Flag of the Universal Postal Union - a United Nations Agency
The Universal Postal Union (UPU, French: Union postale universelle) is an international organization that coordinates postal policies among member nations, and hence the worldwide postal system. Each member country agrees to the same set of terms for conducting international postal duties. The Universal Postal Union's headquarters are located in Berne, Switzerland. The Universal Postal Union is an agency of the United Nations.
The UPU established that:
There should be a more or less uniform flat rate to mail a letter anywhere in the world
Postal authorities should give equal treatment to foreign and domestic mail
Each country should retain all monies it collected for international postage.
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 whole international route.
After the foundation of the United Nations, the UPU became a specialized agency of the UN.
In 1969 the UPU introduced a new system of payment by which fees were payable between countries according to the difference in the total weight of mail between the respective countries. These fees were called terminal dues. The new system was fairer when traffic was heavier in one direction than the other. As this affected the cost of the delivery of periodicals, the UPU devised a new "threshold" system, which was 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 has been maintained. 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, and has a similar arrangement with Canada.
The UPU also operates the system of International Reply Coupons and addresses concerns with ETOEs.
UPU Monument (Weltpostdenkmal) in Berne Switzerland
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 and promotes the compatibility of UPU and international postal initiatives. It works closely with postal handling organisations, customers, suppliers and other partners, including various international organisations. The Standards Board ensures that coherent standards 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.
The UPU has 191 member countries, including the Dutch territories of the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba as a single UPU member, and the British overseas territories, which are not independent states. The newest member is Montenegro, which joined on 26 July 2006.
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. This results in International Reply Coupons not being available for Taiwan. Mail addressed to Taiwan will still be delivered there, albeit routed through a third country.
Various other non-recognized countries such as Somaliland and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) need to have their mail routed through third countries as the UPU will not allow direct international deliveries (The TRNC's mail goes via Turkey and Somaliland's mail via Ethiopia). Another entity without direct UPU representation is the Sahrawi Republic / Western Sahara. Palestine was granted special observer status to the UPU in 1999, and its status will likely be upgraded to full membership in the near future.
100 years of the UPU on a US postage stamp.
The Postal Union Congress is the main international meeting of the UPU and is used to discuss various issues affecting international postal services, such as legislation, the political climate, and other strategic issues. The first congress was held in Bern, Switzerland, in 1884, and was attended by delegates from 22 countries, most of them European. The meetings are normally held every four years, although both World Wars have caused cancellations. Delegates are usually presented with special albums of stamps by the other participating countries, to cover the period since the previous congress.
The Universal Postal Union, in conjunction with the World Association for the Development of Philately (WADP), has developed the WADP Numbering System (WNS), launched on 1 January 2002. The web site (www.wnsstamps.ch/en/) has entries for some 160 countries and emitting postal entities, with over 25,000 registered stamps since 2002. Many of them have images, which generally remain copyrighted by the issuing country, but which the UPU and WADP permit to be downloaded.
References and sources
1 "Palestinian parcel post gets a boost". Universal Postal Union (UPU). http://www.upu.int/news_centre/2009/en/2009-04-01_parcel_post.html. Retrieved 2009-07-18.
2 "Israel and Palestinians to boost postal services with help from UN agency". Un.org. http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=27622&Cr=UPU&Cr1=. Retrieved 2008-10-24.
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. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/usmu010.asp. Retrieved 2008-04-05.
UPU official website