Initiated by the General Director of Posts of the North German Confederation, Heinrich von Stephan, an international agreement on reciprocal transport of mail is signed by 22 nations on October 9,1874. It was the founding of the "General Postal Union", which would become the Universal Postal Union in 1878.
Declared a UN specialized agency in 1948, the Universal Postal Union is headquartered in Berne. It promotes international postal services and develops regulations for postal traffic. The Universal Postal Union also assists developing countries in setting up their own efficient postal services. Approximately 6 million postal employees in over 700,000 postal facilities around the world currently provide more than 6 billion people with some 440 billion postal shipments per year.