Tents are back!
GENEVA and NEW YORK — The Fair Internship Initiative (FII) will be setting up tents at Place des Nations in a demonstration scheduled for lunchtime hours on Tuesday, March 1st 2016. Interns and young professionals working in Geneva are invited to bring their lunch for the protest, which begins at 12pm and ends at 2pm. About 12 tents will be set up near the Broken Chair, right in front of the Palais des Nations, the most remarkable United Nations building in the city. The demonstration should remind United Nations’ leaders that the cost of living in Geneva prevents many young people from low-income backgrounds to take unpaid interns in international organizations.
In New York, interns working at the United Nations Headquarters have chosen backpacks as the symbol of the poor living conditions which unpaid interns face during their internships. Throughout the working hours, on March 1st, UN interns will be riding the elevators of the building, carrying their large backpacks and talking to their senior colleagues about the issue. The inspiration for this action came from a real life story: to afford living in New York for two months, intern Robert Birnbaum decided to couch surf during his stay. His story can be read on Our Stories, a blog launched in February by the Fair Internship Initiative.
March 1st marks Zero Discrimination Day, a date thoroughly celebrated by the United Nations and its agencies. The FII believes an un-discriminatory internship policy would involve not just paying a living allowance as also setting up a clear legal status to ensure basic rights to interns and full recognition of their work. During the first half of March, UN officers that could lead this change of policy will be meeting in New York for the resumed 70th session of the Fifth Committee, which deals with budgetary and administrative issues.
Online campaign to reach over 800,000 people
Launched on February 11th on Thunderclap, the social media campaign March for fair UN internships has successfully surpassed its initial goal. With only three days left to go, the campaign has a social reach of 808,901 people on March 1st, when the following message will be posted by hundreds of supporters:
#ZeroDiscrimination also means equal opportunities at the UN. I support Fair Internship Initiative #UNpaidIsUNfair. http://thndr.me/d3xTr8
The social media campaign also included the launch of Our Stories, a blog where interns have been writing about their experiences and their struggles as young professionals. Stories already published include German Robert Birnbaum, Nigerian Henry Ogbuagu and Indian Jonas Pulendrarasa, interns at the United Nations in New York; Kenyan Evans Campbell and Albanian Teuta Turani, former interns in specialized agencies in Geneva.