Universal Postal Union
Universal Postal Union (UPU, French: Union postale universelle),
established by the Treaty of
Bern of 1874, is a specialized agency
United Nations (UN) that coordinates postal policies among
member nations, in addition to the worldwide postal system. The UPU
contains four bodies consisting of the Congress, the Council of
Administration (CA), the Postal Operations Council (POC) and the
International Bureau (IB). It also oversees the Telematics and Express
Mail Service (EMS) cooperatives. Each member agrees to the same terms
for conducting international postal duties. The UPU's headquarters are
located in Bern, Switzerland.
French is the official language of the UPU. English was added as a
working language in 1994. The majority of the UPU's documents and
publications – including its flagship magazine, Union Postale –
are available in the United Nations' six official languages (French,
English, Arabic, Chinese, Russian, and Spanish).
2 Current Issues
4 Member countries
6 Philatelic activities
7 Electronic telecommunication
8 See also
9 References and sources
10 External links
In the UPU Monument (Weltpostdenkmal) in Bern, bronze and granite, by
René de Saint-Marceaux, the five continents join to transmit messages
around the globe
Prior to the establishment of the UPU, each country had to prepare a
separate postal treaty with other nations if it wished to carry
international mail to or from them. In some cases, senders would have
to calculate postage for each leg of a journey, and find mail
forwarders in a third country if there was no direct delivery. To
remove this complexity, the United States called for an International
Postal Congress in 1863. This led Heinrich von Stephan, Royal Prussian
and later German Minister for Posts, to found the Universal Postal
Union. It is currently the third oldest international organization
after the Rhine Commission and the ITU. The UPU was created in 1874,
initially under the name "General Postal Union", under the Treaty of
Bern signed on October 9, 1874. Four years later, the name was
changed to "Universal Postal Union".
The UPU established that:
There should be a uniform flat rate to mail a letter anywhere in the
Postal authorities should give equal treatment to foreign and domestic
Each country should retain all money it has collected for
One of the most important results of the UPU Treaty was that it ceased
to be necessary, as it often had been previously, to affix the stamps
of any country through which one's letter or package would pass in
transit. The UPU provides that stamps of member nations are accepted
for the entire international route. Toward the end of the 19th
century, the UPU issued rules concerning stamp design, intended to
ensure maximum efficiency in handling international mail. One rule
specified that stamp values be given in numerals (denominations
spelled out in letters not being universally comprehensible);
another, that member nations all use the same colors on their stamps
issued for post cards (green), normal letters (red) and international
mail (blue), a system that remained in use for several decades.
After the foundation of the United Nations, the UPU became a
specialized agency of the UN in 1948. In 1969, the UPU introduced
a new system of payment where fees were payable between countries
according to the difference in the total weight of mail between them.
These fees were called terminal dues. This new system was fairer when
traffic was heavier in one direction than the other. For example, in
2012, terminal dues for transit from
China to the USA was 0.635
SDR/kg, or about 1 USD/kg.
As this affected the cost of the delivery of periodicals, the UPU
devised a new "threshold" system, which it later implemented in
1991. The system sets separate letter and periodical rates for
countries which receive at least 150 tonnes of mail annually. For
countries with less mail, the original flat rate is still retained.
The United States has negotiated a separate terminal dues formula with
thirteen European countries that includes a rate per piece plus a rate
per kilogram; it has a similar arrangement with Canada. The UPU also
operates the system of International Reply Coupons and addresses
concerns with ETOEs.
In recent years UPU members have encountered serious problems
triggered by the enormous increase in e-commerce originating from the
Far East, where the terminal dues do not cover the unit costs of
delivery in the destination countries, and the volumes are so big that
the losses cannot be compensated by better terminal dues from other
traffic. In 2016 a new remuneration system was implemented with a
focus on e-commerce.
As of 2018[update], US companies pay more than twice as much to mail
an item from a US plant to a US customer, than does a manufacturer in
China to mail an item to a US customer.
Standards are important prerequisites for effective postal operations
and for interconnecting the global network. The UPU's Standards Board
develops and maintains a growing number of international standards to
improve the exchange of postal-related information between postal
operators. It also promotes the compatibility of UPU and international
postal initiatives. The organization works closely with postal
handling organizations, customers, suppliers and other partners,
including various international organizations. The Standards Board
ensures that coherent regulations are developed in areas such as
Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), mail encoding, postal forms and
meters. UPU standards are drafted in accordance with the rules given
in Part V of the "General information on UPU Standards" and are
published by the UPU International Bureau in accordance with Part VII
of that publication.
Main article: List of members of the Universal Postal Union
100 years of UPU commemorated on a US postage stamp
United Nations member states are allowed to become members of the
UPU. A non-member state of the
United Nations may also become a member
if two-thirds of the UPU member countries approve its request. The UPU
currently has 192 members (190 states and two joint memberships of
dependent territories groups).
Member states of the UPU are the
Vatican City and the 193 UN members
except Andorra, Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia,
and Palau. These four states have their mail delivered through another
UPU member (France and Spain for Andorra, and the United States for
Compact of Free Association
Compact of Free Association states).
The newest member is South Sudan, which joined on 4 October 2011.
The overseas constituent countries of the Netherlands (Aruba, Curaçao
and Sint Maarten) are represented as a single UPU member, as are the
entire British overseas territories. These members were originally
listed separately as "Colonies, Protectorates, etc." in the Universal
Postal Convention and they were grandfathered in when membership
was restricted to sovereign states.
