Posts and financial inclusion: contributing to the post-2015 development agenda

Opening speech by UPU Director General Bishar A. Hussein, Forum for Financial Inclusion for Development - Geneva, Switzerland, 24 October 2014

Financial Inclusion today is high on the international agenda.

Poverty eradication and financial inclusion are intertwined themes that occupy a central place in the current Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations. They will continue to dominate the post-2015 UN global agenda on international migration and development.

In this context, the UPU's objective is to create a true platform for dialogue, exchange of ideas and cooperation among all stakeholders (international organizations, UN bodies, financial institutions, governments, central banks, postal authorities and others) on financial inclusion.

I am delighted to note the presence today of representatives from several international organizations. These include the International Organization for Migration, the United Nation Conference on Trade and Development, the United Nation Capital Development Fund, World Bank, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the International Labour Organization, the International Telecommunications Union and the United Nations Development Programme. The representative of the Director General of the UN Office at Geneva is also here with us. This participation clearly illustrates our desire to work together as partners in order to set up a platform for exchange within the UN on financial inclusion, migration and development issues.

This forum and your presence here is an expression of our collective desire to support some 2.7 billion members of the world’s adult population who are excluded from formal financial systems. I believe together we can and should make a difference for these people.

Financial inclusion may have caught the world's attention only in the last decade. However, this has been the UPU’s primary preoccupation for the past 140 years.  At the core of the UPU convention, and one of our primary goals, is the provision of affordable and efficient universal postal services to all citizens of the world. Postal services include financial services. Today there are some 640,000 outlets throughout 192 countries and territories that support the unbanked population.

The Post is already delivering this mandate. Over one billion people hold 1.6 billion postal accounts, giving them access to postal financial services. Millions send or receive money through the Post every day. Most of them don't have bank accounts and are likely to be immigrant workers. The UPU therefore facilitates access to affordable and efficient financial services worldwide. This is a fact, and we are very proud of that.

The UPU acts in six major spheres.

Knowledge: The UPU conducts studies that help track the situation of postal financial inclusion. We have already published a report providing a global panorama on the issue as well as a joint UPU-World Bank report on the subject. We also conduct case studies in the field to determine success factors.

Network: Posts connect people physically and digitally, facilitating universal access and continuously improving network performances worldwide. Posts provide high-quality services and are located close to people and businesses.

Products and services: Postal financial products and services are designed to be cost-effective, particularly to the segment of population for whom every dollar counts. Posts provide the most competitive rates on the market. Lower remittance costs are a major concern for the migrant population, as well as governments and the United Nations.

Advocacy: The UPU serves as a spokesperson and catalyst for the postal financial inclusion agenda among all stakeholders. This forum is a good example of our role in raising awareness of the importance of financial inclusion.

Technical support activities: We don’t simply have good ideas; we are also players who go to the problem’s core to provide technical support and real solutions to our member countries, right there in the field where they need the service. We help our member countries set up strategies for financial inclusion, select the best business models and apply best practices. We also provide a worldwide network of money transfer services based on international treaties within the UPU. We also provide technological support through our Postal Technology Centre.

Resource mobilization and cooperation with stakeholders: The UPU works with several international organizations and private-sector donors that provide vital resources for advocacy and technical support programs in the field. We thank them.

Two eminent personalities have previously commented on the topic of our agenda. One captured the essence and need for financial exclusion, and the other told us what needs to be done about it.

It was Geoffrey Denis, CEO of Care International UK, who said: "It cannot be right that 2.7 billion people are ignored by the current financial system for being too poor. These people are full of potential, are desperate to work their way out of poverty and invest in the future of their families."

And it was Kofi Anan, former UN secretary general and a strong proponent of financial inclusion of the poor, who highlighted the challenge before us: "The stark reality is that most poor people in the world lack access to sustainable financial services, whether it is savings, credit or insurance. The great challenge before us is to address the constraint that exclude people from the full participation in the financial sector. Together we can and must build inclusive financial sector that help people improve their lives."

We are gathered here because we all recognize the importance of financial inclusion to our societies and economies. Let us then move to the next level, where we can pull together our intellectual and financial resources to accelerate financial inclusion programs.

In my view, financial inclusion can only take place on the ground and in the field. It needs a mind shift among governments, international stakeholders and the private sectors to redirect their resources towards addressing the needs of the unbanked.  For financial inclusion to be successful, it requires investments to build and support the infrastructure that will deliver the services to people in the areas they live. It will help a great deal if we pull our efforts together to achieve that.

The UPU has excellent infrastructure to deliver our common objectives on financial inclusion. However, even we in the UPU will continue to expand in some areas so we can provide efficient digital services to the people. Many member countries are already doing good work on upgrading their network. We are reaching out to serious partners who can team with us to make this noble cause a reality. We welcome your support and cooperation.

In conclusion, financial inclusion is a fundamental human right that has a profound impact on the lives of billions of people on this planet. Financial inclusion is good for our economies. It is estimated that more than 157 billion dollars could be injected annually into the formal financial sector if the unbanked people were brought on board.

Financial inclusion makes moral sense.

Financial inclusion makes business sense.

Let us provide them with financial inclusion. Let’s make the difference.  Let us join efforts.

I declare this forum officially open.