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Interns debate at the UN: Empowering youth through Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

On April 18th, the organization Interns With A Mission invited interns to debate with UN leaders whether the SDGS provide opportunities for youth involvement and empowerment. The FII-Geneva raised the issue of unpaid internships at the UN in the context of the SDGs.


  1. The event was held at the UN's Palais des Nations. It began with an opening remark by the UNOG's Director-General Michael Møller. He emphasized that UNOG is reviewing their internship policy in discussions with Member States.
  2. The organizers of the event, Interns with a Mission, proposed a motion: The current SDG framework provides enough opportunities for youth involvement and empowerment. Four panelists were invited to debate this motion, two in favor and two against it.
  3. Representing "YES" to the motion:
    - Ms. Arancha González, Executive Director of the International Trade Center (ITC)
    - Ms. Lyne Calder, Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs
  4. Representing "NO" to the motion:
  5. - Mr. Paul Ladd, Director of the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD)
    - Ms. Malika Dreyfuss, Training Programme Coordinator at Euforia
  6. Read the full question here:

    Hello, my question is on behalf of the Fair Internship Initiative, a group advocating for conditions for fairer internships within the UN System. I would like to address myself to Ms Gonzalez, who stressed the youths responsibility to implement the SDGs.

    I would like to re-highlight the issue of the more than 4,000 unpaid interns the UN employs in some of the most expensive cities of the world. Given the importance of internships for building future leaders and their roles in implementing SDGs, do you agree that the UN should provide all its interns with basic living allowances so that people from all socioeconomic and geographic backgrounds can have access to internships in the United Nations?
  7. The question posed to Ms. González got a round of applause in the room. The ITC Executive Director said she herself was once an unpaid intern in a law firm and added she's been trying to tackle this issue.