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5 United Nations Paid Internships

In recent years, the United Nations has been greatly criticized for its unfair internship policy based on which this prestigious institution continues to employ thousands of unpaid interns in its multiple agencies. Prospective interns are required to fulfill a demanding set of criteria and work full-time for six months without even having their basic costs covered by the UN. This has led students and early-career professionals who cannot afford to work for free to seek work experience in other organizations.

Nevertheless, not many internship-seekers know that there are several UN agencies which decided to award compensations to all of their interns, contributing towards their living costs. Most recently, UNICEF announced that it has changed its internship policy independently from the rest of the UN to introduce paid internships.

Here are the top 5 paid internships at the UN.

1. UNICEF Internships

Location: worldwide.
Compensation: varies.
Duration: 6-26 weeks with the possibility of extension.
Application deadline: depending on the vacancy.

UNICEF is one of the few UN agencies to change its internship policy from unpaid to paid internships. Interested students and graduates can apply for a variety of intern positions in multiple areas within the mandate of UNICEF, including Operations, Program and Policy, and External Relations. Different UNICEF offices around the world offer internships based on their need and capacity, so it is difficult to predict what kind of internships will be available in near future.

Interns’ duties and responsibilities will depend on the office they will be assigned to; however, interns can expect to take part in research projects, databases management or communications.

To apply for an internship with UNICEF, you must complete an online application and submit it through UNICEF e-recruitment system. Once you are registered in the system, you can submit multiple applications.

The core eligibility requirements include:

  • A university degree (at least undergraduate, enrolled or graduated in the past two years) with demonstrated strong academic performance.
  • Minimum 18 years of age.
  • Fluency in English, French or Spanish. Knowledge of another UNICEF working language is desirable.
  • Having no immediate relatives in any UNICEF office and no relatives in the line of the authority to which the intern will report to.

Other requirements such as relevant professional experience and skills are vacancy-specific. Not all internships offered by different UNICEF agencies are paid. When they are, the stipend amount will depend on the office and their capacities. For instance, the standard stipend given to interns at the UNICEF Headquarters in Geneva amounts to USD 1,500.

Please note that a UNICEF internship is not a guarantee of any future employment at UNICEF.

To see which internships are available at UNICEF at the moment, please visit UNICEF job board.

2. United Nations System Staff College

Location: Turin, Italy or Bonn, Germany.
Compensation: 450 EUR.
Duration: 3-6 months.
Application Deadline: depends on the vacancy.

United Nations System Staff College (UNSSC) is a UN-founded knowledge management and learning institution based in Turin, Italy. The college offers courses and other learning initiatives such as seminars and strategic exchanges to thousands of people all over the globe, focusing on Leadership and Management, Peace and Security, and Sustainable Development.

Students from around the world are eligible to apply for a limited number of internship vacancies at this institution and take advantage of up to six months-long stay. The objectives of the internship program are to complement students and recent graduates’ formal education through practice, acquaint them with the work of the UNSSC, and allow the institution to benefit from qualified students’ assistance.

Specific duties and responsibilities will depend on the details of the internship but could include administrative duties, learning and training activities, and research.

Requirements:

  • University Degree (enrolled or graduated in the past year), including Bachelor’s (only in the final year), Master’s and Ph.D. programs.
  • Fluency in the English language.
  • Knowledge of another UN working language is desirable.

To apply, find a specific internship opportunity posted on the UNSSC employment page and follow any specific instructions related to that internship.

Besides the modest stipend amounting to 450 EUR/month, UNSSC does not provide any financial assistance towards the costs of travel, visa, accommodation, vaccines, or health insurance.

3. UNOPS Internships

Location: worldwide.
Compensation: possible monthly stipend and USD 500 for travel costs.
Duration: usually up to 6 months with the possibility of extension
Application Deadline: depends on the vacancy.

United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) is a UN agency which provides humanitarian and development solutions towards achieving peace and sustainable development. This agency’s activities include Project Management, Procurement, Human Resources, Infrastructure, and Financial Management. By working for this institutions, professionals can help reduce risk, advance speed and quality, and improve the cost-effectiveness in the work of different partners in more than 80 countries in the world, often in the riskiest environments.

Requirements:

  • University Degree (enrolled or graduated in the past three years), including Bachelor’s and Master’s programs.
  • Fluency in at least one UN working language, depending on the vacancy.

To apply for a UNOPS internship, applicants must create an account on UNOPS job portal. The application includes personal information as well as details about education, professional experience, languages, and other skills.

Provided that interns do not receive stipends from their university or other institutions, they may be eligible for a monthly stipend from UNOPS. In addition, the agency also awards one-time travel lump sums of USD 500 to all interns.

The recruitment process lasts between one and three months on average.

4. United Nations Alliance of Civilizations Internships

Location: New York, the United States.
Compensation: possible monthly stipend if not otherwise sponsored by other institutions.
Duration: up to 6 months with the possibility of extension.
Application Deadline: depends on the vacancy.

The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) has existed since 2005. It emerged out of Kofi Annan’s initiative and with the support of governments of Spain and Turkey. Based in New York, the Alliance is a global network of states, international organizations, civil society groups as well as the private sector. The main areas of focus are Education, Youth, Migration, Media, all chosen in order to reduce tensions that exist among cultures and to bring cooperation between communities. As its core vision, UNAOC seeks to promote culturally sensitive development policies.

The UNAOC occasionally shares internship opportunities on its job portal.

The requirements depend on the type of internship advertised, however, it is expected from candidates to:

  • hold an undergraduate or graduate diploma, obtained within three years before the start of the internship and
  • be fluent in English and another UN working language

In the past, UNAOC has offered internships in the field of Communication, Community Engagement, and Education.

In general, interns may be eligible to obtain a monthly stipend, provided that they are not sponsored by any other institutions. Nevertheless, interns are responsible for their own visa, travel, and accommodation arrangements.

5. UK Mission to the United Nations

Location: Geneva, Switzerland.
Compensation: CHF 1,250/month.
Duration: up to 6 months.
Application Deadline: depends on the vacancy.

Another way to get an internship in the United Nations is through your national government. UN member states have their separate missions to the UN, so it is likely that they also offer internship opportunities to early-career professionals. One such country is the United Kingdom which has a well-established internships scheme.

The UK Mission to the UN in Geneva is concerned with UK participation in the UN and other international organizations such as IOM and WTO. The office covers the work of more than 35 international organizations to which the UK provides financial contributions. This mission does not deal with consular or visa services.

The Mission accepts interns on a regular basis. Selected interns work on a variety of issues such as trade, human rights, humanitarian issues, disarmament, and health.

Requirements:

  • Graduates with a degree in a relevant field

The UK Mission provides all interns with a training allowance of up to CHF 1,250/month and is not able to offer any further assistance with regards to transport or accommodation.

Internship opportunities can be found at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s job board.

Apply for these amazing and affordable internship opportunities and get a chance to work at the UN without having excess costs!

About the author

Maja Davidovic

Maja Davidovic is a Serbian-born independent researcher and Human Rights graduate. She holds her M.A. degree from Central European University in Budapest, and had previously lived and worked in Greece, Turkey and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Maja mostly researches about women’s rights, child protection and transitional justice, and has been involved with organizations such as MSF and OSCE, as well grassroots initiatives. You may follow her on her newly-made Twitter profile @MajaADavidovic, where she aspires to open discussions on a variety of human rights-related issues.