For a true “21st century UN”, we must reform the UN internship programme

[15 October 2018]

Following the release of the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) review of the UN internship programme, and as part of a UN-wide reform in favour of a ”21st century UN”,  the Fair Internship Initiative urges the Secretariat to take this opportunity to usher in long overdue changes needed for its internship programme.

If the goals of these reforms truly are to shepherd the United Nations into the 21st century, the FII believes that the current climate of reform within the UN presents the perfect opportunity for concerted effort to implement the JIU recommendations and to

include the internship programme in its human resources reforms.

Read the full article in the October 2018 issue of UN special.


WHO to Offer Financial Assistance to Interns

[25 May 2018]

Wonderful news coming out of the the 71st World Health Assembly! Algeria, Bolivia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Ghana, Guyana, Haiti, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Philippines and South Africa put forth the draft proposal ‘Reform of the Global Internship Programme and it passed without objections!

That means, Member states have requested the WHO to…

  • “Strengthen a transparent, merit-based intern recruitment process.”
  • “The setting of a target that by 2022, at least 50% of accepted interns on the programme originate from least developed countries and middle-income countries.”
  • “The provision by the Secretariat of financial, *as soon as possible and no later than 2020*, and where applicable, in-kind assistance, including through collaboration with host countries, for all accepted interns without sufficient existing support, at a level set for the duty station, to cover reasonably incurred travel and living expenses for the duration of the internship.

“And I’ve also listened to the concerns raised by our interns. Interns make an enormous contribution to WHO’s work, and the experience they gain is an important investment in building country capacity.

But I have to be honest: we must treat our interns much better than we do. Too often we use them as free labour, rather than an investment in youth, and in developing the health leaders of the future.

We have already taken some steps towards improving conditions for our interns, like giving them health insurance, lunch vouchers – very simple – and the same rights to time off as staff. And we are also considering paying a stipend by 2020 to interns who lack the financial resources to support themselves.”

– Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, during the World Health Assembly (WHA), 21 May 2018.

Congratulations to all present and past interns who have campaigned tirelessly for this momentous occasion!

Draft Resolution A71/B/CONF./1

Financial and administrative implications of Draft Resolution A71/B/CONF./1 Add.1

WHO offers Health Insurance to all Interns

[17 May 2018] The World Health Organization (WHO) announced «with immediate effect, will offer health insurance to all current and future interns in all duty stations». Previously, it stated thatWHO Interns must have adequate medical insurance coverage during the entire period of the internships.

This is good news for the organization as it was “founded on the principle that all people should be able to realize their right to the highest possible level of health.” (UN)ironically, WHO has dedicated this year to the theme ‘Health for All.’  Which also happens to be the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 3.8 is to “Achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all.

Employing around 1,000 interns per year in Geneva, this move will help reduce the financial barriers for current and future interns.  Health insurance is mandatory for anyone living in Switzerland, and for many interns it costs them between 200CHF-500CHF per month. This is a positive step in equaling the accessibility issues that unpaid internships cause.

We hope this is one of many more measures to be taken for fair internships in the future, both at the WHO and other organizations.

#HealthForAll #NoOneLeftBehind #UnpaidIsStillUnfair

Presentation of the 1st independent Report on UN internships

For the first time, an independent report will reveal key data on UN internships, their conditions of work and analyse the effect of unpaid UN internships on job prospects.

The data has been collected through a Global Intern Survey, launched In August 2017, spearheaded by the Fair Internship Initiative (FII), an independent youth-led initiative focused on advocating for quality and accessible internships. The survey was developed together with the Geneva Interns Association (GIA), the Graduate Institute Students’ Association (GISA) and various Intern Boards in Geneva. The campaign received support from the Global Intern Coalition (GIC), a cluster of interns’ advocacy groups from around the world. Together with previous findings, the new data will be a key tool for organisations to better understand interns’ state of affairs.

The 2017 survey generated responses from over 900 current and former interns. Results from the 472 participants from within the UN system showed that 84% of interns are between the ages of 22 and 29 years old, 54% hold at least 1 completed master’s degree and 72% are female. Yet, 80.5% of interns responding to the survey are unpaid, similar to the 85.3% calculated from the 2015 survey.  That same year, international attention was drawn to the UN practice of employing unpaid interns when media was made aware of a 22-year-old intern from New Zealand living in a tent in Geneva.

The UN has employed interns for many years; however, there has notably been a lack of consistent data on interns. It has often fallen on intern advocacy groups campaigning for the welfare of these interns to gather such data themselves. Beginning with a survey carried out by the Geneva Interns Association (GIA) between 2012 and 2013, followed by successive annual surveys carried out together with the Fair Internship Initiative in 2015 and 2016.

Over 80% of unpaid interns admitted that it would be impossible to do their internship without financial support from family, whilst 45% of those who are paid expressed the same sentiment indicating a disparity between their pay and the costs of living. Access to these internships appear limited to the privileged, with over 67% of unpaid interns (and 52% of paid interns) coming from high-income countries. The trend has been continuous, as back in 2013, the GIA Intern Survey noted that only 6.1% of their respondents rated their socio-economic status as “below average”.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is clearly committed to reducing inequalities (Goal 10) and to ensuring fair working conditions, especially for young people (Goal 8). Now more than ever, the ethos of these goals needs to be reflected in the way in which internships within the UN are conducted.

