Staff union statement: UN should pay its interns

The case of UN intern David Hyde, who resigned Wednesday, highlights shortcomings with how the United Nations employs interns. 

The UN is supposed to promote labour standards and human rights. Instead attention has been drawn to one of its interns sleeping in a tent.

An internship is designed to benefit both the intern and the organization and can be a valuable educational experience. At the same time it is important that interns be able to focus on their assignments rather than on how they will pay their accommodation.

While the UN has money to pay for interns, it is barred from doing so by the General Assembly, which is made up of the representatives of every government and which sets the rules for the organization.

We hope that David’s case will cause the General Assembly to rethink its position and start helping interns with their accommodation costs.

The UN needs the the brightest minds, not those with the deepest pockets to live in expensive cities like New York and Geneva.

By banning payment of interns, the General Assembly makes it harder for the UN to attract interns from developing countries, of which there are currently two out of 162 in Geneva.

The UN has just agreed on a set of ambitious development goals to accomplish by 2030. It needs young people within its ranks from all countries.

This shouldn’t be difficult to change. The International Labour Organization, World Intellectual Property Organization, World Trade Organization, Global Fund and many other organizations are able to pay their interns.


Ian Richards

President of the Coordinating Committee of International Staff Unions and Associations

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