Commentary, Uncategorized

The spirit of Paris – alive and kicking

Written by Jasmin Cantzler for The Climate Analytics Blog. Jasmin is a fellow Hertie graduate.

Today the presidents of the world’s two biggest greenhouse gas polluters, China and the US, ratified the Paris Agreement.

Xi Jinping and Barack Obama’s ratification, ahead of the G20 meeting in China, shows that the momentum to address climate change is strong as ever, making the possibility of the Paris Agreement’s entry into force by the end of this year or early next ever more likely.

On the 12th of December 2015, the plenary halls at Le Bourget on the outskirts of Paris erupted in standing ovations, tears and cheers – a turmoil of emotions of relief and euphoria.

The Paris Agreement, adopted by 195 governments after a two-week negotiation marathon, was a remarkable achievement and a landmark in the global fight against climate change, rattling off the shock and lethargy following the failure of Copenhagen.

But since the wave of euphoria, detractors set in, with many assuming the Agreement would not be operational until 2020. Luckily, the world seems determined to prove them otherwise.

To recap the rulebook: The Paris Agreement will automatically enter into force 30 days after it has been ratified by at least 55 countries, and by countries representing at least 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Both conditions have to be met before the agreement is legally binding.

Bildschirmfoto 2016-09-03 um 14.00.42

In April this year, the Paris Agreement opened for signature and ratification.

Since then, our ratification tracker followed not just the actual ratification but also the statements made by government officials about their intention to ratify – and when.

With China and the US (together accounting for 37.98% of global emissions) keeping their promises made during the signing ceremony in April to ratify the Paris Agreement by the end of the year, the spirit of Paris proves to be alive and kicking.

Including the US and China, 26 parties have ratified the Agreement as of 3 September 2016.

Another 32 countries have signalled their intent to do so by the end of 2016, bringing the possibility of an early entry into force within reach by meeting both conditions (number of countries and share of global emissions).

With two of the world’s top emitters showing their determination to combat climate change, the momentum is likely to continue and boost participation by other governments.

Investors managing over USD 13 trillion in assets also urged G20 leaders to swiftly ratify the agreement, reminding them of their “responsibility to work with the private sector”, stating that the “Paris Agreement on climate change provides a clear signal to investors that the transition to the low-carbon, clean energy economy is inevitable and already underway”.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon will hold an event during the UN General Assembly in September, which will allow governments to deposit their instruments of ratification to “keep up momentum on the development agenda and climate change” and to “bring that Agreement into force this year.”


Governments have shown in Paris that they are ready to “converge onto a common path, onto a common direction of travel”towards a low-carbon economy. As our work with the Climate Action Tracker has shown, the current climate pledges by governments are certainly not yet sufficient to take us anywhere near the agreed long-term temperature goal of 1.5°C, instead we projected they would keep warming to 2.7˚C, but this ratification is the first step.

Paris achieved a common direction for all to pursue “efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels” and “aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible”. The latter means zero global greenhouse-gas emissions by mid-century to be consistent with the 1.5°C efforts.

We look to Governments to accelerate climate action and get us on a path to that Paris Agreement temperature goal. Their first step must be to ratify it.

Experiences, Projects, Unpaid Internships

The Internship Grind: Episode 3

And here’s Episode 3 straight from New York to you (via my reposting activities in Berlin).

What is the Fair Internship Initiative? I talk to interns about their thoughts on the FII and what the initiative may need to do get results.

As always, support The Internship Grind on Generosity (…p-blog-podcast/) and you can learn more about the Fair Internship Initiative at

Check out the other episodes here.

Experiences, Projects, Unpaid Internships

The Internship Grind: Episode 2

A couple of weeks back* we shared Clement Nocos’s first UN internship podcast (check it out here).

Happily, there is now a follow-up available and the 3rd episode should also be coming your way later this week. Take a listen.

Remember, he needs dollars to keep interning. Share this around or donate to ensure he can eat and all that good stuff.

