EMS, or Express Mail Service, is an international express shipping service administered by the postal systems that are members of the Universal Postal Union, an agency of the United Nations. The type and quality of shipping used to expedite delivery is dependent on the postal administrations of participating countries. As of 2014, the UPU has 192 members.
In 1998, the UPU created the EMS Cooperative to maintain a network of efficient international express postal service and enhance cooperation between UPU members. Although the EMS Cooperative has no legal status of its own, it provides guidelines for standards and procedures among the international postal community. It has a general assembly consisting of all EMS Cooperative members, a seven-member board and a secretariat at the UPU international bureau in Berne, Switzerland. Independent auditors evaluate yearly performances of EMS Cooperative members and award special certificates and placement in the Cooperative's Hall of Fame.
Although private express mail service providers, such as UPS, FedEx and DHL, also offer international express service, some countries grant EMS shipments special status, including lower customs fees. Documents and parcels designated for EMS delivery can be sent from the post offices of all participating countries or picked up from the premises of the customers. Because of its vast participating international network, it has the most extensive express postal coverage in the world.