SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

UPU Sets The Tone: Building An Inclusive And Diverse Postal Sector

Senior Fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute in Ottawa.
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By Alexander Dalziel

2023 saw a genuine breakthrough in the UPU’s work on gender equality and the empowerment of women. With the adoption of its inaugural gender equality policy and the completion of the UPU’s first-ever gender capacity assessment, the UPU is preparing the ground for the new, modern postal sector, which capitalizes on its diversity and thrives by providing equal opportunities for all.

The effective and equal participation of women in postal operations is essential for creating an enabling working environment and for the Post to become a key actor in advancing sustainable socioeconomic development. Incorporating diverse talents and skills is also crucial for the improvement and modernization of postal business operations.

While the UPU’s commitment to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women (GEEW), both within the ranks of the UPU secretariat and within the wider postal sector, is not new, it was consolidated for the first time in 2021 with the Abidjan Congress’ approval of Resolution C 10/2021, “Gender equality and the empowerment of women at the UPU and in the worldwide postal sector”.

Central to this commitment is the UPU’s effort to encourage fair recruitment and promotion practices, including through elevating women to leadership positions. Beyond internal efforts, the UPU actively collaborates with international entities, governments, and non-governmental organizations to share best practices and foster global initiatives that support gender equality more broadly.

2023 came for the UPU as another landmark year as it witnessed the approval of its first-ever gender equality policy, a true milestone in the UPU’s 150-year history. The policy is intended to serve as a guiding framework, ensuring that gender equality is a key consideration in all of the UPU’s operations and initiatives. It aims to eliminate gender-based disparities and unconscious biases, promote equal opportunities, and encourage a culture of respect without fear of harassment.

In order to understand training needs and evaluate the current state of gender equality knowledge within both its secretariat and member countries, the UPU also conducted its inaugural gender capacity assessment. The results of the survey show increasing progress and interest among the International Bureau staff and UPU membership when it comes to gender equality and the empowerment of women. However, despite a good percentage of secretariat staff and UPU member country participants demonstrating familiarity with basic gender concepts, there is a need to update and broaden this knowledge. Results also show some lack of competencies in the use of gender-related tools, resources, and policies.

The UPU will use the insights gained through the survey to fill in these gaps through the development of dedicated gender, diversity and inclusion training, as well as mechanisms to strengthen leadership accountability within the organization and UPU member countries.

The gender equality policy and capacity assessment are more than just milestones; they are indicative of the UPU’s dedication to creating a more equitable and inclusive environment. This dedication has already reaped results.

Since its first UN-SWAP 2.0 (the UN system-wide Action Plan on Gender Equality) reporting in 2018, the UPU has substantially improved its performance and compliance with the 17 UN-SWAP performance indicators, raising it from 5 per cent to 35 per cent. In November 2023, these achievements were showcased to the United Nations community during the UN-SWAP 2.0 Conference in New York organized by UN Women and hosted by UNFPA.

Most recently, in January 2024, the UPU Director-General, Masahiko Metoki, joined the International Gender Champions (IGC) Network, a leadership network that brings together decision-makers to break down gender barriers and make gender equality a working reality in their sphere of operation. In joining this aspirational community, the UPU Director-General committed to supporting the Panel Parity Pledge by ensuring the equal participation of women and men in UPU events and discussions, as well as the Gender-Based Violence Pledge, standing for zero tolerance of gender-based violence, sexist attitudes and behaviours.

“This policy will also integrate measures to ensure equal opportunities, eliminate gender-based discrimination, and encourage the empowerment and advancement of women in our institution. By adopting and rigorously implementing this policy, we seek to create a workplace that fosters equality, diversity, and inclusivity,” stated Mr. Metoki as part of his IGC commitments.

This strong leadership buy-in is further supported by UPU Deputy Director-General Marjan Osvald, who was designated as the UPU’s very own Gender Equality Champion in 2022. “The UPU’s journey towards gender equality is still very far from being completed, but we have made the first steps. We believe that this profound transformation is needed for the postal sector to succeed in the new era. The new gender equality policy, together with its unceasing commitment, makes the UPU better equipped to lead this change.”

As the UPU celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2024, the organization plans to build on this work, focusing on the implementation of the gender equality policy and ensuring that it translates into tangible actions and positive transformative changes.

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