Advocate, Unpaid Internships

Rights for all (except our interns)

“If it is to deserve its reputation as a beacon of justice, defending the rights of every person with a clear conscience and impeccable record, Human Rights Watch must cease the exploitation of its interns.”

A group of Human Rights Watch (HRW) unpaid interns have reportedly filed a report calling for the organisation to start paying their lowliest workers. Outrageous right?

Human rights organisations are held to a higher standard, naturally, and this sort of easy hypocrisy doesn’t do anything to help their image as imperialist outsiders trying to get governments of developing countries to uphold values and standards that are routinely ignored by Western governments.

This isn’t a criticism I agree with, I should add, but these organisations make it stick all the more readily by continuing to offer interns ‘experience’ instead of money.

Of course, tons of organisations use unpaid interns. We’ve covered this subject pretty thoroughly, covering the last intern scandal in Geneva (which focused on underpayment), asking why development seems to expect a period of (maligned) unpaid work and offering some alternative paths into the field. We also polled our readers and stopped sharing unpaid internship opportunities back in 2013. Hell,  the first two posts I ever posted on here dealt with the ethical concerns of unpaid internships – one of the reasons I started this website was to give a platform to interns in the development industry to raise these issues.

Let’s hope HRW does the right thing. But I’m not holding my breath. So let’s help them along by adding some more weight to the debate.

I’d love to hear from more unpaid interns in the sector.

What jobs are you doing? How many hours do you work/volunteer? Are you learning much? Does your supervisor trust you or give you any attention? How long is your internship?

Tell me your story and I will help you publicise it right here on Development Intern. You can submit to me via our Facebook writers group or via email.


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