International Postal Union, Bern, Switzerland
Union postale universelle, Bureau international
Universal Postal Union
3000 BERNE 15
Telephone: +41 31 350 31 11
10 reasons why the world needs the UPU
Defender of the universal postal service, protector of the single postal territory, arbitrator, coordinator, developer, facilitator, promoter and organizer – this is what makes the Universal Postal Union continue to be a necessary and valued organization after 130 years!
1 - Maintaining a single postal territory
The 1874 Treaty of Berne that gave birth to the UPU succeeded in unifying a conflicting international maze of postal services and regulations into a single postal territory for the reciprocal exchange of letter-post items, reducing the number of rates for mail between countries to a single rate for all. Within the single territory, the principle of freedom of transit for mail items is guaranteed by all parties. The membership of new countries agreeing to comply with the Regulations governing the exchange of international mail (letters, parcels and other categories) has broadened the concept of the single postal territory. Today, the UPU’s 190 member countries make up the largest physical distribution network in the world. Under the terminal dues system set up and managed by the UPU, Posts are financially compensated for handling volumes of international mail exchanged with other Posts. To appreciate the scope of this system, just imagine how many bilateral and multilateral agreements there would be without it!
2 - An international forum of cooperation
While globalization has brought countries closer together, the forces of liberalization have also brought new players into the postal arena. As a result, the UPU’s stakeholders have become a large and diverse mixture of interest groups. To accommodate them, the UPU provides a forum where all those who have an interest in the postal service can come together to discuss and find solutions to the major challenges facing the sector. Questions dealt with by the UPU bodies and working groups include postal security, postal financial services, technical cooperation, postal development, terminal dues, the universal postal service, technology and the environment. Other UPU and industry groups such as the Direct Mail Advisory Board try to energize growth sectors by following the latest developments and giving guidance through publications and workshops. The creation of a new UPU body in 2004 – the Consultative Committee – formally incorporated stakeholders from the private sector, enabling them to contribute in a concrete way to discussions on the Post‘s future.
3 - A member of the UN family
As a specialized agency of the United Nations since 1948, the UPU maintains close relations and actively cooperates with other UN organizations such as the United Nations Development Programme in the field of postal development, the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime on combating criminal activities through the use of the mail network and the United Nations Environment Programme in promoting a "green image" of the Post, to name but a few. In order to facilitate the flow of international mail, the UPU also works closely with international organizations such as the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the World Customs Organization (WCO). As a member of the UN family, the UPU promotes the general aims of the
United Nations, particularly its Millennium Development Goals, while representing the interests of Posts within the various UN programmes and at UN events such as the World Summit on the Information Society.
4 - Promoting universal postal service
As the first objective of the World Postal Strategy, the provision of universal postal service forms the bedrock of the UPU’s mission. It supports the idea that "all postal users enjoy the right to a universal postal service involving the permanent provision of quality basic postal services at all points in their territory, at affordable prices. Although universal service is contained in the UPU Acts, the UPU cannot prescribe to member countries and therefore seeks to ensure that they understand what is at stake and offer a service appropriate to their own local realities. Despite the fact that universal postal service has been defined in 67% of UPU member countries, there still exist disparities between countries and regions when it comes to postal service coverage. In developing countries, between 14 and 25% of the population is still without access to postal services. This contrasts sharply with the high level of universal postal service provision in industrialized countries. The UPU continues to make governments, particularly those in developing countries, more aware of their role in ensuring the provision of an extensive, good quality, affordable universal service.
5 - Promoting postal development and technical cooperation
In keeping with the spirit of the United Nations, the UPU and its members promote cooperation so that Posts may benefit from the know-how and expertise of others. Multi-year integrated projects enable developing countries, particularly those least developed, to acquire much needed operational equipment and training to improve postal operations, which can have an impact on quality of service worldwide. These projects also provide assistance in the event of disaster or calamity and involve efforts to reduce the digital divide between industrialized and developing countries.
