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ASTANA, 29 November 2010 - Kazakhstan's ministries of foreign affairs and education announced today the winners of a nationwide school essay contest held ahead of the OSCE Summit on 1 and 2 December in Astana.

View photo gallery of the essay contest winners

Teenagers between the ages of 14 and 17 were invited to write an essay addressing one or all leaders of the OSCE participating States and sharing their views on the Organization's relevance. Companies of the Foreign Investor Council in Kazakhstan also helped arrange the contest and sponsored gifts for the winners.

Yuliya Burmistrova, a 16-year-old from the coal-mining town of Ekibastuz in the Pavlodar Oblast, won the contest with an essay on how the OSCE could do more to raise the awareness of young people. The first-place prize included round-trip airfare to Vienna, where the OSCE Secretariat is located.

"It is very important to popularize the OSCE's main principles and objectives among the younger generation. Probably, at first, such actions could include discussions among OSCE officials. Ideally, however, the young should pass the information to their peers directly. Perhaps this could be arranged through international student organizations," wrote Burmistrova in her winning essay.

"It is obvious that tensions and instability happen only in underdeveloped countries where people are uneducated and poor. Those are easily exposed to evil and criminal influences. Such people believe the source of their problems lies with a neighbouring ethnic group. Their hatred and anger can be raised quickly and people become inflamed and take to arms. Leaders of countries can provide more links, not only political, but also cultural and educational, for young people to know each other better," argued Dilnoza Irismetova, 17, from Shymkent in southern Kazakhstan, who took second place.

"I ask you to convince leaders that violence does not eliminate violence, that conflicts should be solved through diplomacy. Everyone knows the golden rule which says, "treat people the way you want them to treat yourself". This should be implemented in practice in the relations between states. No country is confident today that its citizens are safe. We must extend a helping hand to those who fall victim to tragic circumstances, investigate the causes and take measures to avoid "stepping on a rake", and thereby strengthen true co-operation between countries," wrote Zhanel Baidildina, 17, also from Ekibastuz, who placed third.