The permanent organs of the UPU are the Universal Postal Congress, the Council of Administration, the Postal Operations Council, and the International Bureau.
The Universal Postal Congress brings together the plenipotentiaries of all member countries and is the supreme authority of the Universal Postal Union. The congress meets in principle every five years. One of the major accomplishments of congresses held since the first Berne Congress in 1874 has been to allow UPU member countries to develop and integrate new products and services into the international postal network. In this way, such services as registered letters, postal money orders, international reply coupons, small packets, postal parcels, and expedited mail service, have been made available to the great majority of the world's citizens.
The congress' main function is legislative. However beginning in the late 1990s, the tendency was to increasingly delegate regulatory power to the two UPU councils, leaving the congress to focus on broad policy issues.
Members of the UPU
(as of June 2002)
Antigua and Barbuda
Australia and Australian territories
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Central African Republic
China (including Hong Kong and Macao)
Congo, Democratic Republic of the
Denmark (including Faroe Islands and Greenland)
France and French overseas departments and territories
Iran (Islamic Republic of)
Korea, Democratic People's Republic of
Korea, Republic of
Lao People's Democratic Republic
Netherlands Antilles and Aruba
New Zealand and New Zealand territories
Papua New Guinea
St. Kitts and Nevis
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
São Tomé and Príncipe
Syrian Arab Republic
Tanzania, United Republic of
The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
Trinidad and Tobago
United Arab Emirates
United Kingdom overseas territories
United States territories
Independent countries whose situation with regard to the UPU has not yet been settled: Andorra, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of), Palau. As of June 2002, East Timor was applying for membership in the UPU.
The Council of Administration (CA), formerly called the Executive Council, consists of a chairman and 40 member countries and meets in principle each year at UPU headquarters in Berne. (The chairmanship of the Council of Administration is given automatically to the host country of the preceding Congress.) It ensures the continuity of the union's work between congresses, supervises union activities, and studies regulatory, administrative, legislative and legal issues of interest to the UPU. In order to ensure the agency's ability to react quickly to changes in the postal environment, the CA has been given the power to approve proposals from the Postal Operations Council for the adoption of regulations or new procedures until the next congress has decided on the matter. The CA can also take measures necessary to resolve urgent matters. The CA approves the annual budget and accounts of the UPU, 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 Postal Operations Council (POC), formerly called the Consultative Council for Postal Studies, is the technical and operational body of the UPU and consists of 40 elected member countries. It deals with the operational, economic, and commercial aspects of international postal services. At its first meeting after each Congress, the POC revises the regulations. It promotes the introduction of new postal products by collecting, analyzing, and making public the results of experiments with new products undertaken by some postal services. It also prepares and issues recommendations to member countries concerning standards for technological, operational, or other processes where uniformity of practice is essential. The POC's program focuses on helping postal services to modernize and upgrade their products, including not only letter post but also expedited mail service, postal parcels, and postal financial services.
The chairmanship of the Postal Operations Council for the period between congresses is decided through election by the council.
The International Bureau, established by the Treaty of Berne in 1874, is located in Berne and provides secretariat and support facilities for the UPU's bodies. It serves as liaison, provides information and consultation services, and promotes technical cooperation among UPU members. It also acts as a clearing house for the settlement of accounts between postal administrations for inter-administration charges related to the exchange of postal items and international reply coupons.
The International Bureau is responsible for ensuring the representation of the UPU in its external relations, notably with international organizations. However, it does not intervene in relations between postal administrations and their customers.
In the new UPU structure approved by the Seoul Congress (1994), the International Bureau took on a stronger leadership role in certain activities, including the application of Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) technology and monitoring the quality of postal service on a global scale. To carry out its activities, the International Bureau implemented modern management techniques including total quality management, a strategic planning process, and a performance evaluation system based on individual objectives.