The Universal Postal Congress is the supreme authority of the Union, bringing together plenipotentiaries of all member countries every four years. One of the major accomplishments of Congresses held since the first Berne Congress in 1874 has been to allow member countries to develop new products and services and integrate them into the international postal network. Services such as registered letters, postal money orders, international reply coupons, small packets, postal parcels and EMS have been made available to the great majority of the world’s citizens. Although the main function of Congress is legislative, more regulatory power has been delegated to the two UPU councils, leaving it to focus more on broader strategic policy issues. Congress also elects the Director General and Deputy Director General, as well as the members of the Council of Administration and Postal Operations Council. It also sets the budget ceiling for the following four years.
The Council of Administration (CA) has 41 member countries. In principle, it meets each year at UPU headquarters in Berne. It ensures the continuity of the UPU’s work between Congresses, supervises its activities and studies regulatory, administrative, legislative and legal issues. To ensure that the UPU can react quickly to changes in the postal environment, the CA can approve proposals by the Postal Operations Council for the adoption of regulations or new procedures until the next Congress. The CA can also take measures to resolve urgent issues. It approves the Union’s budget and accounts, as well as yearly updates of the UPU’s Programme and Budget. It is also responsible for promoting and coordinating all aspects of technical assistance among member countries. The CA chairmanship is given automatically to the host country of the preceding Congress.
The Postal Operations Council (POC) is the UPU’s technical and operational body and consists of 40 elected member countries. It deals with the operational, economic and commercial aspects of the international postal service. At its first meeting after each Congress, the POC revises the Convention and the Letter Post and Parcel Post Regulations, as well as the Postal Payment Services Agreement and its Regulations. It promotes the introduction of new postal products by collecting, analyzing and publicizing the results of experiments and research undertaken by Posts. It also makes recommendations to member countries concerning standards for technological, operational or other processes within its competence where uniformity of practice is essential.
Above all, the POC’s programme of work is geared towards helping postal services modernize and upgrade their postal products. The POC elects its own Chairman for the period between Congresses.
Created on 16 September 2004 by the 23rd Universal Postal Congress in Bucharest (Romania), the Consultative Committee gives postal stakeholders other than Posts and regulators a voice in the organization’s deliberations. The Consultative Committee represents the interests of the wider international postal sector and provides a framework for effective dialogue between stakeholders. It consists of non-governmental organizations representing customers, delivery service providers, workers’ organizations, suppliers of goods and services to the postal sector and other organizations that have an interest in international postal services, including direct marketers, private operators, international mailers, philatelic associations and publishers.
The International Bureau, the UPU’s headquarters, is located in Berne, Switzerland. It has a full-time staff of about 150 employees drawn from some 45 different countries. It provides logistical and technical support for the UPU bodies, serves as an office of liaison, information and consultation, and promotes technical cooperation among Union members.
The International Bureau has taken on a stronger leadership role in certain areas, including the application of postal technology through its Postal Technology Centre, the development of postal markets through potential growth areas such as direct mail and EMS, and the monitoring of quality of service on a global scale.
UPU member countries have the right to form restricted unions to further promote cooperation among Posts and improve services. They may also conclude special agreements among themselves. Such arrangements must, however, contain provisions that are at least as favourable to customers as those provided by the UPU Acts. There are 17 restricted unions covering most parts of the world.