On 31 December 2016 Ban Ki-moon is due to end his term in office, and the race for the new UN Secretary General has started. In a move to increase the transparency of the selection process, the UN has allowed for the first time to ask questions to the candidates during public hearings. In an age marked by high youth unemployment and rising inequalities, the UN will have to take the lead in the global effort to achieve the challenges enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals.

However, the new SG will have to come to terms with the UN’s own unpaid internship policy, which results in discrimination of disadvantaged youth and hinders diversity in the organization. We have asked the candidates about their position on the issue, and rated their response accordingly:

Helen Clark UNDP 2010.jpg

Helen Clark

green_light The internships at […] the UNDP are very competitive. People apply for them and they get through a sort of process to be selected. […] The bigger issue is whether the UN should be paying the interns. And you may remember there was a young New Zealander I think who was living in a tent on a pavement in Geneva when he was an intern and that got a lot of attention. And in principle, of course, it’s not right that only those who can fund themselves can take internships.

Watch the full statement (starts at 46’24)


Natalia Gherman


I fully share the view that the UN internship programme should become more accessible to young people from all countries and all income brackets. As Secretary-General I would examine all possible ways to ensure a decent amount covering at least the travel and living expenses of interns for the period that they serve with the UN. […] To start with and in view of expected delays in getting approval by the General Assembly for a new budget line, I would open a trust fund for those interested member states, as well as foundations and other non-state actors, to contribute funds that would be used to cover the interns’ expenses. I am sure that there would be many donors that would support this. The selection of interns should of course always be done on the basis of merit and keeping in mind the need for geographical and gender balance. The UN cannot afford to disappoint the youth, the future of humanity, and can only benefit by bringing closer to it, as interns and possibly future staff, people with energy and ideas that can change the world.

E-mail received by FII on  August 31, 2016



Vuk Jeremic

As Secretary-General, I will work to address youth unemployment and rising inequality at the global level.  However, for the UN to lead in this regard, the organization’s internal policies must be consistent with the global goals of promoting youth employment and reducing inequality among countries. Therefore, the issue of unpaid internships at the UN is an important one.   If the UN is going to successfully harness the best and brightest of our world’s next generation, then more must be done so that an internship at the UN is not defined by income-level and geography.  Fixing this issue is complex as resources are scarce, and budgetary constraints vary amongst agencies.  I believe the UN should defray costs of travel and accommodation for interns, but this cannot be a reality until its internal organization is streamlined and its funds are allocated more effectively.  As Secretary-General, I would ask the UNGA Fifth Committee to closely review this issue with the goal of providing modest compensation to achieve this goal and I would also work with Member States, civil society, and the private sector to identify potential outside sources of funding that can provide extra-budgetary support for internships for underrepresented groups at the UN.

E-mail received by FII on September 4, 2016
Igor Lukšic - World Economic Forum on Europe 2011.jpg

Igor Lukšic


“Today, as we speak, there is the highest unemployment on record of the young people worldwide […]. I do not think it is fair to have unpaid internships at the lower ladder of the system. It simply does not tell a positive story and does not respond to what young people expect from the United Nations […] I am sure there is a lot that can be found to give more stimulus to the young people and those internships.”

Watch the full statement

Igor Lukšic withdew his candidacy on August 23, 2016

Susana Malcorra (cropped).jpg

Susana Malcorra

green_light “It is true that internships are essentially biased towards the north, and that’s the case because they are unpaid. […] This is something we have to discuss clearly with members states. […] One is to admit that the UN can not hire people, use them for full-time work […] and not pay[ing them]
Watch the full statement
Danilo Türk 2011.jpg

Danilo Türk


“When I worked at the UN as Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs I had the privilege to witness the many valuable contributions that interns were making to the Organization. Let me therefore say right away that I am fully in favour of the proposal to provide the basic allowance (stipend) to all interns and thus make internship more accessible and more diverse

