financial resources brought to bear to support that structure.
  • Page 5. The U.S. delegation sees no need at this stage to consider the creation of a “specific government platform distinct from the CA”.
  • Page 5. The U.S. delegation believes that it would be premature to contemplate the transformation of the Postal Operations Council into a sector-based body at this time. First, it is not known if a sufficient number of new market players would be willing to pay the costs of their participation in the UPU. Second, the UPU Convention currently applies to designated postal operators, and so far, with one possible exception (Kazakhstan), there is still only one designated operator in each UPU member country that is responsible for fulfilling the provisions of the Convention. Also, to a large extent, the current structure of the POC, with its Letter Post, Parcel Post and Postal Financial Services committees already reflects the outline of a sector-based organization.
  • Page 6. The U.S. delegation would be willing to explore and discuss the second and third options for new memberships for new market players in the UPU, that is, the suggested new category of observers that would be allowed to participate in specific committees or work groups and the suggestion to broaden Consultative Council membership to individual new postal operators and express operators. Here again, we would need to carefully consider the costs that these proposals, if adopted, would impose on the UPU and how these costs would be paid.
  • Page 6. The U.S. delegation believes that the extra-budgetary groups should adopt their own membership principles.
  • Pages 68 and 69. The same comments above apply to our comments on the final PWC recommendations on these pages. The U.S. delegation supports the concept of strengthening the role of the Restricted Unions as well as their overall coordination with the UPU and their mutual coordination with one another. As far as we know, virtually every UPU member country already belongs to a Restricted Union.