Universal Postal Union (UPU)


The Universal Postal Union (UPU), an agency of the United Nations, is an intergovernmental organization that establishes rules for the exchange of documents and parcels among national post offices. The UPU was founded in 1875 and is the second oldest intergovernmental body. The UPU's official website is http://www.upu.int/en.html.

Acts of the UPU

The "acts" of the UPU are intergovernmental agreements adopted by a "Congress" of the UPU or by the UPU's Postal Operations Council.

A Congress of the UPU is a quadrennieal meeting of delegates from all UPU member countries. The Congress is the supreme decision-making body of the UPU. The most recent Congress of the UPU was held in Istanbul in September-October 2016. Acts of the Istanbul Congress will not become effective until 1 January 2018. The acts of the UPU currently in effect were adopted by a UPU Congress held in Doha in 2012.

The major acts of Congress are the Universal Postal Convention, setting out the basic rules for governing the exchange of documents and parcels among post offices, and the Constitution and General Regulations, which establish and organize the UPU itself. Congress also adopts a Postal Payment Services Agreement which governs international financial services provided by post offices.

The Postal Operations Council (POC) is a permanent committee of the UPU (see below). The POC adopts the Letter Post Regulations and Parcel Post Regulations — collectively the "Regulations"  — which govern specific aspects of the exchange of documents and parcels. The POC also adopt regulations implementing the Postal Payment Services Agreement.

All acts relating to international postal services — Convention, Constitution, General Regulations, Letter Post Regulations, and Parcel Post Regulations  — are binding on UPU member governments unless a reservation has been submitted and accepted by the UPU. The Postal Payment Services Agreement and associated Regulations are binding only on countries that participate in that Agreement.

The following UPU publications set out the major acts of the UPU in effect from 1 January 2014 until 31 December 2017. They have been modified from the original UPU electronic publications by the addition of PDF bookmarks and selected resolutions from prior Congresses.

Constitution, General Regulations (2014). A short history of the UPU; the Constitution and General Regulations; the Rules of Procedure of Congress, the Council of Administration, and the Postal Operations Council; legal instruments relating the UPU to the United Nations and defining its legal status in Switzerland.

Letter Postal Manual (Update 3, 2015). The provisions of the Universal Postal Convention relating to the letter post and the Letter Post Regulations.

Parcel Post Manual (Update 3, 2015). The provisions of the Universal Postal Convention relating to the parcel post and the  Parcel Post Regulations.

Decisions of the Doha Congress (2012)

The acts of the UPU currently in effect (above) were adopted by the UPU in the Doha Congress or by the POC under authority implicity or explicity delegated by the Doha Congress.

The UPU publication Decisions of the 2012 Doha Congress (2013) reproduces the acts of the Doha Congress as adopted by Congress. For some purposes, this publication is more useful than the standard references listed in the previous section. The standard references divide the provisions of the 2012 Convention into two categories —those relating to the Letter Post and those relating to the Parcel Post  — and then rearrange the provisions from the order in the Covention and intersperses them with associated Regulations.

Decisions of the 2012 Doha Congress also provides a complete compilation of "decisions" (resolutions, etc.) by UPU Doha  Congresses. Although not provided for in the Constitution,  UPU Congresses have adopted resolutions which, like acts, purport to have legal consequences for UPU member countries and the UPU's governing bodies.

Decisions of the Istanbul Congress (2016)

The Istanbul Congress ended on 7 October 2016. The acts of the Istanbul Congress, which do not become effective until 1 January 2018, have not yet been officially published by the UPU.

For now the acts as approved by Congress are set out in a series of Congress documents, the Draft Acts. The Draft Acts include amendments to the UPU Constitution and the General Regulations as well as the entire 2016 Universal Postal Convention. The Draft Acts may be subject to technical revisions and corrections before final publication. The Draft Acts do not include the Regulations of the Convention. The Regulations are adopted after Congress by the Postal Operations Council.

The Istanbul Congress also adopted other decisions and resolutions, including the buisness plan of the UPU for 2016-2020. These decisions and resolutions are set out in Congress Doc 33.

