Frequently asked questions

9.15 - 10.30 Staking a claim in the e-commerce landscape

Interesting global opportunities certainly exist but how can Posts be better equipped to deal with the many challenges along the way to success? The Forum’s first session will help Posts understand their place in this brave, new world, as well as exploring cross- border barriers and opportunities. Panelists will focus on defining the Post in this environment, business models and tackling international delivery challenges.

What is the UPU’s mission?

The UPU’s mission is to develop social, cultural and commercial communications between peoples through the efficient operation of postal services. As such, the UPU has a leading role to play in promoting the continued revitalization of postal services.

Who are the members of the UPU?

Any member of the United Nations may accede to the UPU. Sovereign countries that are not members of the UN may also become members of the UPU provided that their requests are approved by at least two-thirds of the member countries of the Union. The UPU currently has 192 member countries. The most recent member to join is the Republic of South Sudan on 4 October 2011.

Does the UPU intervene in domestic postal affairs?

As a non-political organization, the UPU does not interfere in matters that fall within the domain of national postal services. For example, Posts set their own postage rates, decide on the types and quantities of postage stamps to be issued, and manage their own postal operations and staff.

What is the World Postal Strategy?

The World Postal Strategy, adopted at Congress, is the UPU's four-year roadmap. With the postal sector today facing many challenges, it is important to have a clear strategic plan to respond quickly to the evolution of the market. The strategy proposes an action plan for governments, postal operators and Union bodies, defining broad goals focusing on the interconnection and interoperability of networks, the development of postal services and quality improvements.

How does the UPU monitor progress with the World Postal Strategy?

The Programme and Budget is a central element of the Union’s strategic planning process. It provides a work plan containing specific activities, each with well-defined goals and the resources required to meet these goals. The aim is to ensure that the world’s citizens have access to postal services that fully meet their needs for reliability, security, quality, choice and affordability. There is a direct link between the World Postal Strategy, the structures put in place by the Council of Administration (CA) and Postal Operations Council (POC) to implement this strategy, and the projects to be carried out by each of the groups formed within these structures. Every project in the Programme and Budget and every group created under the CA and POC contributes to the realization of one of the UPU’s strategic goals. The UPU also holds a strategy conference at the mid-way point between Congresses to take stock of the progress it has made in realizing its strategy.

What are the UPU Acts?

The UPU’s Constitution is the fundamental Act containing the organic rules of the Union. It is a diplomatic Act, ratified by the competent authorities of each member country. Amendments can only be made at Congress and are recorded in an Additional Protocol, which is also subject to ratification.

The current Constitution dates from the 1964 Vienna Congress; there have been seven Additional Protocols. The provisions relating to the Constitution’s application and the Union’s operation are contained in the General Regulations, which are revised at each Congress.

The common rules applicable to the international postal service and the provisions concerning the letter-post and parcel-post services are given in the Convention and its Regulations. These Regulations are agreements concluded by the member countries elected at Congress to the Postal Operations Council (POC). The POC has the authority to amend the Regulations at its annual sessions. The Convention and its Regulations are binding on all member countries. The Postal Payment Services Agreement and its Regulations are binding only on the countries that are parties to the Agreement.

In addition to the UPU Acts proper, there are various resolutions, decisions, recommendations and formal opinions that make up the Decisions of Congress.

Does the UPU have offices in the field?

Seven UPU regional project coordinators strengthen the International Bureau’s ability to effectively assist the Posts of developing countries. The coordinators help to implement and follow-up postal development projects within their regions. They also help developing and least developed countries to prepare Quality of Service Fund projects. In the wake of conflicts or when natural disasters strike their regions, the coordinators help assess urgent needs with a view to restoring postal services as quickly as possible.

Through its Postal Technology Centre, the UPU has also established a number of regional support centres to support its activities. These centres manage the deployment and support of UPU technology applications, products and services within their respective regions.

When did the UPU join the United Nations family?

The UPU became a specialized agency of the United Nations on 1 July 1948.

What is the UPU’s relationship with the United Nations and other international organizations?

The UPU’s active cooperation with other international bodies has resulted in several memoranda of understanding and other agreements with United Nations agencies and programmes as well as other international organizations.

The UPU maintains particularly close ties with United Nations programmes such as the United Nations Development Programme in the field of postal development, the United Nations Drug Control Programme to help combat the shipment of drugs in the mail, and the United Nations Environment Programme to increase awareness of environmental issues among Posts. The organization also cooperates with specialized agencies such as the International Telecommunication Union, the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Labour Organization and the World Trade Organization, and works with the World Bank to promote postal development and reform.

To help facilitate the flow of international mail, the Union cooperates with organizations such as the International Air Transport Association, the International Organization for Standardization, the World Customs Organization, and INTERPOL.

The UPU also participates in major UN summits on relevant topics. For example, it played an active part in the World Summit on the Information Society in 2003 and 2005, where it highlighted the important role of the postal sector in building an information society that is fair and open to all.

How are Posts reacting to changes in the business environment?

The future of Posts will depend on how they are able to adapt to the explosive growth in the communications market. Some postal services have already embarked upon reform and restructuring processes and have become more independent, self-supporting, commercial enterprises. Their goal is to provide higher quality postal services at reasonable rates and to offer a wider range of products and services which meet their customers’ growing expectations.

Falling trade barriers and expanding liberalization of markets have resulted in greater competition, not only between public and private postal operators, but also among public operators themselves. Some Posts, particularly in Western Europe, have therefore sought business opportunities out-side their traditional core products and beyond their national borders. They have become thriving postal enterprises, forging alliances, making strategic acquisitions and diversifying their commercial activities and products to remain competitive in the international market as well as in their domestic market.

Although legislated monopolies reserve most of the domestic markets for the national postal operators, some such markets have been opened up to competition. In most countries the focus of change is on postal reform in the wider sense, particularly corporatization, rather than full liberalization and privatization. At the same time, Posts continue to fulfil the public universal service obligation assigned by their governments.

Posts have demonstrated their ability to adapt quickly to technological developments. Many have already entered the electronic realm, embracing new technologies to improve products and services and create new ones for their customers. The main challenge for Posts is to find ways to effectively counteract substitution of physical mail by electronic communication, and at the same time, to use the opportunities offered by new technology to expand and improve their products and services.