The UN has launched campaigns on youth employment and the empowerment of youth in various initiatives; however, it does not seem to apply this principle to its internship policy. As more than 75% of respondents have indicated, their experience interning is described as working, or a combination of mostly working but also learning. Respecting the principles of human rights, all work should be remunerated. Half of unpaid interns reported that the experience, however valuable, has placed a financial burden on them or those supporting them. This is unacceptable, and it is the hope of the FII, GIA and GIC that the UN will take action to make their internships more sustainable, inclusive and reflective of the values of the organization.

link to Facebook Event

link to report Lifting the veil off UN internships

Letter to DG da Silva of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

Dear Director-General da Silva, (Dear Mr Demachkie,)


Subject: Review of the FAO internship and volunteers programme

It has been brought to the attention of the undersigning organizations that the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is currently undertaking a revision of its Internship and Volunteering programmes.

FAO has been, so far, an example of good practices in the UN system, proving to be true to the UN core values of non-discrimination and promotion of diversity, as well as the empowerment of youth, especially from developing countries. Up to now FAO has done this not only in words but with tangible measures, most importantly by introducing a basic financial support to its interns, which has made the organization’s internship programme accessible to all, irrespective of their geographic, social or economic backgrounds.

We believe that the current revision provides an opportunity for FAO to further increase the quality of offers under its Internship Programme. This would entail first and foremost strengthening the educational value of internship placements, helping young people to develop practical skills to complement their theoretical knowledge, under the guidance of a competent supervisor. Furthermore, a quality internship programme should ensure that interns are entitled to and well informed of their social and labour rights and provided with adequate financial support to cover their basic living expenses.

Therefore, we call on FAO both to ensure that young people taking part in the revised internship programme continue to receive an adequate living allowance – a key factor in tackling inequalities and guaranteeing equal opportunities for all regardless of their socio-economic or geographic background; and, more broadly, to recognise, protect and uphold their social and labour rights.

It is on this basis that an internship can represent a mutually beneficial experience for both the intern and the host organization.

According to the official communication by FAO, the stated aim of this review has been “to link the internship and volunteering programmes more systematically to the enhancement of FAO’s technical capacity and to deliver on its Strategic Objectives and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).” We welcome the intention to align the internship programme with the SDGs, as we strongly believe that poor quality, unpaid internships, jeopardize the implementation of the SDGs, and, more specifically, of Goals 10 (Reduced inequalities) and 8 (Decent work and economic growth), which require among their targets:

  • The promotion of social, economic and political inclusion irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status (target 10.2);
  • Equal opportunity and the reduction of inequalities of outcome, including the elimination of discriminatory laws, policies and practices and the promotion of appropriate legislation, policies and action in this regard (target 10.3);
  • The adoption of policies, especially fiscal, wage and social protection policies to progressively achieve greater equality (target 10.4);
  • Enhanced representation and voice for developing countries in decision-making in global international economic and financial institutions in order to deliver more effective, credible, accountable and legitimate institutions (target 10.6).
  • Decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value (target 8.5).

We also recall that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development represents a coherent and holistic approach, whereby no Goal is to be compromised for the achievement of another.

It is of paramount importance that, within the current review of its internship programme, FAO does not retreat from the progressive path it has so far undertaken, but rather proceeds along it, taking into account good practices from other UN agencies and other international organizations (such as the ILO, IOM, UNOPS, WTO, WIPO, IAEA, CTBTO, OSCE, and others). This would, moreover, be consistent with the growing consensus that change is required to make UN internship programmes truly inclusive and accessible. Recognizing this principle, UNICEF has, for instance, recently revised its internship policy, introducing paid internships, while UNHCR is in the process of doing so.

Providing interns with sufficient financial assistance to cover basic travel, board and lodging is a fundamental enabler for youth from low-income backgrounds and from the Global South to afford the opportunity to contribute to the work of FAO. Failure to do so would result in an unfair, discriminatory and elitist internship programme.

Dear Director-General da Silva,

As a renowned advocate of social justice, you have in many occasions expressed – both

through words and actions – your firm support for the economic and social empowerment of the beneficiaries of developmental policies. We warmly suggest you to lead by example, take a step forward and adopt an internship policy in line with the UN system’s best practices, some of which you can find attached to this letter, for your reference.


In conclusion, we urge you to support young people, particularly the less privileged

youth that the UN system should strive to empower, and to uphold the Sustainable Development Goals. We call on you to take engage with the interns’ community, in the framework of the upcoming review of the FAO’s internship policy, in order to ensure that it takes into consideration best practices and it has young people’s interests at its core.

We look forward to hearing from you soon.


