On the morning of 3 April, a total of 30 young people demonstrated in front of the United Nations (UN) campus in Bonn for global rights of UN interns. The Fair Internship Initiative (FII) Bonn had called to the demonstration, in view of the 37th meeting of the High Level Committee on Management (HLCM) of the UN on 03 and 04 April. After the announcement of the demonstration, members of the HLCM had agreed to meet with representatives of FII Bonn on an unofficial basis.
From 8.30 to 10.00, protesters chanted for pay and labor rights for all interns working for the
United Nations worldwide . Most of the demonstrators are currently completing two to six
months internships with different UN agencies, many without a contract, all without pay.
External young women and men as well as students of the UN University and UN consultants
joined the demonstration. Many of the demonstrating interns are members of the organization FII Bonn, which they founded in mid-March on the basis of and with the support of the identically named organization in Geneva. FII Geneva has been around since 2015, and more FII groups are also campaigning for their rights in other UN locations such as New York, Bangkok, Vienna, and most recently Panama. Their mandate that FII has already brought to the UN makes three basic demands:
- Equality: Internships need to be paid so that they are accessible to all, regardless of their
- Fairness: Interns must have basic employment rights such as protection from harassment
and fair working conditions;
- Quality: Internships should offer meaningful learning to help young people successful
transition from education to employment
On 4 April, the HLCM representatives heard the demands of FII Bonn, representing FII demands generally. On the first day of the HLCM, the topic had already been discussed, one day earlier than expected. According to the HLC members, there was general consensus to address the issue.
UNpaid is UNfair
At the meeting of the High Level Committee on Management, the members of the committee
analyze the administrative management of the UN. The committee consists of the senior
administrative managers of all UN agencies. The aim of the meetings is to increase the efficiency of the administrative apparatus and to simplify business practice. The meetings are held every six months at various UN locations, such as the 37th on the Bonn UN campus.
During the demonstration, there were many colorful posters showing the blue logo of the
initiative as well as the one calling for the protest. The demonstrators standing in a row created the slogan UNpaid is UNfair with their posters on the basis of the unfair, since nonexistent payment for internships of the United Nations. In unison, demonstrators repeatedly postulated exclamations for pay and labor rights like No Pay is not okay or Who are we? Interns. What do we want? Payment.
Of the many workers entering the UN site this morning, there were mixed reactions. While some shook their heads or hurriedly entered the Campus site, others expressed support for the demonstrators’ endeavor. Some confirmed that they once worked as interns for the UN and there was no internship allowance at that time.