Demand for proper communication gave birth to the first international organizations, namely, the International Telegraph Union (ITU) and Universal Postal Union (UPU). Even though postal services existed before that, the 19th century provided an organizational basis for an intergovernmental organization specific to postal service.
Before the creation of the UPU, national governments and communities around the world suffered due to nonfunctional postal treaties and local arrangements. Country-specific regulations and characteristics were also causing political and socio-economic difficulties.
Major cross-border obstacles, such as high transit rates and different price tariffs between states, necessitated an intergovernmental organization that would act as the supervisory authority.
These shortcomings led to the foundation of the UPU on Oct. 9, 1874, as the second oldest international organization. It marked a turning point in the history of international postal service and communications.
New international regulations simplified procedures, removed cross-border obstacles and ensured the smooth flow of postal items within union territories. Most importantly, societies had the access to affordable and secure postal services.
The UPU has come a long way since. In the meantime, tremendous progress has been made in both communications and postal service. Today, significant fast-paced changes and disruptive developments are driven by technological advancements that also direct the global postal system.
Even in this period, however, nothing has really changed regarding the UPU's role and function. In close collaboration with the United Nations entities, international organizations, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), the UPU continues to come up with ideas to better serve communities and overcome global challenges.
Similarly, the UPU has been working with postal service actors and stakeholders around the world to promote the quality of postal service for everyone's benefit.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, physical post has become more important than ever due to the unusual conditions. With a global network of 670,000 post offices, 5.3 million staff and physical presence in 192 member states, the postal channel is a major contributor to national and international infrastructures.
In addition, this vast network plays a vital role in national developments and attaining the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The UPU has kept its network dynamic and servable by always standing ready to share its know-how, expertise and competence with member states.
Strengthening cordial relations and cooperation between the UPU and member states, including all postal shareholders outside the UPU, is among its top priorities.
All these international stakeholders are now acting together to solve current issues with specific methods and approaches by drawing from the UPU's network as the source of strength.
With this ability, the U.N. has a unique digital and physical infrastructure and network that enables disaster response, financial inclusion, sustainable economic development and community integration.
In light of this, we can say the UPU lies at the heart of the world system, or the U.N. system in other words. Consequently, the global postal network is an asset for everyone on the planet.
U.N. agencies, international organizations, and NGOs exist to think, plan, and work together to deliver better and make sure everyone is on board. Within this framework, the UPU provides everyone with a solid basis for joint action and collaboration.
Global supply chain, sustainable development, disaster risk management, digital economy, e-commerce and trade, technical assistance, development cooperation, postal financial services, financial inclusion and postal security are the main areas in which the UPU cooperates closely with U.N. agencies, international organizations and NGOs.
The U.N. system is scattered around the world and so is UPU's network. The U.N. is one big union, with each member being special.
Whether it is health, environment, natural disasters, labor, peace, disarmament or postal service, most of the human activities and issues of the societies are covered by the U.N., its specialized agencies and programs.
Moreover, why do we need all these international organizations? In light of their huge responsibility, the most straightforward answer to this question is a global world, a global response.
At present, most of the problems faced by humanity transcend national borders, whether it be pollution, financial system abuses, telecommunications or commerce.
It would be futile to try to tackle them without a global approach. That also tells us that the problems are not only global but also interdependent.
With the coronavirus pandemic, the UPU has consolidated its central role as a forum for cooperation between postal sector players and stakeholders. No question will be raised again on the relevancy of the UPU and there will be no change in this regard.
Despite advanced technical tools and developments, an invisible enemy of humankind that respects no borders and devastates both economies and societies continues to rise.
As such, a while ago, the UPU launched the Post4Health facility to guide and help postal operators deliver health policies, products and services by leveraging one of the world's largest networks.
According to a press statement issued by the UPU, the main target is the last mile delivery of COVID-19 vaccines and other related medical equipment and promoting powerful advocacy campaigns to spread life-saving information.
The global postal and logistics industry recognizes that this job can be done successfully only through UPU's network.
Japan and France have been the first donors, and the UPU is very much engaged in building close partnerships with leading postal operators to assist in the vaccine challenge.
In that process, the UPU will be in close coordination with the relevant authorities and obtain the latest scientific advice from health experts, as well as national and global health institutions and agencies.
This facility proves that UPU's network is an asset to relieve the destructive effects of natural disasters and global emergencies in light of this capacity. Such collaborations are essential to overcome cross-border difficulties.
On the other hand, the pandemic has forced us to focus on the essential delivery (air-surface-marine) channels that may require deep and wide-ranging studies.
As is known, the UPU plays a pivotal role in sustaining and ensuring the smooth flow of goods and services. The world now depends on UPU's expertise in this regard. Many more global issues can be solved appropriately with UPU's involvement and network.
The UPU became a specialized agency of the U.N. on July 1, 1948. Since then, its connections and active cooperation with other international bodies have only grown and intensified. That has resulted in many memoranda of understanding (MoU) and other agreements with U.N. agencies and other international bodies.
The UPU maintains particularly close ties with U.N. programs such as the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) in the field of postal development, the U.N. Drug Control Programme (UNODC) to help combat the shipment of drugs in the mail, and the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) to increase awareness of environmental issues among posts.
The organization also cooperates with specialized agencies such as the ITU, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the International Labor Organization (ILO), and the World Trade Organization (WTO). It also cooperates with the World Bank to promote postal development and reform around the world.