Palestine was granted special observer status to the UPU in 1999, and
Israel agreed for Palestine's mail to be routed through
Jordan, though this had not been implemented as of November
The Republic of
China joined the UPU on 1 March 1914. After the
People's Republic of
China was founded, the Republic of China
continued to represent
China in the UPU, until the UPU decided on 13
April 1972 to recognize the People's Republic of
China as the only
legitimate Chinese representative. Because of this, International
Reply Coupons are not available for Taiwan.
Mail addressed to Taiwan
must be delivered through Japan, the United States, or formerly Hong
The other states with limited recognition, such as
Somaliland and the
Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus
Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), also route their mail
through third countries because the UPU will not allow[clarification
needed] direct international deliveries. For example, the TRNC's mail
goes via Turkey, Somaliland's mail via Ethiopia, and
Main article: Postal Union Congress
The Universal Postal Congress is the most important body of the UPU.
The main purpose of the quadrennial Congress is to examine proposals
to amend the Acts of the UPU, including the UPU Constitution, General
Regulations, Convention and Postal Payment Services Agreement. The
Congress also serves as a forum for participating member countries to
discuss a broad range of issues impacting international postal
services, such as market trends, regulation and other strategic
issues. The first UPU Congress was held in Bern,
Switzerland in 1874.
Delegates from 22 countries participated. UPU Congresses are held
every four years and delegates often receive special philatelic albums
produced by member countries covering the period since the previous
The Universal Postal Union, in conjunction with the World Association
for the Development of Philately, developed the WADP Numbering System
(WNS). It was launched on 1 January 2002. The website displays
entries for 160 countries and issuing postal entities, with over
25,000 stamps registered since 2002. Many of them have images, which
generally remain copyrighted by the issuing country, but the UPU and
WADP permit them to be downloaded.
In some countries, telegraph and later telephones came under the same
government department as the postal system. Similarly there was an
International Telegraph Bureau, based in Bern, akin to the UPU.
International Telecommunication Union
International Telecommunication Union currently facilitates
international electronic communication.
In order to integrate postal services and the Internet, the UPU
sponsors .post. Developing their own standards, the UPU
expects to unveil a whole new range of international digital postal
services, including e-post. They have appointed a body, the .post
group (DPG) to oversee the development of that platform.
World Post Day
References and sources
Universal Postal Union
Universal Postal Union -
United Nations System Chief Executives
Board for Coordination". www.unsceb.org. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
^ "The UPU".
Universal Postal Union
Universal Postal Union website. Retrieved 12 December
^ "Languages". Universal Postal Union. Retrieved 9 October 2011.
^ A postage stamp honoring the sculptor and the monument was issued
Switzerland and France.
^ Beam, Christopher. (2007-01-05) How international mail works.
Slate.com. Retrieved on 2014-04-28.
^ Willoughby, Martin (1992). A History of Postcards. London England:
Bracken Books. p. 31. ISBN 1858911621.
^ "About History". Universal Postal Union. Retrieved 16 December
^ King, Beverly; Johl, Max (1937). The United States Postage Stamps of
the Twentieth Century, Volume I. H. L. Lindquist. , p. 104
Universal Postal Union
Universal Postal Union Colors #279-284". Kenmore Stamp
Company. Retrieved 2013-09-28.
^ "About UN Specialized Agency". Universal Postal Union. Retrieved 9
Universal Postal Union
Universal Postal Union – Terminal dues and transit charges
2010–2013 …". 12 December 2012. Archived from the original on 12
December 2012. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
^ Adams, Cecil (December 12, 1990). "Why Does the US Deliver Foreign
Mail When We Don't Get Any Money for the Stamps?". The Straight Dope.
Retrieved 16 December 2010.
^ "Member countries adopt new terminal dues system UPU".
news.upu.int. Retrieved 2017-09-29.
^ Smaldone, Jayme (7 February 2018). "This Subsidy for
China Is Dumb
as a Post" – via www.wsj.com.
^ "UPU Postal Standardization Activities" (PDF). UPU. 2008. Retrieved
18 December 2010.
^ Gough, JP (October 6, 2005). "The Evolution of the Postal Service in
the Era of the UPU". Web Mavin. Retrieved 12 December 2010.
^ "Universal Postal Convention". Universal Postal Union. 1952-07-11.
^ "Constitution of the Universal Postal Union". Universal Postal
Union. 1964-07-10. Retrieved 2012-08-11.
^ "Palestinian parcel post gets a boost". Universal Postal Union
(UPU). Retrieved 2010-09-26.
Israel and Palestinians to boost postal services with help from UN
agency". Un.org. Retrieved 2008-10-24.
^ New resolution adopted on Palestinian postal operations UPU
Archived April 29, 2014, at the Wayback Machine.. News.upu.int
(2012-03-22). Retrieved on 2014-04-28.
^ 萬國郵政聯盟與世界郵政日 Archived October 16, 2014, at
the Wayback Machine.
^ "WNS". www.wnsstamps.post. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
^ "THE CABLE QUESTION". The Brisbane Courier. National Library of
Australia. 15 February 1900. p. 5. Retrieved 16 April 2011.
^ "About .post". Universal Postal Union. Archived from the original on
10 July 2013. Retrieved 3 October 2014.
^ "IANA —
.post Domain Delegation Data". Iana.org. Retrieved 3
^ Gustavo Damy (19 September 2014). "Expression of Interest" (PDF).
Universal Postal Union. Retrieved 3 October 2014. [permanent dead
Codding, G.A. (1964). The Universal Postal Union : coordinator of
the international mails. New York: New York University Press.
"General Postal Union; October 9, 1874". The Avalon Project at Yale
Law School. The Lillian Goldman Law Library in Memory of Sol Goldman.
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