Metoki Masahiko: the new Director General of the Universal Postal Union


In August, Metoki Masahiko, a senior executive at Japan Post, was elected director general of the Universal Postal Union, a United Nations agency responsible for coordinating global postal policies. When his term begins in early 2022, he will be the first Japanese official to head the UPU, as well as the first to head a UN agency since Amano Yukiya, who served as director general of the International atomic energy from 2009 until his death in 2019.

Take over from the Postal Union

The Universal Postal Union was created in 1874 to ensure the fluidity of international mail by coordinating and improving postal policies and services between different countries. As its 150th anniversary approaches, it is the second oldest United Nations agency and today coordinates the postal operations of its 192 member countries.

In August of this year, the organization met in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, for its Universal Postal Conference, which is held once every four years. During the conference, members elected Metoki Masahiko, senior executive of Japan Post, for a four-year term as UPU secretary general. Metoki, who takes office in January 2022, is the first Asian to head the agency. On September 8, he met members of the online media to discuss the problems facing the postal services and what he would like to accomplish at the UPU.

During the online meeting, he expressed his gratitude for the confidence member countries have shown in his leadership abilities by selecting him to head the agency, saying that “this is a position of great responsibility and I promise to concentrate all my efforts on the performance of my duties “. Looking ahead to his tenure, he says that as Japan’s first Director General, he is committed to ensuring that the UPU is seen to be run in a fair, impartial and transparent manner.

New Horizons

Metoki, who has chaired the UPU Postal Operations Council since 2012, will take the reins of the agency amid rapidly changing global trends. The volume of traditional postal items like letters and postcards has declined dramatically as communication intensifies online, hence the need to develop new business models. At the same time, the growth of e-commerce has stimulated the demand for small parcels. Developing countries have struggled to keep pace with these changes and, in many cases, postal operators are losing out to private sector services. The COVID-19 pandemic has also put pressure on the international postal service due to the drop in air traffic.

As his election approaches, Metoki is committed to meeting these challenges by seeking new business opportunities. “The UPU’s primary objective is to protect the global postal service network,” he says. “To do this, we need to develop income-generating areas. “

To achieve this goal, Metoki said the agency will create a new department that will function as a think tank to study new technologies, including e-commerce capacity building and digitization of operations, explore ways to better utilize them. postal networks and provide advice to member countries. in the reform of their postal services. “It is up to each country to decide whether or not to invest in new areas,” he says, “but the UPU can provide support in a number of ways, for example by helping to launch pilot programs.

Metoki Masahiko. (Courtesy of Japan Post)

Metoki brings a wealth of public service experience to his new role. He joined the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, the predecessor of the current Ministry of Home Affairs and Communications, in 1983 and has held several high-level positions in the ministry and the Japanese Post during his career. He also has diplomatic credentials, having served for three years as First Secretary at the Japanese Embassy in Thailand. Perhaps most important is his knowledge of the UPU. As Chairman of the Postal Operations Council, a permanent body of the UPU dealing with operational, economic and commercial aspects of postal activity, he was responsible for coordinating the efforts of postal services around the world to address the challenges facing they are faced.

He also brings with him a reputation for getting things done. In 2009, he exerted influence by lobbying the UPU to revise its rules to allow laptops, video equipment and other electronic items containing lithium batteries to be sent by the international express post service EMS. The UPU secretariat was concerned at the time that few countries would send a postal vote, making it difficult to get a two-thirds majority vote required to pass the changes. However, Metoki says he “lobbied like it was an election campaign” and rallied support for the proposal, which was ultimately passed.

(Originally published in Japanese. Text by Ishii Masato by Banner photo: Metoki Masahiko, right, nudges Egypt Post President Dr Sharif Farouk during the August Universal Postal Conference in Côte d’Ivoire. Photo courtesy of Japan Post.)

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