UNESCO and The ISF launch “World Tales” short story competition

Climate change, human rights violations, conflicts, racism and discrimination are among many threats to our present and future. In the face of adversity, creative young minds need to be encouraged to find innovative solutions.

With the aim to foster imagination, resourcefulness and ingenuity, UNESCO and the Idries Shah Foundation (ISF) launch the World Tales Short Story Competition. Young teenagers from all over the globe are invited to write about challenges of today and tomorrow in the format of a short story, and share their perspectives.

The theme of this 2020 First Edition is “Once upon a time in my future”.

ISF-UNESCO World Tales Short Story Competition banner

Who is eligible?

Participants must be between 12 and 18 years old (inclusive) and reside in a member city of the International Coalition of Inclusive and Sustainable Cities of UNESCO (ICCAR).



How to participate?

Entries must be:


    • Short stories of 250 to 500 words;


    • Typed in English or French using Arial 12-point Regular font;


    • Original unpublished works of fiction;


    • Stories on the potential for future societies to be fair, inclusive, peaceful, resilient, sustainable and/or tolerant.





Attention: please note that entries not respecting all of the requirements will not be considered.

The deadline for submission to city halls is 30 April 2020 at midnight (CET).


Evaluation criteria

The short stories will be evaluated primarily on their degree of creativity and imagination.
Participants will benefit from a particular leniency for potential grammatical and linguistic mistakes.



Three Laureates — Gold, Silver and Bronze — will be selected from each of the seven national and regional Coalitions forming ICCAR. All 21 names will be announced on 30 June 2020.

The seven Gold winning laureates will be invited to attend a high-level conference and Award ceremony on 21 September 2020 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris (France).

The Idries Shah Foundation will publish the work of the 21 laureates in a special edition hardcover book. It will feature all winning short stories and honourable mentions, and will be made available in ePub format.

All winning laureates will receive a copy of the book, and a personalized certificate.

Schools and cities of the 21 laureates will receive copies of the book. Cities of the 7 Gold winning laureates will also receive a set of ISF children’s books for their public libraries.





The World Tales Short Story Competition is funded by the Idries Shah Foundation.

About the International Coalition of Inclusive and Sustainable Cities of UNESCO (ICCAR)

ICCAR is a global 500+ cities network. It empowers local decision-makers by promoting dialogue, advocacy and joint action towards inclusive urban development free from any form of discrimination.

ICCAR is composed of seven national and regional Coalitions. Each Coalition responds to specific priorities and challenges set out in a Ten-Point Plan of Action. The Plan is composed of ten commitments covering various areas of competence of city authorities such as education, housing, employment, and cultural activities. More on ICCAR

About the Idries Shah Foundation

The Idries Shah Foundation is a British charity dedicated to bridging cultures through the power of stories. Afghan thinker and writer Idries Shah was himself a proponent of Teaching Stories or narratives created as a vehicle for the transmission of wisdom. His illustrated children’s books can be read for free at www.idriesshahfoundation.org(link is external).

Important disclosure

UNESCO and the Idries Shah Foundation reserve the right to modify the Competition’s prizes and its rules and regulations as and when necessary, without prior notice.