“Disgusting” practice of unpaid UN internships called into question at ECOSOC 2016 Youth Forum

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Watch the full session at UN Web TV – starting at 2:20:30.

New York, NY, 3 February 2016 – The United Nation’s unpaid internship policy has come under heavy criticism during the two days of the UN-sponsored Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum. Numerous participants raised the issue of unpaid internships at the UN, calling on the organization to change this policy. High-ranking UN staff such as UNDP’s head Helen Clark and UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy on Youth Ahmad Alhendawi were in attendance.

Among others, the topic was most eloquently raised during the session “Promoting innovative partnerships involving youth to implement the 2030 Agenda” (watch video in the this link, starting at 2:20:30) by a young UN intern, who pointed out that during 2012 and 2013 “the UN engaged 4000 unpaid interns in some of the most expensive cities in the world”. In a growing roar of approval coming from the audience, he asked the panel: “Do you agree that the UN, like the ILO, should provide interns with a needs based living allowance so that students from all socioeconomic and geographical backgrounds can have equality of access to internships at United Nations?” Before he could even finish the question, the audience burst out in loud applauses.

Moderator Mr Lloyd Russell-Moyle, a trustee of Children Youth International, promptly remarked that, in his opinion, unpaid internships at the UN are a “disgusting practice” and concluded saying “the UN should hold its head in shame”.

The issue resonated in the closing session when UN’s Special Envoy on Youth Ahmad Alhendawi admitted the lack of representation among youth delegates: “Ninety per cent of the youth come from the South, yet ninety per cent of youth delegates at the UN come from the North. We need to make sure that we have people from the South, we need to bring more youth from the global South.” According to Mr. Allhendawi, youth issues must be approached with “a sense of urgency” (watch video here).

Find our press release HERE.

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