“Forward ever, backward never: onwards with Breaking Through”


Speech of the UPU Director General Bishar Hussein at the Opening Ceremony of the 27th Universal Postal Congress, Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire

(Check against delivery)
Your Excellency Mr. Alassane Ouattara, President of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire,
Your Excellency, Mr. Roger Félix Adom, Minister of the Digital Economy, Telecommunications and Innovation,
Mr. Souleymane Diakité Coty, Chairman of the 27th Universal Postal Congress,
Mr. Hakan Gurten, the outgoing Chairman representing Turkey,
Mr. Isaac Gnamba-Yao, Director General of La Poste de Côte d’Ivoire,
UPU Deputy Director General, Mr. Pascal Clivaz,
Honourable Ministers and Heads of Delegations,
Excellencies Ambassadors,
Dear delegates and participants,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is with great pleasure that I find myself standing in front of you today at the opening of the 27th UPU Congress.
This is a real pleasure because the Road to Abidjan has been a long and winding one. It is a journey that went through many challenges.
I wish to thank Your Excellency Mr. Alassane Ouattara, your Government and the people of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire for organizing and funding this Congress and for welcoming us to Abidjan.
I am impressed by the resilience that Côte d’Ivoire has shown to hold a Congress since Beijing congress in 1999. Your indomitable spirit, your commitment and resolve have finally paid off. 
On behalf of the entire UPU fraternity, I would like to congratulate you and say a big thank to you for this success.
Having lost the opportunity in 2004 and last year, it is gratifying and a real sense of satisfaction to see all these distinguished delegates gathered here today finally for the inauguration of the 27th Congress in the City of Abidjan.
I also thank all the member states who have honoured the invitation, and were able to travel to Abidjan to attend this event, despite the current travel restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Your presence here today is a confirmation of your commitment to the Union and to the development of the world Post. Thank you all for making this event happen.
I thank my IB secretariat and the local preparatory team for together working so hard to prepare for this Congress under the most difficult circumstances.
You always stepped up to every challenge that came your way to deliver to our members’ expectations.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The COVID-19 pandemic did not affect the holding of Congress alone; it also has had a big impact on postal business. With the grounding of passenger airlines and closure of border entry points at the height of the pandemic last year, it became almost impossible to transmit international postal items.
This disruption and lockdown of countries did not, however, lock out the Posts from business. Through innovation and diversification, the Posts rose to the occasion and worked tirelessly and courageously to ensure that people in lockdown still received their goods and services. E-commerce received a boost as many of our customers turned to ordering services online, and the post picked up the delivery market.
In the last 18 months, the international postal sector has experienced incredible change, with some governments declaring the Post as a critical infrastructure. In many administrations, governments used the Post to deliver essential services including COVID-19 medicine and vaccines.
At the same time, many postmen and women risked their lives to keep the mail moving. A number of them even lost their lives in the line of duty.
Kindly let us observe a minute of silence in honour of those fallen postal heroes and heroines.
Thank you.
In recognition of the changed environment, the UPU started the Post4Health initiative, in which the Union, with the support of member countries, is encouraging postal organizations to develop capacities to deliver medical products through its expansive global network. Thank you to those who have supported this project.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We have come to Abidjan not only to reflect on the milestones of the Post in the last five years, but also to discuss and define how Posts will assist economic and social development in the future.
In developing the Abidjan World Postal Strategy, that will be proposed for approval by the Congress, we took into consideration the ever-changing global business environment, as well as the challenges that face the postal industry and the UPU now and in the future. We believe the Strategy holds the promise for a brighter future.
Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen,
Nine years ago, to the week, when you elected me and Mr. Pascal Clivaz as your Director General and Deputy Director Genera respectively, I promised to initiate positive changes in the UPU enhancing its role and relevance.
As Pascal and I settled on our job, we had a choice, to either play top diplomats and enjoy our tenure at the International Bureau quietly, or take the hard and risky road of reform and leave behind a changed and fit-for-purpose Union.  We chose the latter, knowing very well reform is not easily accepted, indeed, it is often resisted.
We, nevertheless, embarked on major institutional and administrative reforms as soon as we took office.  We started with conducting a risk assessment of the Union after which we mapped out ten major risks and developed a strategic plan to address them one by one.
