Universal Postal Union (UPU)

Union postale universelle (UPU)
Unión Postal Universal (UPU)

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9 Oct 1874, Bern (Switzerland), as General Postal Union -- Union générale des postes -- Unión General de Correos, on signature by 22 countries of Treaty concerning the establishment of a General Postal Union (Bern Treaty) -- Traité concernant la création d'une Union générale des postes (Traité de Berne) -- Tratado concerniente a la creación de una Unión General de Correos (Tratado de Berna). The Treaty came into force 1 July 1875 (in the case of France, 1 Jan 1876). Present name adopted in 1878. Since 1 July 1948, UPU is a Specialized Agency of United Nations (UN) within the framework of United Nations System, linked to United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). UPU Constitution (incorporating the General Regulations, the Convention and its Detailed Regulations) is a diplomatic convention ratified by the appropriate authority in each member country. Amendments may only be made at Congress and are recorded in an Additional Protocol, which is also subject to ratification. Resolutions, decisions, recommendations and formal opinions, together with UPU Acts proper, make up the Decisions of Congress. To these is added the Agreement making the UPU a specialized agency of the UN and defining relations between the two organizations. This Agreement is annexed to the Constitution and determines the conditions of any amendment to it. The current Constitution, was adopted by 15th Congress, 1964, Vienna (Austria), and has been in force since 1 Jan 1966. There have been 7 Additional Protocols, adopted at the following Congresses: 1969, Tokyo (Japan); 1974, Lausanne (Switzerland); 1984, Hamburg (Germany FR); 1989, Washington DC (USA); 1994, Seoul (Korea Rep); 1999, Beijing (China); 2004, Bucharest (Romania). The 1999 protocol came into force on 1 Jan 2001; 2004 protocol came into force on 1 Jan 2006; 2008 protocol comes into force on 1 Jan 2010. Constitution registered in 'UNTS 1/8844'. EU Transparency Register: 81947973709-24.


Ensure organization and development of postal services; promote development of communication among peoples by efficient operation of postal services; contribute to international collaboration in the cultural, social and economic fields; ensure that all postal users/customers enjoy the right to a universal postal service; participate in the provision of technical assistance as requested by member countries; ensure the interoperability of postal networks by implementing a suitable policy of standardization; meet the changing needs of postal customers; improve the quality of postal services.

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Basic activity is the adoption of provisions for the various international postal services carried out by member postal administrations. Fundamental rules are introduced by the Bern Treaty of 1874, as they still appear in the UPU Constitution concluded in 1964, Vienna (Austria), and subsequent amendments. Provisions relating to application of the Constitution and operation of the Union are contained in UPU General Regulations and are revised at each Quadrennial Congress. These Regulations are agreements concluded by the Postal Operations Council, which has authority to amend them at its annual sessions. Both the Convention and Regulations are binding on all member countries and include common rules applicable to the international postal service and provisions concerning letter post and parcel post services. The Convention provides for: formation among all member countries of a single postal territory for the reciprocal exchange of letter-post items; guaranteed freedom of transit within the territory of the Union; standardization of charges to be collected by each country for letter-post items addressed to any part of the Union's territory; promotion of better quality, development and modernization of postal services; remuneration as compensation for the delivery of mail received from abroad; arbitration procedure to settle disputes between administrations. The 1999 Beijing Congress introduced a new text concerning the universal postal service at the beginning of the Convention, stating that postal users and customers are entitled to quality basic postal services at all points in their territory and at affordable prices.

'Activities within the United Nations System': Under an agreement concluded between the United Nations and the Union in 1947, which came into force 1 July 1948, the UN recognized the Universal Postal Union as a specialized agency and the UPU legally became a member of the United Nations system of organizations. In 1968, UNDP gave favourable reception to important postal projects for setting up or expanding national or multinational training schools in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. The provisions of the UPU Constitution therefore authorize countries to establish Restricted Unions and conclude special agreements concerning the postal service, provided conditions are not introduced which are less favourable for the public than those laid down in the Union's Acts. There are currently 17 such Restricted Unions.

