UN Internships in a nutshell

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Key facts on UN internships FINAL_1


UN Youth Envoy Ahmad Alhendawi is special guest at event organized by FII

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Read the article on the Youth Envoy website.

NEW YORK, 9 March 2016  – The Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi, joined a brownbag event organized by the Fair Internship Initiative at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on 4 March, 2016. The event, which was attended by around 30 interns, included a presentation of the Fair Internship Initiative and a fruitful discussion on the need for fairer internships at the UN.

Talking about the initiative, Alhendawi commended the efforts carried by the initiative and noted the dedication and commitment of individuals behind this campaign aimed at advocating to improve the UN internship programme to make it accessible and affordable to young people from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Alhendawi also highlighted the importance of empowering young people to stand up for what they believe is fair and just.

We thank Mr. Alhendawi for meeting us and sharing his knowledge. We look forward to further collaboration with him to encourage member states to discuss the status of internships in the UN’s fifth committee.




Ian Richards asks for fairer internships at the UN 5th Committee

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NEW YORK 4 March 2016 – Hopeful news from the 5th Committee of the UN General Assembly: Ian Richards from the UN Staff Council has asked the Secretary-General for a report on how interns could be provided stipends.

Ian Richards: “Unpaid internships filter out young people from developing countries and underprivileged backgrounds. At the same time UN staff are uncomfortable asking interns to work for free, against international labor standards. We propose that the sector general prepare reports on how interns could be provided stipends taking into account practices from specialized agencies.”

We are very happy with his encouragement towards member states and hope it will be picked up in a constructive way.

Interns CAMPaign at the Secretariat

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In reference to the stories of Robert and David, interns CAMPaigned at the UN today to raise awareness of the fact that the UN should change its internship policies in order to make them of higher quality, provide more security for interns, and to make them more accessible to qualified youth from all socio-economic backgrounds.

FII New York campaigned in front of the secretariat with backpacks and camping gear and made use of “elevator pitch ambassadors” in the UN elevators, to familiarize UN staff with the issue.

“It’s not for us. It’s for those who couldn’t afford it!”


The tents are back in Geneva

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Look at our CAMPaign in Geneva today! We were glad to see your support and will keep raising awareness for fairer internships that are of good quality and accessible to all qualified youth.

Media coverage at 20 Minutes and Repubblica Degli Stagisti.


Are you in New york? Drop by at the UN’s 46th street entrance at noon to meet our members and participate in the New York CAMPaign!


Fair Internship Initiative CAMPaigns in Geneva and New York

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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.

PR contacts

Fair Internship Initiative – Geneva (FII.Geneva@gmail.com)
Fernanda Dutra (fernandadutra [at] gmail.com; T: +41 076 690 86 92)
Vi Tran (vi.tran [at] graduateinstitute.ch; T:+41 078 677 61 82)
Fair Internship Initiative – New York (FII.UNHQ@gmail.com)
Iris Millenaar (irismillenaar92 [at] gmail.com; T: +31 637 454 363)
Henry Ogbuagu (Hogbuagu7 [at] gmail.com; T: +1 617 580 1571)

“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.