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On behalf of:
Fair Internship Initiative
European Youth Forum
Repubblica degli Stagisti
Geneva Interns Association
Canadian Interns Association
Brussels Interns NGO
Other supporting organizations:
Graduate Institute Student Association (GISA)
ILO Intern Board
WHO Intern Board
OCHA Intern Board
International Environment House Intern Board
OHCHR Interns’ committee

UNITAR increases lump-sum to 700CHF

UNITAR (the United Nations Institute for Training and Research) has increased their monthly “lump-sum” to interns and trainees from 300 CHF a month to 700 CHF a month.
This is aims to address the costs of travel, other miscellaneous costs (visas, accommodation and living expenses).

While congratulating UNITAR for their efforts in raising the financial contribution made to interns, it should still be noted that the Swiss poverty line is 2,200 CHF/month. Although a step in the right direction, significant strides are still to be made.

UNITAR is one of the few UN agencies that is not part of the UN Secretariat. This means that they have independent authority in performing the human resources function.
#UnpaidIsUnfair #NoOneLeftBehind

Call for input: OHCHR study on youth and human rights – Submission by FII

“Human Rights Council Resolution 35/14 on youth and human rights, requests the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to conduct a detailed study on the implementation of human rights with regard to young people, the identification of cases of discrimination against young people in the exercise of their human rights, and best practices in the full and effective enjoyment of human rights by young people, highlighting the contribution of empowered youth to the realization of human rights in society, to be submitted to the Council prior to its thirty-ninth session.” [Link to Call for input]

Response to the call for input by OHCHR for the study on youth and human rights.
Submitted by the Fair Internship Initiative, 12 January 2018.

The following contribution is submitted by the Fair Internships Initiative on behalf of the Global Interns Coalition in response to the call for input by the OHCHR, as part of the consultative process envisaged for the completion of the study on youth and human rights, to be submitted to the Council prior to its thirty-ninth session.
Given the global mandate of the submitting youth organizations, the present contribution is not limited to a specific country, but will instead – given the wide geographic entity of the problem – provide a global overview.

1. Introduction: Unpaid internships as a human rights problem

A global issue
One of the greatest challenge experienced by young people is securing decent, stable and fairly remunerated employment. Although specific challenges may vary across regions, the problem is consistently felt by young generations across the globe, with the ensuing risk of economic emargination, poverty, psychological disorders, increased inequality and radicalization.

The International Labour Organization estimates that in 2017 global youth unemployment raised to surpass 13%. With 70.9 million unemployed youth in 2017, the number is expected to rise by 134,000 in 2018.

This is largely due to the persisting youth unemployment rates in high and least developed countries, coupled with deterioration of youth employment prospects in the slowing-down economies of the emerging countries.

Faced with such dramatic labour market conditions, competition for jobs has drastically increased in the past few decades. As a consequence, requirements and expectations of employers in terms of skills set and experience have also increased, while the large number of labour supply has contributed to the sharp worsening in the conditions of employment. In many sectors, “the situation has reached the point where many entry-level jobs no longer exist because all the work is being done by overqualified interns”.

Click here to read the entire response


Creating a transparent labor market to end unfair working conditions for young people

Why do we need a transparent labor market?

The first professional experiences are too often a source of difficulties. For millions of young people studies alone are not enough to find a job; employers asking them for professional skills and experience they have not yet acquired. Internships, apprenticeships and other first professional experiences, are now compulsory to access employment. Unfortunately, most of them are poorly designed, precarious and sometimes abusive. Without transparency, practices do not improve and youth face a problem of equal opportunities.

What can we do? → #WeRate

From November 10th International Interns Day onwards, all young people will be able to rate their first working experiences on  to create the largest database on the quality of young people’s first work experiences. Each young person will be able to look for the evaluations by companies, sectors, geography. Think of it as the ‘glassdoor’ for internships.

The goal is to

1) encourage companies to improve their practices

2) give tools to universities to better orient their students,

3) help young people better integrate into the job market.

Evaluation criteria

The evaluation criteria and quality indicators were co-created with more than 25 youth organizations from 6 countries and 300 young people. They are based on the European Label for Best Internships and the European Charter for the Quality of Internships and Apprenticeships (developed by InternsGoPro and the European Youth Forum respectively). They constitute a unique standard, recognized by the European Institutions as a reference for all professional sectors.

An international campaign

In 3 years, we intend to collect and publish 100,000 evaluations of 10,000 companies internationally.  Rate your internship today!

[Geneva] International Interns’ Day 2017 – “Youth Empowerment through Fair Internships”

International Intern’s Day : Youth Empowerment through Fair Internships

On November 3rd, the Fair Internship Initiative organized with the support of the ILO Intern Board, the discussion “Youth Empowerment through Fair Internships”.

Continue reading “[Geneva] International Interns’ Day 2017 – “Youth Empowerment through Fair Internships””

[Geneva] 2017 Spring Intern Board Congress

The Fair Internship Initiative (FII) and the Geneva Interns Association (GIA) recurrent Intern Board Congress brings together all the Intern Boards at the United Nations and other International Organizations in Geneva. With the aim to build connections, discuss goals, and hopefully achieve a platform for more UN- wide coordination and collaboration when it comes to improving the conditions of our internships.

WHEN: Wednesday 7 June 2017, 18:30
WHERE: Edgar et Daniele de Picciotto Student House, Avenue de France 22, Common Room (ground floor)