As young people gather this week for the Youth Assembly at the United Nations (UN) in Geneva, the Swiss-based Universal Postal Union (UPU) is asking budding writers to describe the world they envisage for the future as part of its 44th International Letter-Writing Competition for Young People. The Essential Edge urges parents to encourage their children to write letters so that we may share their visions.

The competition’s 2015 theme, “Write a letter about the world you want to grow up in”, links to the post-2015 sustainable development goals, expected to be adopted next September by UN member states to further progress achieved with the 2000-2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Young people’s involvement will be key in transitioning from the MDGs to the new sustainable development goals.

For Director General Bishar A. Hussein, the UPU’s international contest gives youth an additional platform to air their views. “This year’s theme will surely inspire many young people, but their letters will inspire us, too, as we all work together on building a better-connected, inclusive and modern society,” he says.

About 60 countries and more than 1.5 million school children are expected to take part in the UPU’s annual competition. Countries have launched the contest nationally and have until 30 April 2015 to send the UPU in Switzerland the letter that will represent them at the international level. Winners are awarded gold, silver or bronze medals by the UN specialized agency for postal services

A jury of worldwide experts will select the best compositions. Winners will be announced this August, just before the UN’s special summit on sustainable development in September 2015.

Last year’s competition asked young people to explain how music can influence lives. A poignant letter written by 13-year-old Nataša Milošević, from Bosnia and Herzegovina, earned her the gold medal.

Launched in 1971, the UPU competition offers millions of children and young adults the chance to understand the role postal services play in today’s society, while developing their composition skills and fostering a spirit of friendship internationally.

Winners normally receive their prizes on World Post Day, celebrated annually on 9 October.

Created in 1874, the UPU, based in Berne (Switzerland), is an intergovernmental organization and the primary forum for cooperation between governments, Posts and other stakeholders of the worldwide postal sector. In addition to maintaining a genuinely universal network that provides modern products and services, it establishes the rules for international mail exchanges among its 192 members and makes recommendations to stimulate mail volume growth and to improve the quality of service for customers. In 2013, some 5.4 million employees processed and delivered 340 billion domestic and international letter-post items and 6.7 billion parcels. Many postal services also offer expedited mail, financial and electronic services. Some 663,000 postal establishments make the postal network the largest physical distribution network in the world. The UPU is a specialized agency of the United Nations since 1948. It celebrated its 140th anniversary on 9 October 2014.