Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a tremendous pleasure and an honour to be here with you this morning for the Universal Postal Union’s first-ever Ministerial Conference, which is part of the 25th UPU Congress.
As Secretary-General of ITU I am of course very pleased to have been asked to be a panelist in a discussion about technology and communication, because this is at the heart of everything we do at ITU.
Indeed, in the 21st century, with over six billion mobile cellular subscriptions and almost 2.5 billion people online, I think it is fair to argue that technology and communication play a role in everyone’s lives, wherever they live.
As Bob Dylan famously said, ‘The Times They Are A Changing’, and while change can be hard to manage, it’s also true that change never comes without bringing fresh opportunities.
So while we may have seen a shift away from traditional letters towards a more digital experience – whether that is SMS or email or instant chat – we have also seen the quite extraordinary rise of e-commerce globally.
E-commerce is of course equally vital both to postal services and ICTs, and is now worth trillions of dollars a year, making up a significant part of global economic activity.
The overwhelming majority of the goods bought online around the world reach their final destination via postal services, across the largest physical distribution network in the world.
It is also interesting to note that one of the outcomes of the financial crisis was that postal services – and increasingly postal banks – are still widely seen as being trustworthy, at a time when many other institutions have lost our trust.
Trust plays a key role in both ITU and UPU, and it was a great pleasure to welcome UPU as one of the founding members of ITU’s ‘Connect the World’ initiative in 2005. That event also saw UPU’s launch of the International Financial System electronic money-transfer service, which continues to benefit millions of remittance workers around the world.
We are also very pleased that UPU’s Director-General, Edouard Dayan, is a Commissioner on the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, which just had its sixth meeting in New York two weeks ago, ahead of the beginning of the UN General Assembly.
As many of you will know, the Broadband Commission was set up by ITU and UNESCO to further broadband roll-out and uptake worldwide, as a way to help accelerate progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals, and we are pleased with the progress that has been made so far.
Ladies and gentlemen,
UPU and ITU are the two of the oldest of all the international organizations – ITU was founded in 1865, and UPU was founded in 1874, so ITU is just nine years older than UPU, in a history that spans almost 150 years.
So it is a great pleasure to reaffirm the close ties between our organizations – and between Dr Dayan and myself, who share a long history of professional cooperation.
To give you just one example, we are pleased that since February this year ITU has been providing ethics services to UPU personnel – including confidential guidance and advice; informal resolution of discrimination, abuse of power and harassment cases; and whistle-blower protection. This is a good demonstration of the UN system ‘working as one’.
ITU and UPU both operate not just in rich, developed nations, but where things really matter most, in the developing world.
Local post offices and postal services are crucial for delivering community services – just as community telecentres, schools used out of school hours, and public libraries can be excellent resources in bringing communications to remote and rural areas, and ensure the delivery of vital services from telemedicine to distance learning.
An important recent aspect of UPU’s work has been the focus on ‘Addressing the World – an Address for Everyone’, and ITU is pleased to have been able to contribute to the white paper of that title which is being launched here tomorrow.
Today, of course, ‘addresses’ go far beyond simple geography; notably in the digital world, where digital addresses are of fundamental importance in ICTs – without which there would be neither phone calls nor email.
So in today’s world, individuals’ social and economic participation hinges on their access to both postal and communication addresses.
In fulfilment of the international community’s commitments to the MDGs, both the ITU and the UPU must pave the way to an effective, equitable and beneficial path towards development and inclusion.
In this context, the right to communication plays a critical role.
We must recognize the critical importance of interconnection and convergence between addresses’ electronic and physical dimensions, and then ensure that all of the world’s people are connected, whatever the means of communication.
One dimension of this task relies on the work of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Sector, in the essential topics of addressing know-how; identity management of persons and objects; security; privacy; confidentiality; and internationalization.
Let me therefore lend ITU’s support not just to the white paper, but also to the Doha declaration on the role of an address infrastructure in the development and integration of member countries which will be put before 25th Congress here this week.
And on that note, let me wish you a very successful conference and congress.