6 - Improving quality of the postal service
Increased competition and higher customer expectations continue to place pressure on Posts to make improvements to the quality of their services. The UPU undertakes worldwide quality tests, monitoring hundreds of international links through the use of test letters and parcels. It also publishes end-to-end delivery standards against which Posts can measure their progress and sends consultants to countries to ensure that internationally accepted procedures are followed. Recent tests showed that, during the first semester of 2005, 60% of the 96,400 test letters posted in more than 95 countries were delivered within five working days (J+5 standard adopted at the 2004 Bucharest Congress). Improvements are recorded continuously and the UPU hopes to achieve a world standard of 65% by 2008. The UPU’s EMS Cooperative has managed to improve the quality of the EMS service considerably through a rigorous evaluation programme, with 85% of EMS items delivered on time during the second quarter of 2005. This compares to 52% at the beginning of 2000. Since the Quality of Service Fund (QSF) was created in 2001, 30 of the 72 million USD collected have financed 250 projects in developing countries.
7 - Supporting postal reform
Postal reform is a strategy to convert Posts from protected government organizations into competitive, customer-oriented businesses. With the advent of technology, globalization, the liberalization of markets and increased competition, postal operators have had to adapt to a new business environment and higher customer expectations. While many Posts have undergone profound changes in the last 20 years, many still lack the structural and commercial flexibility to become more competitive. Since its creation, the UPU Postal Development Action Group has made headway, clearing the way for constructive dialogue with the World Bank and other regional development banks on the financing of postal reform in developing countries. The UPU also publishes guides that present the challenges of postal reform and proposes several approaches.
8 - Setting technical postal standards
Standards are important prerequisites for effective postal operations and for interconnecting the global postal network. The primary aim of UPU technical standards is to define a uniform mode of communication between the different mail processing and tracking systems in order to ensure efficiency and quality of service. To date, more than a hundred standards have been created and the UPU is working closely with bodies such as the European Committee for Standardization, the International Organization for Standardization, and the International Post Corporation. Nearly 25 million bags and trays are tracked annually on the basis of messages and UPU standard codes while Posts track an estimated 40 million postal items in all categories. As postal sector liberalization continues, rigorous technical standards become increasingly important. The more postal operators there are, the more essential it becomes to standardize mail processing, tracking and transmission. It is therefore important that standards are applied worldwide by all postal sector stakeholders; otherwise there would be chaos in delivering even a
9 - Promoting and developing new postal products and services
Small packets, international reply coupons, EMS and money orders are some of the products and services that have been promoted by the UPU. The organization continuously encourages its members to develop and use new products and services to meet customers’ requirements around the world. Through its Telematics Cooperative and Postal Technology Centre, the UPU develops systems to assist Posts in implementing new technologies to better manage their mail operations, expedite mail transfers and improve security. Mindful of the technological and financial constraints faced by many of its member countries, the UPU is quick to develop or adapt software applications to meet the specific needs of Posts. This has made it possible for developing countries to acquire systems for tracking mail and transferring funds (International Postal System and International Financial System). The electronic postmark, developed by a handful of industrialized Posts, has also found a home in the UPU, which is trying to extend its use to developing Posts that would otherwise not have the means to adopt it. The UPU has also created products such as the POST*code postal addressing system and the Universal List of Localities to ensure better mail targeting by Posts and customers.
10 - Sharing postal knowledge & information
The UPU monitors developments in the postal sector, analyzes market trends and studies market conditions, recommends guidelines to be followed and facilitates the exchange of intellectual and statistical data, enabling Posts throughout the world to adapt to imminent changes. With the creation of the Direct Mail Advisory Board, many countries are now making use of the resources, seminars and workshops available to develop this sector and generate additional revenue. In cooperation with the World Association for the Development of Philately, the UPU has highlighted the problem of illegal postage stamps in an effort to find a solution to a situation that seriously harms the Post‘s image and results in the significant loss of revenue. The UPU also produces entire series of publications on mail guidelines and postal statistics.
UNIVERSAL POSTAL UNION
3000 BERNE 15