On 9 October 1874, the Treaty of Bern was signed, establishing the General Postal Union, as it was designated at the time. Portugal was one of the 22 countries signing this Treaty. This intergovernmental organization assumed its current designation, Universal Postal Union (UPU), in 1878, becaming a specialized agency of the United Nations in 1948.
Established to promote the collaboration and the development in the international postal sector, the activities of the UPU help to ensure the cooperation promotion, triggering postal development and postal services quality.
Gathering at present 192 Member States, UPU has promoted the renewal and adaptation of the postal sector to the challenges presented over the years, namely through the regulatory, standardization and cooperation activities.
The official language of the UPU is French, while English was added as a working language.
The Congress, the supreme authority of the Union, meets every four years to revise the international postal legislation. Although the Congress' main function is legislative, the recent tendency has been to delegate more regulatory power to the two UPU Councils, leaving it to focus more on strategic and broad policy issues.
The Postal Operations Council (POC) meets once every year and consists of 40 elected member countries. Among other issues, it deals with the operational, economic and commercial aspects of the international postal service, revises new Regulations approved after each Congress, promotes the introduction of new postal products and also makes recommendations to member countries concerning standards for technological and operational processes.
The Council of Administration (CA) meets every year and consists of 41 member countries. It ensures the continuity of the UPU's work between Congresses, supervises its activities and studies regulatory, administrative, legislative and legal issues.
The International Bureau serves as an office of support, liaison, information and consultation.
The Constitution of the Universal Postal Union is the fundamental Act containing the organic rules of the Union, being compulsory for Member States after the ratification thereof. Amendments to it can be made only at Congresses and are recorded in an Additional Protocol, which is also subject to ratification. On the other hand, the provisions relating to the application of the Constitution and the operation of the Union are contained in the General Regulations. The Universal Postal Convention, the Letter Post Regulations and the Parcel Post Regulations include common provisions concerning letter post and postal parcels. The Regulations contain application provisions necessary to the Convention operation and are established by the POC, having regard to the Congress decisions.
The Postal Payment Services Agreement has to be also taken into account.
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