This is what has occupied us in the last nine years. The overarching goal has been to address the role and relevance of the Union and find ways of maintaining it to best address members’ needs and those of the postal industry. Thanks to the support of members, we have achieved significant success in our reform mission and on all the targets given to us.
I must hastily add that the changes did not come easily. As is always the case, there are those who were uncomfortable either with the changes we were instituting or the pace with which they were being introduced and implemented. The IB general management came up against numerous challenges. We faced fierce resistance and opposition to every reform proposal we brought forward. We were short of finances and long on demands from member states.
Even under these pressure and resistance, we stayed the course. There are those who thought we were difficult but I want to say to them we had a hard job to do and certainly, it was not going to be easily achieved.   
In spite of all the challenges faced, I am happy at what we have been able to achieve within the period.  As I prepare to step down from my position as Director General soon, I exit the stage of this wonderful organization, satisfied at what we have helped achieve for the Union.
Since this is my last major official engagement allow me to thank all of you for your support over the years. Let me especially thank the following:
African Heads of State, I want to express my profound gratitude to you for endorsing and supporting my candidacy for the position of the DG not once but twice. Your endorsement was instrumental to my success.
To my President and the Government of Kenya, for supporting my election campaign and backing me throughout my mandate at the UPU.
To Ministers in charge of Post and their delegations, I say thank you for your unswerving support and encouragement during the two mandates.
To all UPU member states, I thank you for your trust, support and collaboration that has helped us move this Union forward.
Special thanks go to Qatar and Turkey who have been respective chairs of the Council of Administration in the two cycles under my leadership, as well as Japan, represented by Mr. Masahiko Metoki, who served for two mandates as Chair of the Postal Operations Council. Metoki-san, I wish you success in your election bid.
I also wish to recognize the support and collaboration that the UPU has received from our restricted Unions: APPU led by Mr. Lin Hongliang, PAPU led by Mr. Younnous Djibrine, PUASP led by Mr. Roberto Cavanna Merchan, RCC led by Mr. Shadayev Maksut Igorevich, and PostEurop, led by Mr. Botond Szebeny; and indeed, all other partners.  
I have so many people to thank but there is no space and time to do so here. I will thank you individually before my exit.
Nevertheless, allow me pay tribute to the team that helped us broker the V-option compromise at the Geneva Congress in 2019. These are the United States of America team spearheaded by Dr. Peter Navarro, Mr. Stephen Anderson, Mr. Joe Murphy, Mr. Stuart Smith and Mr. Stroman, as well as the Peoples Republic of China team under the leadership of Mr. Ma Jusheng - CEO of China Post State Bureau, together with Madam Gao and Madam Dong.  
I wish to extend my appreciation and thanks to the CEOs of the La Post France, Russia Post, Turkish Post and the Netherlands Post for hosting the UPU CEO Forum in Paris, Moscow, Istanbul and Amsterdam, respectively.
To Mr. Pascal Clivaz, my friend, my able deputy, a visionary, a strategist and a practical man. A man of honor and courage. A true spirit of change. The splendid reforms we achieved would not have been possible without your hard work, planning, coordination and support. Thank you very much and I wish you good luck in your campaign to become Director General.
To all IB staff, and especially to the senior colleagues who worked closely with me; Bousseta, Mutua, Siva, Cuadra, Ricardo, Dubenko, Ducrest, Lati, and Meskine. Thank you very much for your trust and support.
To Alassane Guiro - my former Director of the Cabinet. You helped me settle down in my new role as DG. Your knowledge and experience were instrumental to help me find my bearings during my first mandate.
To Eric Langat – my trusted friend and advisor – I say thank you.
To my wife and children, I cannot thank you enough for always being there for me. You are the people who drive my inspirations. Thank you very much once again.
To my departed father and mother – your enduring love, nurturing and training have made me into the man I am today. You will always be in my thoughts and prayers. May Allah have mercy on your souls. I hope to meet you in Jannah one day.
Your Excellencies, to conclude my speech, I want to say that a leader will always have those who support their vision and those who do not. For those who understood me and supported me, I say a big thank you. For those who did not and challenged me, I will work twice as hard to earn your respect and understanding until the day I will hand over my office to the next UPU leader. 
Finally, we have a short video that illustrates some of the remarkable activities and achievements during the two mandates for Mr. Clivaz and myself.
Please enjoy the clip and thank you very much for your attention.
[Note: Video plays]