Speech of the Deputy Director General during the International Letter-Writing Competition Ceremony

7 October 2022, Berne

Distinguished guests,
Dear colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a sincere pleasure to open the part of our World Post Day celebration dedicated to youth.
Around the world, young people are stepping up to shape global agendas, influence decision-making, hold world leaders accountable, and secure their futures. The United Nations has established several initiatives focused on bringing about change with and for youth.
The UPU has its own well-established way of engaging with young change-makers and help bring the Post closer to the youngest generation. It is our International Letter-Writing Competition.
Now in its 51st year, the competition itself remains yet forever young, continuously nurtured, refreshed and renewed by its millions of bright participants. Just the same way, these letters nurture and refresh the mindsets of those who read them.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This year, we asked young people to write to someone influential to urge their action on the climate crisis.
We received a total of 1.4 million entries from 40 countries, demonstrating that the art and joy of letter writing are still alive among the digital generation. I am happy and proud with the number of entries, but I am disappointed with the number of countries participating. You can do it better. We thank every participant for sharing their ideas on solving this critical global issue. They are all winners in our eyes, but our jury had the difficult job of selecting just one to receive our gold medal.
This year, the choice has been made in favour of Ms Esra Sümeyye Öz from Türkiye, whose unconventional, moving and convincing letter on the topic of climate crisis has left a deep footprint in the hearts and minds of our jury members.
Esra has decided to address each family and knock on each and every door by dedicating her letter to mothers. The logic of this choice is simple yet powerful. As Esra writes in her letter, “The way of life of mothers determines the way of life of their children. Mothers guide us towards the future”.
By touching upon such topics as responsible consumption, preservation of water and energy, Esra’s letter speaks to all of us, not only mothers, asking us to “protect our second mother, the Earth”.
Distinguished guests,
I was once a child and my mother will celebrate her 80th birthday next week. Now I am a father, I appreciate the power that role models play in the lives of children, and I recognize the immense responsibility that comes with it. Esra’s message is clear: the change starts with us.
The values we pass on to the next generation will contribute drastically to their ability to sustain our planet. They will also define our capacity to advance global sustainability agendas for generations to come. Changing the mindsets of future decision makers through education and providing the right example will facilitate our fight, securing the necessary resources and political will for the green transition.
To conclude my remarks and before giving the floor to Esra, I want to acknowledge the other young writers whose letters have been recognized by our judges: Nisal Nasser Salem Al Rawahiyah from Oman, who will receive the silver medal and Bryaneliza Latchman from Guyana, whose letter placed third. Young writers from Algeria, Cyprus, Georgia, Sri Lanka, and Viet Nam will each receive special mentions.
We owe our special thanks to our international jury:
  • Ms Brigitte Perrin from the World Meteorological Organization, our valued UN family partner and ally in the climate fight;
  • Mr Moussibahou Mazou, former UPU Deputy Director General;
  • and Mr Richard Nash, previous winner of the competition.
Thank you for contributing your knowledge, enthusiasm, and experience to the judging process.
To everyone who invests their time and effort to hold our competition at the local and national levels – a big thank you. By channeling the voices of your youth, you contribute to our future.
As Esra writes in her letter, small precautions prevent major catastrophes. A few simple words can bring a long-lasting change.
On this note, I pass the floor to Esra to share her message with all of us.
Thank you.