The world's postal sector, in collaboration with UNCTAD, wants to reposition itself as more than just a distributor of letters and parcels, but as an important player in e-commerce, enterprise development and as an enabler of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.
This was among the key messages heard at a forum called Fulfilling the Global E-commerce Promise organized by the Universal Postal Union (UPU) from 26-27 March 2014 in Berne, Switzerland, at which UNCTAD and the UPU highlighted plans for greater partnership in the area of e-commerce.
"I'm delighted to know that worldwide the postal network today is inundated with ever increasing volumes of e-commerce merchandise at a time that letter mail has declined due to electronic substitution in these digital times. E-commerce presents growth opportunities for the industry," said Bishar Hussein, Director-General of the UPU, who opened the forum with representatives of UNCTAD, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the World Customs Organization (WCO).
UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi said in a written statement delivered by Anne Miroux, Director of the Division on Technology and Logistics of UNCTAD: "This forum is timely in the context of development at the international level and most notably the Bali agreement [on trade facilitation]. To build on Bali and to expand the contribution of e-commerce to development, it is important that the discussions address the many issues linked to e-commerce by bringing together a broad section of interests."
Ms Miroux later highlighted the decision to invigorate the work on e-commerce, giving particular attention to small and medium sized enterprises, at the Bali Ministerial Conference in Decemeber 2013. Noting that UNCTAD had been working on e-commerce including trade facilitation for more than a decade, she emphasized the need to lay the proper groundwork.
"The arrival of e-commerce potential is not automatic," she said. "For enterprises to seize the emerging opportunities, there is a need for affordable information and communication technology (ICT) services and ICT infrastructure, for skills and capability development. These are key elements. No less essential are also the policies, the laws and the regulations to support e-commerce."
Also closely related to e-commerce development, Ms Miroux cited the importance of issues such as consumer protection, data confidentiality and security, electronic software, cloud computing, and mobile applications such as mobile money. These have grown rapidly and are helping to accelerating e-commerce, particularly in developing countries.
Ms. Miroux also announced that UNCTAD will be holding a high-level event on remittances and mobile money, for which the postal sector also plays an important role, during UNCTAD's fiftieth anniversary to be celebrated in Geneva in June 2014.
"Globalization brought about by the internet has opened many doors for the developed and developing countries," Mr Hussein added, highlighting the importance of collaboration to achieve the aims of e-commerce. "[L]et us join forces to deliver the e-commerce promise and make it a truly inclusive, global experience."
Further information on UNCTAD's work on e-commerce including ICTs for development and trade facilitation is available on the website of the Division on Technology and Logistics of UNCTAD.