HCRI Writing Competition for Schools 2021/22

Words For Your World - A National Competition

The World Leaders had their say at COP26 - then UK students had theirs! 

The University of Manchester’s Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute's schools writing competition, Words For Your World, in collaboration with Save the Children UK and UK-Med, encouraged pupils in Year 9-13 to write a speech or letter, addressed to the UN on the climate emergency:  

  • How is climate change affecting you and what actions, initiatives, and policies should the UN prioritise?
  • What are your hopes for the shape of our future world? What concrete changes need to be implemented to protect the climate and increase social equity?

The Judging Panel: 

  • Dr Stephanie Sodero, Lecturer in Responses to Climate Crises at the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute.
  • Gareth Owen OBE, Humanitarian Director at Save the Children UK.
  • Sophie Grattidge, Digital Communications and Engagement Lead at UK-Med.  

Information for Students

What is Words For Your World?

We are inviting students in years 9 to 13 at UK schools to write a speech or letter, addressed to the UN, about their hopes and fears about the climate emergency, as well as specific policy recommendations. Entries  should be brief, no more than 500 words. You might want to engage with issues such as environmental policy, migration, international trade, political representation, inequality, and the pandemic.

Launched to coincide with the closing of COP26, the United Nations Climate Change Conference, these letters and speeches will be written in time for Earth Day, Friday April 22, 2022. These are letters and speeches helping to identify what you think are the most pressing aspects and of the climate emergency, and crafting language and proposals that let us think about those subjects in new and impactful ways.

You can choose to write a speech or letter, addressed to Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC secretariat (UN Climate Change). The UNFCCC is the United Nations entity tasked with supporting the global response to the threat of climate change.  

Why letters and speeches? 

Encouraging lasting change has always been about more than conferences and politicians. Activism is also about determining what issues get debated, how they are framed, and what words are used to discuss - and to think about - our lives. The climate crisis will affect everyone and we need to imagine new ways of dealing with it. Politics is ultimately about the limits of what we dare to imagine, and the creative act of composing letters and speeches - of imagining, expressing, and recognising - has a crucial role to play in this.

And letters and speeches by young people can after all effect significant change. Consider the much-reported and powerful "How dare you" speech the Swedish climate activist Great Thunberg delivered at the UN in 2019, or the recent open letter Thunberg and the Ugandan climate-justice activist Vanessa Nakate addressed to the Global Media. And consider this view on youth protests by someone who should know, Oxford Professor Myles Allen:"Well done on all you are doing – you seem to have made more impact on the climate issue in the past couple of years than I’ve managed in the previous three decades working away on it, and I’ve been described as the physicist behind net zero." 

What issues will you identify? What message will you aim to convey to the UN?

Information for Teachers

View a poster advertising the competition at your school: Words for Your World Poster (pdf)

Please also look at our resource section which includes writing tips, further links and is also where we will announce forthcoming workshops run by the Centre for New Writing and the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute:

How to Enter & Prizes

Entrants must be in Year 9, 10, 11, 12 or 13 at a UK school.

What to write

All submissions must be in the form of a letter or written speech to the UNFCCC secretariat. The letter or speech should be written to arrive for Earth Day 2022, and may wish to express the student’s hopes, ambitions, or fears about the climate emergency. The entry should not exceed 500 words, excluding the customary salutations of the letter form and must be written in English.

Judging will be based on the written entry alone, but after winners and runners-up have been notified, they will be invited to submit a recording of themselves reading their letter or delivering their speech. This will form part of a video that will be shown at a celebration event in summer 2022. Submitting a recording is entirely optional and will not influence the judges’ previous decision.

How to submit your entry

The competition is now closed for entries. Winners will be notified by 27 May 2022 and will be announced here shortly thereafter.  

Terms and conditions

See the full Terms and Conditions (pdf).


One winner and one runner-up will be selected for each year group
The prizes are: First prize = £50 Blackwell's Vouchers, runner-up prize= £30 Blackwell's vouchers.


Please direct all questions about the competition to SALC-competition@manchester.ac.uk