International Judicial Monitor
Published by the International judicial Academy of the International Law Institute, Washington, D.C.
with circulation assistance from the American Society of International Law

Summer 2017 Issue

100 Ways


International Law: One Hundred Ways It Shapes Our Lives

100 WaysMailing a letter reliably and easily to anyone in the world.

By: James G. Apple, Editor-in-Chief, International Judicial Monitor

(In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the American Society of International Law in 2006, the Society published a pamphlet titled International Law: One Hundred Ways It Shapes Our Lives. The introduction gives an explanation for its conception: an affirmation that: “international law not only exists, but also penetrates much more deeply and broadly into everyday life than the people it affects may generally appreciate.” This column seeks to elucidate and elaborate on many of the 100 ways briefly presented in the ASIL pamphlet.)

The idea of a viable postal service existing in our modern world, considering the dominance of electronic mail and social networks available as a means of communication, seems irrational. The probable reaction of most citizens to an inquiry about postal services in any country would be one dismissal. “No one uses government sponsored mail services any more” would be the likely response.

Most citizens around the world would be surprised to learn of the inaccuracy of such a response, and of the contemporary extent and use of postal services in all parts of the world.

As of 2016 world postal services  processed and delivered 327.4 billion  letters and 7.4 billion parcels annually, many of which involve international deliveries. Such extensive postal activities requires an international organization to oversee and coordinate postal services worldwide. Such an organization exists. It is the Universal Postal Union (UPU), founded in 1874, and now part of the United Nations system.

The UPU has 192 member countries (out of a possible 205 countries recognized by the United Nations), with headquarters in Berne, Switzerland.

It consists of four bodies: the Congress, the Postal Operations Council, the Council of Administration, and the International Bureau.

The Congress, which meets every four years, decides on “world postal strategy.” Its last meeting was in the fall of 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey.

The Postal Operations Council is the technical and operations arm of the UPU. It is composed of 40 countries, elected at each meeting of the Congress, meets annually in Berne, and promotes modernization and upgrading of postal service products.

The Council of Administration also meets annually in Berne. It insures “the continuity of the UPU's work


between Congresses, supervises its activities and studies regulatory, administrative, legislative and legal issues.”

A group of consultative committees assists the UPU in its work. These committees are made up of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) representing customers, delivery service providers, workers unions and other organizations that are not connected to government bodies but are “postal stakeholders.” They meet twice a year in Berne.

The International Bureau is also located in Berne and serves as the secretariat for the UPU, providing logistical and technical support for other parts of the UPU. It is located in the headquarters building of UPU. It also has another important function: it promotes the application of postal technology through the Postal Technology Centre.

The Postal Technology Center consists of three parts: the Post*Net, the International Postal System (IPS), and the International Financial System (IFS). The Post*Net is the postal communications network for linking postal services around the world using electronic data interchange (EDI). EDI is a computer to computer exchange system with a standard electronic format for business documents. It replaces e-mail, fax and regular postal mail.

The second part of the Technology Center is the International Postal System (IPS), which is an integrated mail managements system. The final part of the Technology Center is the International Financial System (IFS) which provides software for international money order services.

Finally the organizational structure of the UPU has regional support centers in different parts of the world known as “Restricted Unions” to support information technology activities. These regional centers are organized on a geographical basis and promote cooperative activities of the members of the centers. Examples of such regional centers are the Caribbean Postal Union and the African Postal Union.

The UPU is directed by a Director General. The current Director General is Beshar Abdera Hussein from Kenya. He was elected to the position in 2012, after having been active in the UPU since 2008. He began his postal career in 1984 and eventually became the first Postmaster General of Kenya in 1998.

The Deputy Director General of the UPU is Pascal Clivaz from Switzerland. He has 17 years experience in working in the postal sector in Switzerland and within the UPU.

The UPU is financed by contributions from member countries, through a contribution class system, which is based on country size and in-country postal service capabilities.

The UPU celebrates World Post Day every October 9 in recognition of the founding of the Union in 1874.

ASIl & International Judicial AcademyInternational Judicial Monitor
© 2017 – The International Judicial Academy
with assistance from the American Society of International Law.

Editor: James G. Apple.
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