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)


[Geneva] 2017 Fall Intern Board Congress

24 October 2017
19:00h – 21:00h

The Intern Board Congress aims to bring together all the Intern Boards at the UN and other International Organizations in Geneva. It will be the perfect opportunity to get to know each other, build connections, discuss our common goals, and hopefully achieve a platform for more UN- wide coordination and collaboration when it comes to improving the conditions of our internships.

We will also take this opportunity to introduce FII and GIA, discuss lessons learned since the last Intern Board Congres,s and the results of the 2017 Global Intern survey.

WHEN: Tuesday 24 October 2017, 19:00
WHERE: S7, Maison de la Paix

Let us know whether you and your intern board would like to participate. Don’t have an intern board and would like to participate, please send us a PM.

Call for Action from Delegates to the 5th Committee

[2016 October ] This email was sent to Members States requesting them to call on the Secretary General to issue a report on the current internship policy during the Fifth Committee. 

Distinguished delegates to the Fifth Committee

The upcoming 71st United Nations General Assembly of the Fifth Committee consultations on agenda item 139, “Human Resources Management”, represents a historical opportunity for you to address the concern of thousands of young people around the world.

Interns represent a key component of the United Nations’ workforce; as figures in the most recent report of the Secretary-General on gratis personnel (A/71/360/Add.1) show, in 2014-15 there was a 10% increase in the number of unpaid interns compared to the previous biennium, amounting to a record-high 4,534 units in the Secretariat alone (compared to only a few hundred in the 1990s).

However, available official data show that the current unpaid internship policy fails to achieve a sufficiently diverse interns’ workforce, with developing countries being greatly underrepresented. At the same time, socio-economic diversity among current interns is also of concern: in the absence of official data, a survey carried out by the Fair Internship Initiative shows that only 29% of interns were able to secure at least some financial support from a sponsoring institution, while 76% would not have been able to do their internship if their family had not been able to provide some assistance.

As highlighted by the 2009 report of the Joint Inspection Unit on internships in the United Nations (JIU/NOTE/2009/2), the current policy not to provide any financial support to interns represents “a decisive factor” for otherwise highly-qualified young graduates not to participate in the programme, “simply because they could not afford to sustain themselves for such a period”. This equally affects both youth from developing countries, as well as an increasingly high number of graduates from developed economies, faced with rising levels of youth unemployment and mounting student debt.

By being accessible only to the few who can afford to live without any income in some of the most expensive cities in the world, unpaid internships foster inequalities among young people both between and within countries.

The lack of diversity among interns translates to the body of UN consultants and potentially impacts the pool of qualified candidates for UN staff positions. It is therefore important to ensure that access to the internship programme is granted on a fair, meritocratic and equal-opportunity basis.

Change is possible and examples of good practice exist. Some UN organizations (ILO, FAO, WFP, IFAD, UNOPS, WTO, WIPO, IAEA and others) already provide living stipends to interns. Policy coherence is needed across the UN to ensure that this becomes common practice.

The Fair Internship Initiative, on behalf of thousands of young people from all over the world and with the support of the Secretary General´s Envoy on Youth and dozens of youth organizations, kindly requests Member States to take action by requesting the Secretary-General to produce a report on this issue for consideration by the General Assembly. In our view, the report should:

  • Provide information on the demographics and conditions of service for interns in the Secretariat. No such report has previously been submitted by the Secretary-General to the General Assembly.
  • Provide possible options as of how a basic living allowance for interns who are unable to support themselves could be introduced and financed, including by reviewing the practices of other UN agencies and other large public sector organizations.
  • Propose a plan of affirmative action with concrete measures on how to increase the diversity of UN interns, by increasing the participation of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and from developing countries.
  • Propose a plan to increase the quality of internships including through the institutionalization of work plans that clearly define the goals, professional tasks and learning objectives of the internship, periodic reviews and guarantee of a minimum number of leave and sick days.
  • Consider providing interns with access a formal system of administration of justice (UNDT & UNAT).

We hope you will find our proposal reasonable and that you will be willing to support the voice of young people in this very important moment.

The linked background note provides further information and we stand ready for any questions you might have. Thank you very much for your time and consideration.


The Fair Internship Initiative

[Geneva] FII speaks at UN Forum on Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law

21-22 November 2016, Geneva – Two members of the Fair Internship Initiative spoke at the first session of the Forum on Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law on “Widening the Democratic Space: the role of youth in public decision-making” organized by the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Continue reading “[Geneva] FII speaks at UN Forum on Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law”