*Sorry for the delays – the last semester of graduate school did not allow for a lot of blogging. Watch this space for more episodes of Clement’s podcast and a review of the MPP programme at the Hertie School of Governance.

Experiences, Projects, Unpaid Internships

The Internship Grind: Fear and Loathing in New York

Good friend of Development Intern, Clement Nocos, is interning at the UN in New York.

He’s going to blog and podcast about his experience to help raise money to fund his unpaid internship. Here’s his first podcast and a little description:

“I talk a bit more about the reasons why I’m taking on this unpaid UN internship and how I got it. I also speak with a friend and former-UN intern about life during and after the internship.

Support The Internship Grind on Generosity/Indiegogo:…p-blog-podcast/

Help him out if you can!


Read more on unpaid UN internships here and here.

Experiences, Unpaid Internships

My Unpaid Internships


by Lauren Baldwin

My first experience working as an unpaid intern was the summer before my junior year in undergrad.

It was a five month, twenty hour per week commitment working on a cause-related fundraising event. I had a massive commute and the responsibilities of a full-time student. As there was an “all-hands on deck” mentality, I got autonomy and responsibility from day one. Interns were heavily relied upon to make the event a success.

I had a supervisor who really listened to my interests and needs and the whole team shared “bitch work” like cold calling. I felt lucky to have a great first intern experience.

Because of a paid position I held in my university’s fundraising department after that internship, I gained database management skills – something nearly all nonprofits utilize. This gave me the chops to nab internship #2.

I recommend looking for jobs seemingly unrelated to your exact field/ideal role/dream org but that can be applied broadly: database management, research, event planning, customer service etc… Having practical skills that someone who spent all their time “getting experience abroad” or volunteering might not have can be a huge asset

My second internship was stateside at a small, young NGO that installed water catchment systems in the global south. I was tasked with researching and pitching donor database software, assisting in the decision/strategic recommendation process, and then carrying out the implementation/data transfer. Again, I had a supervisor who gave me autonomy quite quickly.

Remember, newer/smaller orgs and offices are more likely to really need you, and you can self-start your way into meaningful impact. Alternatively, the event I first interned for had been in existence 20+ years so their internship program had had its kinks ironed out.

There’s no tried and true answer – just feel out what the organizational structure is like and how interns are utilized and how well that pairs with what you are hoping to learn or gain.

My last undergraduate internship experience was, unfortunately, the least fulfilling.

I worked for a nonprofit media/advocacy organization. My supervisor was extremely out of touch and unavailable, and there were far too many interns for the amount of work. The only positive from this experience was the networking and connections I gained – something I took into consideration before applying. My contacts there have served me well and are inspirational, smart people I benefit from on a relational and professional level to this day. If you have your doubts, but can see pros within an organization’s internship program (i.e. influential and connected leaders), maybe suck it up to get that person in your corner.

I now, before even applying to orgs, always seek out Skype dates, informational emails, etc with current or former staff or friends of friends.

The Internet is mostly kind and willing to help – utilize it. Most people in development had a non-linear path, filled with doubt and stretches of being completely broke. So they’re willing to help. I go to conferences such as Harvard’s International Development Conference (grad student run) when I can. I email PhDs and practitioners whose writing/career/blog/work I admire.

My big stint abroad, “cutting my teeth” in development , was at a human rights legal organization with (at the time) eighteen field offices. I knew I wanted to work abroad after school, and a paycheck wasn’t the biggest deal breaker.

This opened up lots of options; if I had limited myself to paid work it likely would have never happened for me.

This org was the first on my list I made – just because its application were due the sooner than the others. Once that ball got rolling, I was offered a position in their newest, most rural office. I was able to thrive in this location – something I truly didn’t know until it happened. You can never know, you just hope your self-assessment is accurate!

I was the Executive Assistant to both a national director and expat director (due to a leadership transition halfway through my time) in Uganda. I actually extended my time 6 months, for many reasons, but mainly in order to have a good-looking chunk of time on my CV (eighteen months total). This org’s internship program did a good job of giving the interns real work – I had a 9-5 schedule, set vacation days, etc. There was a standard to which I was held, performance reviews, access to professional development resources, etc. I had many other friends in my small town frustrated with their “jobs” because of massive lack of structure – you can only self-start so much.

