Unpaid #UN Intern Sleeps in Tent in Geneva

It has come to my attention that UN interns are forced to live in tents to be able to complete their internship at the UNOG in Geneva. Thanks to the article published by Tribune de Geneve, I have learnt that David Hyde, a 22-year old UN intern from New Zealand was found sleeping in a tent on the shores of Geneva lake, not too far away from Palais des Nations where he had accepted an unpaid 6 months internship.

david hyde

Credit: Patrick Gilliéron-Lopreno / Tribune de Geneve

The poor fellow camped for two weeks before making headlines around the world and forcing UN to hold a special press conference in which three unpaid interns assured journalists they were happy performing 6 months unpaid work. Mind you, professional P-level work!

I read some more articles about the case and it appears that David did somewhat do a mise en scène by camping outside UN. However, he certainly did not have any other means of actually getting a rent.

For anyone who has a basic knowledge of UN, it is a fact that UN interships are unpaid. Period. Most UN System agencies refuse to pay their interns as well. The ILO started paying its interns recently after one poor guy was found sleeping in the basement.

For all the talk there is about this situation being under the sole control of the General Assembly and Member States, the people involved in propagating and abusing the hordes of interns willing to do unpaid work at the UN should feel ashamed.

No press conferences needed. Unpaid is unfair. Trampling on human rights when one is promoting human rights speaks for itself. Period.

And by the way, excellent PR case for supporting intern rights in Geneva, thank you David!

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About Cristina Popa

Cristina is a WordPress blogger who regularly writes or shares updates on media, public affairs and various topics of interest. You may follow her on Communication for Development WP blog or Twitter @CristinaPopa0
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10 Responses to Unpaid #UN Intern Sleeps in Tent in Geneva

  1. EmilyAnn Frances says:

    Excellent coverage! I agree this is disgraceful. I think all unpaid internships should be declared illegal.

  2. EmilyAnn Frances says:

    I am so glad you posted this. It makes people aware that the situation with interns reaches across all levels of the business and non-profit world. David is very brave to go to this extreme and get the media attention.

    I cannot speak for everyone but do have much experience in the business world as a support staffer. Many summers I met interns who went to top schools and were doing the internship because they believed it was imperative to do so. They really believed it would get them a good first job. Their families could afford to support them during the summer in New York. Well, when the economy tanked in 2008 those interns did not have employers lined up to hire them. Which proved that there is no sure route to success.

    At a deeper level this makes it seem like an unpaid internship is the only way to connect to the higher levels in a company and get access to special consideration for a full-time job. There are many bright students attending City University that simply cannot afford to work for free. They have other obligations and responsibilities to their households or parents. And then there is their student loan when they graduate. Working for free does not pay that off.

    This is a bad idea that should be outlawed. I’m glad to see others share my point of view.

    • I posted this primarily because I, myself, have interned with a UN Agency in Geneva on the same terms David Hyde has interned. I financially supported the entire internship and I may assure you that UN interns have virtually no rights but full responsibilities like the rest of the staff. There are some 4,000 UN interns scattered across UN offices and many more across UN agencies. There are interns who commit to more than 1, 2, 3 internships or more. All unpaid and this is utterly wrong.

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