'Cooperation to enhance postal development': The principle of technical cooperation was first introduced into the UPU Constitution at the 1964 Vienna Congress, resulting from the need to provide assistance to the many newly-formed countries that had become members of the UPU during the early 1960s. Funding for these activities typically came from the UNDP or other international development agencies, or was given on a bilateral basis. Currently the major portion of funding for technical cooperation activities comes from contributions of member countries to UPU budget or to a special voluntary fund. A principal goal of the 'Postal Development Action Group (PDAG)', a special working group set up within the UPU, is to increase the level of outside financial resources (notably from international financial institutions) devoted to reform and modernization of postal services. PDAG also actively encourages the continued use of bilateral and multilateral assistance between postal administrations themselves. A crucial element in selecting beneficiary countries is their own motivation to participate actively in the technical cooperation projects to be undertaken. Once commitment has been secured, development contracts covering multi-year integrated projects are concluded between these countries and the Union. UPU also conducts short projects which may include study cycles, training fellowships and the services of development consultants who carry out on-the-spot studies concerning training, management or postal operations.

In addition to the work indicated under Structure, the International Bureau undertakes enquiries at the request of Postal Administrations and delivers international reply coupons to them. It may serve as an office for compensation and as an intermediary for the regulation of different accounts relating to the international postal service. A 'Universal Postal Union Customs Contact Committee' has been set up to seek methods of accelerating and simplifying customs formalities. The Bureau's ability to assist postal services of developing countries in the most effective manner is strengthened by the presence of UPU Regional Coordinators in the field, established by the Washington Congress in 1989 and expanded to the present number of 7 at the Beijing Congress in 1999. The Regional Coordinator's principal responsibilities are for the programming, preparation, implementation and follow-up of postal development projects within their regions.

'Quality of service': Since postal services are under constant pressure to make further improvements in the quality of their postal products, each Congress since 1984 has adopted a policy aimed at reinforcing the quality of the international service. In 1999, the 22nd UPU Congress approved creation of a 'Quality of Service Fund' with the aim to finance projects for improving the quality of postal services in developing countries. The fund is maintained by terminal dues payments made by postal administrations in industrialized countries.

'Technology': Global Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) project aims to spread the use of advanced information technology systems to the postal services of developing countries. Member postal administrations are able to track mail shipments end to end using computer applications that facilitate processing and allow exchange of electronic data.

'Philately': The Philatelic industry is represented in the UPU-World Association for the Development of Philately (WADP). UPU Congresses set guidelines and recommended postage stamp themes likely to contribute to strengthening bonds of international friendship, although policies regarding the issue, sale and marketing of postage stamps are a matter for each member country. 'Philatelic code of ethics for use by UPU member countries' adopted 1999, Beijing.

'Security': Postal Security Action Group (PSAG) aims to help postal services fulfil their obligation to customers by ensuring the integrity of mail and protecting those involved in its handling.

'Customer Focus and Market Development': Industry groups promote closer ties with postal customers, including publishing, direct mail and private operators.

'UPU Agreements': Postal Payment Service Agreement and its Regulations were adopted in 1999, Beijing, and replace Cash-on-delivery Agreement, Giro Agreement, 1984 and Money Orders and Postal Travellers Cheques Agreement, 1984. They are binding only on parties to the Agreement

Other agreements concluded under UPU auspices:

 • Agreement Concerning Postal Money Orders and Postal Travellers' Cheques, 1952;

 • Agreement Concerning Cash-on-delivery Items, 1952;

 • Agreement Concerning Cash-on-delivery Items, 1957;

 • Agreement Concerning Postal Money Orders and Postal Travellers' Cheques, 1964;

 • Agreement Concerning Cash-on-delivery Items, 1964;

 • Agreement Concerning Postal Money Orders and Postal Travellers' Cheques, 1969;

 • Agreement Concerning Giro Transfers;

 • Agreement Concerning Cash-on-delivery Items, 1969;

 • Money Orders and Postal Travellers Cheques Agreement, 1979;

 • Giro Agreement, 1979;

 • Collection of Bills Agreement;

 • International Savings Agreement;

 • Postal Parcels Agreement, 1984;

 • Subscriptions to Newspapers and Periodicals Agreement.


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Relations with Inter-Governmental Organizations

Relations with 45 inter-governmental organizations.
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Relations with Non-Governmental Organizations

Relations with 24 non-governmental organizations.
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Members in 197 countries
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Type I Classification

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Type II Classification

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Subjects *

  • Social Activity
    • Services
  • Transportation, Telecommunications
    • Post
  • International Relations
    • United Nations

UN Sustainable Development Goals **

GOAL 1: No PovertyGOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure



Last News Received

11. Dec 2017
* Subject classification is derived from the organization names and aims.
** UN SDGs are linked to the subject classification.

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