The UN on Thursday launched the International Year of Forests under which the Universal Postal Union (UPU) will contribute to raising awareness of the importance of protecting forests through its 40th International Letter-Writing Competition for Young People. More than 60 UPU member countries are expected to participate in this year’s edition of the competition, which asks young people up to 15 years to write a letter on the following theme: “Imagine you are a tree living in a forest. Write a letter to someone to explain why it is important to protect forests.” A statement issued by the United Nations Information Centre in Accra copied to the Ghana News Agency said participating member countries were currently holding the competition at the national level. They have until April 30 to submit the letter that will prepresent them for judging at the international level. About two million children worldwide participate in the competitions first held nationally. International finalists will then vie for the gold, silver or bronze medals awarded by the UPU after an international jury evaluates the compositions. International winners are expected to be announced in August. “Forests play an important role in preserving climate and environment stability, and the theme is in line with initiatives undertaken by our organization to help our member countries and designated postal operators to reduce the impact of postal activities on the environment and climate change,” said Edouard Dayan, UPU’s Director General. “We are very eager to receive the children’s letters on this very important topic, and I’m sure young writers will share valuable insight on the importance of preserving forests.” The UPU’s International Letter-Writing Competition for Young People was created by the 1969 Tokyo Congress and officially launched in 1971. Since then, millions of young people all over the world have participated in the competition at national and international levels. The competition aims to make young people aware of the important role postal services play in our societies, develops their skills in composition and the ability to express their thoughts clearly, and fosters their enjoyment of letter writing. Created in 1874, the UPU, based in Berne (Switzerland), is an intergovernmental organisation 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 191 members and makes recommendations to stimulate mail volume growth and to improve the quality of service for customers. Some 5.5 million employees process and deliver 433 billion domestic letter-post items annually, as well as some 5.5 billion international items and over six billion parcels. Many postal services also offer expedited mail, financial and electronic services. About 660,000 postal establishments make the postal network the largest physical distribution network in the world. The UPU celebrated 60 years as a specialised agency of the United Nations in 2008.