UPU Elections-What about the customers?By
Over the course of the two weeks I spent at the UPU headquarters last month, which I will report on over the next several months, I had several opportunities to meet the four candidates who are standing for the Director General and Deputy Director General positions.
The Director General is the head of the International Bureau of the UPU and the chief diplomat on behalf of the Union’s membership and its employees within the United Nations system. It’s a very demanding position with many facets. One must be a human resources manager of the 140 or so employees of the International Bureau as well as a Chief Operating Officer. In addition, you must have a global business view of the development path which the national posts and the resulting international network will take. You have to be budget-watcher, because your shareholders, that is the 192 sovereign nations who pay to keep you running, have decided your budget will be the same amount every year-recession and inflation be damned. Finally, you must be a neutral diplomat representing not a country, but a principle- the maintenance and development of the “single postal territory” through which mail and parcels will pass to and from all countries of the world, regardless of the state of diplomatic relations or war among them. But, you don’t formulate policy or articulate or lead change. The member states will rap your knuckles if you do.
And did I mention that postal systems world-wide are struggling to remain relevant as they lose mail to carry. They are also confronted with increases in parcel traffic they are not well-equipped to handle and regarding which they face fierce private sector competition. Not to mention that if they are still government-owned, or are in liberalized markets, they probably face fierce, and competent, private sector competition.
The Vice Director General has few specified duties other than to wait to step forward if something happens to the Director General. At least the Vice President of the United States can go to the Senate and chair the proceedings and cast the deciding vote in case of a tie. And he (perhaps soon, she) has various committee chairmanships and responsibilities delegated to them from time to time. In fact some of the study commission projects entrusted to Vice Presidents in the past have had enormous impact on public policy in the US. And, of course, a Vice President can run for President. Alas, none of this seems to occur at the UPU. Policy development appears to flow from the membership, if it flows at all, and we can’t say we’ve seen very much of it at the UPU. Or at least that is our experience of the place.
Hoping I was wrong about all of that, at each opportunity during the time I was at the UPU, I asked each of the candidates for Director General and Vice Director General, if they would send me a position statement, or policy statement, of issues they felt were important to talk about to the public and to the voters who would be asked to elect them. I promised that I would post whatever they chose to send me.
None of them chose to do so, despite my having asked each candidate twice during my stay. I guess I’m not important enough, since I’m merely the representative on the one hand of direct mailers, who are in most developed countries the biggest customers of the posts, and on the other hand of envelope manufacturers, some 60% of whose products pass through the posts’ systems. But the UPU has never been about customers, and seems little inclined to pay much attention to them.
So we went to ever helpful Google and searched for our candidates.
The candidates for Director General are
- Ambassador Bishar Hussein of Kenya, who currently is the Chair of the Council of Administration of the UPU, and
- Dr. Serrana Bassini, of Uruguay and Secretary General of the Postal Union of the Americas, Spain and Portugal.
We were unable to find a web presence of any nature for Ambassador Bishar.
Dr. Bassini, however, appears to have been extremely active, with a cleverly-named Twitter presence (@candidacyupuuy) and a very informative website, at www.serranabassini.com.
The site has a video announcing her candidacy and assuring us that she is definitely supported by a proud Uruguay. There are also scripts of a number of her recent speeches.
The candidates for Deputy Director General are
- Pascal Clivaz, who currently is Director of Strategy at the UPU, and
- Dennis H. Delahanty, who represents the US government at the UPU and at numerous other postal bodies.
Mr. Clivaz has a website describing his background and experience in both Swiss Post and the UPU. www.pascalclivaz.ch/about.
And an impressive background it most certainly is. The site also contains a number of pictures taken on the excursion to a Swiss ski resort for UPU delegates from around the world hosted by Swiss Post during the meetings. It’s a rainbow of nationalities and races enjoying themselves in the snow, for many the first experience of snow!
Mr. Delahanty also has a web presence, on the U.S. Department of State site at www.state.gov/p/io/rm/183659.htm. It is not as complex as that of Mr. Clivas, but it does contain a video statement by Mr. Delahanty which is worth listening to. He is a second generation postal veteran, and has previously worked at the UPU. In fact, he looks forward to “help guide the UPU to shift priorities and actions to best meet the evolving needs of all 192 member countries.” Dennis’s site is much too modest and does not make enough mention of his long international career with the USPS and State, and his impressive multi-language facility.
We anticipate the usual politicking and vote “incentivizing” when the vote comes in Doha in October. But, I’m still looking, and will continue to look, for some mention of customers. I also think it would be terribly proper of our State Department to ask those of us who spend so much time at the UPU and in the international postal arena in general to express our views of the candidates. But, we’re only customers.