Read the full e-mail received by FII


Irina Bokova UNESCO.jpg

Irina Bokova


“With regard to the issue of unpaid internships in the UN System, I am aware that there are different provisions amongst the UN agencies with regard to financial stipends and/or other forms of financial assistance.  UNESCO is also looking into this issue in the context of its review.  However, as you know, many agencies over the last years, including UNESCO, have been faced with major financial constraints in their budget which resulted, in some cases, in post abolitions and staff separations, hence, it is more difficult for some agencies who are faced with real-term budgetary constraints to consider providing or pronouncing on the issue of financial remuneration to interns.  This being said, this is an issue that merits further discussion amongst all agencies to ensure harmonious frameworks are applied across the system […]”

Read the full e-mail received by FII

Christiana Figueres 2011.jpg

Christiana Figueres

yellow_light “[…] I think it is worthwhile to figure out how do we at least open up the possibility for those that do not have the financial resources to come as an intern”

Watch the full statement

António Guterres 2012.jpg

António Guterres

yellow_light “I think that the UN, tends to facilitate the presence of the people from the global north in relation to the global south. […] This needs some serious consideration, some serious address, how to correct this. […] I hope that there will be a consensus in the membership, namely the 5th committee to look seriously into that and to create more opportunities to people from the global south to play a decisive role in the UN. And I think this is essential for the perception of the UN.”

Watch the full statement


Srgjan Kerim.jpg

Srgjan Kerim


yellow_light  “I agree with the notion to provide equal conditions for all those who seek UN Internships. I believe the internship program is highly relevant for young professionals who wish to continue their careers in the UN, and I fully support all educational initiatives dedicated to training our future generations of leaders. I do understand that this requires providing financial compensation to all those interested in such an endeavor. However, this opens the question of funding, and if this issue can be resolved I believe internships in the UN can and will be accessible to all interested individuals. I pleaded from the very beginning for a comprehensive and profound management reform of the UN, that will allow to save money based on a more rational and efficient functioning of the system. Large part of the money that is saved can be used for development projects and the rest can be used for the internship programs. The United Nations Global Compact is an affiliated stakeholder participant that can also contribute as such.”

E-mail received by FII on August 31, 2016


Miroslav Lajcak 2014 (11981540724).jpg

Miroslav Lajcák

yellow_light “Thank you for writing me about the issue of unpaid UN internships. I find your additional information very useful. I believe that internships are a valuable opportunity for the young people to gain insight in the work of the United Nations and acquire relevant knowledge and experience. I don’t disagree with you that internship opportunities at the UN should be more accessible to qualified young people from diverse backgrounds. Some UN agencies already provide stipends to interns and I believe the UN Secretariat should also be looking for a solution to this problem.”

E-mail received by FII on August 31, 2016

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7 thoughts on “#OurSG-candidates

    #OurSG-candidates « Fair Internship Initiative said:
    August 16, 2016 at 11:35 am

    […] #OurSG-candidates […]


    […] many see the opportunity to organize cementing its importance. Internship Fair at the initiative of been questioned many new candidates for these positions paid internships, and while the sound supportive, but only […]


    […] many as a chance for the organisation to reassert its relevance. The Fair Internship Initiative has already questioned many of the new candidates about their position on paid internships and while most sound […]


    […] many as a chance for the organisation to reassert its relevance. The Fair Internship Initiative has already questioned many of the new candidates about their position on paid internships and while most sound […]


    […] du secrétaire général de l’ONU, Ban Ki-moon, en fin d’année, les douze candidats ont été priés de s’engager sur la question des stagiaires. Trois candidats seulement se sont vu décerner des […]


    […] de l’ONU, Ban Ki-moon, en fin d’année, les douze candidats ont été priés de s’engager sur la question des stagiaires. Trois candidats seulement se sont vu […]


    […] du secrétaire général de l’ONU, Ban Ki-moon, en fin d’année, les douze candidats ont été priés de s’engager sur la question des stagiaires. Trois candidats seulement se sont vu décerner des […]


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