Universal Postal Union: Wikis


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Small Flag of the United Nations ZP.svg Union postale universelle
Universal Postal Union
Flag of UPU.svg
The UPU flag
Org type UN agency
Acronyms UPU
Head France Edouard Dayan
Status Active
Established October 9, 1874
Headquarters Switzerland Berne, Switzerland
Website www.upu.int

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.



Prior to the establishment of the UPU, a country had to conclude a separate postal treaty with every other country that it wished to carry international mail to or from. The United States called for an international postal congress, which was held in 1863. This led Heinrich von Stephan, Royal Prussian and later German Minister for Posts, to found the Universal Postal Union, the third oldest international organization after the Rhine Commission and the ITU). The UPU was created in 1874, under the name "General Postal Union", as a result of the Treaty of Berne signed on 9 October 1874. In 1878, the name was changed to "Universal Postal Union".

The UPU established that:

  1. There should be a more or less uniform flat rate to mail a letter anywhere in the world
  2. Postal authorities should give equal treatment to foreign and domestic mail
  3. 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

UPU standards

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.

Member countries

The United Nations member states may all become member countries of the UPU. Of the 192 United Nations member states 188 are UPU member countries. The situation of the four UN members Andorra, Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau with regard to the UPU has not yet been settled. A non-member state of the United Nations may also become a UPU member if two-thirds of the UPU member countries approve its request. Vatican City is a UPU member country and a non-member state observer of the United Nations (as the Holy See).

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.[1][2]

100 years of the UPU on a US postage stamp.

UPU congresses

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.[3] Delegates are usually presented with special albums of stamps by the other participating countries, to cover the period since the previous congress.

Philatelic activities

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


External links

Coordinates: 46°56′20″N 7°28′31″E / 46.93881°N 7.475306°E / 46.93881; 7.475306


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Wikipedia has an article on:



Universal Postal Union


Universal Postal Union

  1. A worldwide postal organization to which most countries are members. The exchange of mail, except parcel post, between the United States and other nations is governed by the provisions of the Universal Postal Union convention[1].



  • Notes:
  1. ^ Joint Publication 1-02 U.S. Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms; 12 April 2001 (As Amended Through 14 April 2006).

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