PLS 437: International Organizations
23 April 2013
The Universal Postal Union
The Universal Postal Union (UPU) is the second oldest existing interstate organization in the United Nations. It has continuous record of useful service to the international community, extending over a long period. This IO was first established as the Union Générale des Postes (General Postal Union) on October 9, 1874 as a result of the Treaty of Bern. However, four years later the name was changed to Universal Postal Union as a result in the growing membership of the Union. The 1874 treaty succeeded in unifying a confusing international maze of postal services and regulations into a single postal territory for the reciprocal exchange of letters. The barriers and frontiers that had impeded the free flow and growth of international mail had finally been pulled down. The headquarters are located in Bern, Switzerland where French is the official language, however English was added as working language in 1994. There are three main notions of the UPU; first, there should be a uniform flat rate to mail a letter anywhere in the world. Second, postal authorities should give equal treatment to foreign and domestic mail. Third, each country should retain all money it has collected for international postage.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, the exchange of mail between countries was largely governed by bilateral postal agreements. At the beginning of the 19th century the netting of bilateral agreements had become so complex that it began to impede the rapidly developing trade and commercial sectors, which proved order and simplification was needed in the international postal services. The most noteworthy reform occurred in England in 1840 when Sir Rowland Hill introduced a system where postage on letters had to be prepaid and uniform rates would be charged for all letters in the domestic service. In 1863, United States Postmaster General, Montgomery Blair, called a conference in Paris where 15 delegates from European and American countries met and succeeded in creating a number of general principles. Heinrich von Stephan, a senior postal official from North German Confederation, drew up a plan for an international postal union, and the Swiss Government convened an international conference on September 15, 1874, which was attended by representatives from 22 nations.
The UPU presently has a total of 192 member countries with any member country of the United Nations having the option to join the UPU at any time with an approved request by at least two-thirds of the current member countries. The UPU is the primary forum for cooperation between postal sector players. This helps to ensure a truly universal network of up-to-date products and services. The organization fulfills an advisory, mediating and liaison role, and provides technical assistance where needed. It sets the rules for international male exchanges, makes recommendations to stimulate growth in mail, parcel and financial services volumes, improve quality of service for customers. The UPU consists of four bodies: Congress, Council of Administration (CA), Postal Operations Council (POC), and the International Bureau (IB). It also includes two cooperatives: Telematics Cooperative and EMS Cooperative. The Universal Postal Congress is arguably the most important body, with a main purpose of the quadrennial Congress being to examine proposals to amend the Acts of the UPU, which include the UPU Constitution, General Regulations, Convention, and Postal Payment Services Agreement. The member countries finance the Union expenses jointly through a contribution class system. Upon admission to the Union, new member countries are free to choose one of ten contribution classes ranging from one to 50 units. An additional contribution class of one-half unit it reserved for the least developed countries. There are at present five countries with the maximum 50