"Major Decisions of the 2016 UPU Istanbul Congress and Implications for International Package Delivery Services" (Nov. 2016) by J. Campbell. This powerpoint presentation summarizes the major decisions of the Istanbul Congress

Postal Operations Council and the Council of Administration (2016-2020)

Between Congresses the work of the UPU is conducted by two permanent committees, the Postal Operations Council (POC)and the Council of Administration (CA). Each committee is composed of representatives of UPU member countries elected by Congress. The committees function from Congress to Congress; the terms of the committees do not coincide with the effective dates of the acts adopted by Congress.

The Postal Operations Council (POC) is the principal locus of authority in the UPU. The POC exercises legislative authority. It adopts the Letter Post Regulations and the Parcel Post Regulations, which are binding on all UPU member countries, and the regulations implementing Postal Payment Services Agreement, which are binding on the countries that are parties to that agreement. The POC, and POC members serving on joint committees of the Council of Administration, develop the key proposals that are adopted as acts and decisions by Congress. At the same time, the POC directs the operational and commercial aspects of the work of the Union, including  implemenation of a business plan approved by Congress.

The POC is composed of representatives of 40 member countries elected by Congress. There is no limit to the number of terms that may be served by a member country. Each member of the POC must appoint an official of the post office (a “designated operator”) as its representative. Sixteen seats on the POC are allocated to the post offices of the 28 industrialized countries, and 24 seats are allocated to the post offices of the 164 developing countries. A equal number of seats is allocated to each of five geographic regions. In practice, the POC has been dominated by a stable group of large post offices since it was established by the 1994 Seoul Congress.

The members of the current POC elected by the 2016 Istanbul Congress are follows. For each member, the number of terms served on the POC is indicated in paratheses; there have been six terms of the POC since 1994.

POC Industrialized Countries (16) POC Developing Countries (24)

Australia (5)
Austria (2)
Belgium (6)
Canada (6)
Finland (2)
France (6)
Germany (6)
Great Britain (6)
Italy (6)
Japan (6)
Netherlands (6)
New Zealand (6)
Portugal (5)
Spain (6)
Switzerland (6)
United States (6)

Argentina (5)
Azerbaijan (2)
Bangladesh (3)
Brazil (6)
Chile (2)
China (6)
Cuba (6)
Egypt (6)
Georgia (1)
Ghana (3)
India (6)
Kenya (5)

Korea (Rep) (5)
Morocco (5)
Poland (3)
Romania (3)
Russia (6)
Senegal (2)
Singapore (4)
Tanzania (2)
Thailand (4)
Tunisia (5)
Turkey (4)
Uruguay (2)

The Council of Administration (CA) is responsible for studying the general principles and policies of the Union, development of overall strategy, regulation of the Union’s financial matters, control of the International Bureau (the secretariat of the UPU), and guidance of the Postal Operations Council in matters of fundamental principle. The CA is composed of 41 member countries of whom 40 are elected by Congress. The host country for the last Congress is the chairman of the CA ex officio.

Each member of the CA is required to appoint as its representative a person who is "competent in postal matters". The 40 elective seats in the Council of Administration are allocated equally to the five geographic regions. No country may serve more than two terms consecutively.

The members of the current CA elected by the 2016 Istanbul Congress are follows. For each member, the number of terms served on the CA is indicated in paratheses. There have been six terms of the CA since 1994; because of the limit on consecutive terms, the maximum number of terms that a member could have served is four unless it also served as host of a Congress.

CA Industrialized Countries (8) CA Developing Countries (33)

Australia (4)
Belgium (3)
Germany (4)
Great Britain (4)
Italy (4)
Japan (4)
Spain (3)
Switzerland (2)

Algeria (3)
Barbados (4)
Brazil (4)
Bulgaria (4)
Burkina Faso (4)
China (5)
Costa Rica (4)
Côte d'Ivoire (4)
Cuba (4)
Dominican Rep. (2)
Ethiopia (2)
Georgia (1)
Indonesia (4)
Iran (3)
Kazakhstan (4)
Kenya (3)
Korea (Rep.) (5)

Malaysia (3)
Mexico (4)
Morocco (4)
Pakistan (4)
Paraguay (1)
Poland (4)
Romania (3)
South Africa (3)
Sudan (4)
Tunisia (4)
Turkey (4)
Uganda (4)
United Arab Emirates (4)
Uruguay (4)
Viet Nam (4)
Zambia (1)