This position was completely self-funded, down to the last penny. I was able to fundraise, mostly through my own network (which is an advantage undoubtedly – having a network that can write checks) – family, friends, friends of friends, – and kept a blog throughout. I didn’t have every dollar raised before departing and just kept plugging along. Through practising the discipline of blogging though I’ve gained a deeper appreciation and value for my international support system and all the people interested/willing to come alongside me.

While I am definitely not a fan of unpaid internships and don’t think they’re fair – it is the current system.

In order to gain experience and contacts in my desired field I did not really see a way around it. Because it was my choice, I committed to keeping a positive attitude. I frame my whole career’s emphasis (at this point in my mid-twenties) on learning and growth. I will not always get paid for my time or get an immediate monetary reward. But over time there will be benefits to reap.

My current job is a direct example – my experience, time and network in Uganda enabled me to get a paid position doing what I want to do. Even my first internship with that fundraising event enabled me to get a job in between my Uganda gigs when I was resigned to wait tables or bartend due to a desire for a temporary commitment.

Unpaid internships are the current lay of the land. Rather than spend energy and time resisting, I tried my best to make it work for me and gain the experience (especially getting a head start while still in undergrad) that gave me a workaround for that strange stipulation of an entry level job that requires two years’ experience, which we are all too-familiar with.

Fresh look

Are local actors the future of humanitarian action?

By Rowena Teall (a version of this post was originally published on WhyDev)

This year’s World Disasters Report states that local actors are ‘the key to humanitarian effectiveness’.

Localisation of aid is also a key feature in all four themes of the upcoming World Humanitarian Summit in May 2016. This renewed focus on the local indicates a growing realisation in the aid community of the vital role local actors play in assisting with and improving humanitarian action. Despite their contribution having always been essential, these organisations are often ignored by and excluded from the international humanitarian sphere and respective governments. The direct consequence of this reluctance to trust in and utilise all actors is that crisis-affected people are not receiving the humanitarian action they need.

Local actors’ greatest utility stems from the fact they are always there.

Because they are often a part of the population, they are usually the first to respond to crises and are uniquely placed to provide immediate, needs-based assistance. Unlike some international actors, local organisations commonly speak the language and have an in-depth understanding of the histories and cultures of the region, again increasing the likelihood of providing aid based on the actual priorities of recipients.

They can continue to act in spaces that international actors cannot and often remain after larger INGOs have moved on. Whilst international agencies may be unable to access areas due to security or political issues, local actors may be able to act more quickly and sustainably. For example, local NGOs reached Kachin IDPs in Burma in 2011, whilst the UN was still attempting to negotiate access with the government. Local actors, therefore, may in certain cases address the ever-present humanitarian challenges of ‘shrinking access, fragmentation of operations and the gaps between response, recovery and development’.

The gap between rhetoric and action: why have local actors been neglected?

Reports, evaluations and discussion groups have repeatedly called for the humanitarian community to support and not undermine the essential work of local actors. However, in spite of the growing rhetoric about localising aid, this has not been adequately reflected in action and local actors are not being utilised effectively by the aid sector. There still exists an unwillingness from internationals to place trust in these organisations and hand over both responsibility and independence; often, local actors seem to be perceived as a risk, rather than for the significant added value they bring on the ground.

Several obstacles could be behind this gap between rhetoric and action, mostly originating from the international humanitarian ‘architecture’, which has seemed hesitant to genuinely build national and local capacity. This bureaucracy does not encourage international bodies to partner with local actors, especially during a crisis when it can be difficult to identify suitable partners, whilst local organisations may be less likely to apply for international funding or partnership, due to these same levels of bureaucracy.

In conflict situations in particular, international actors and their donors may worry about the neutrality and impartiality of local organisations.

These partners may also lack the capacity to comply with the standards for monitoring and evaluation, again making it harder for international actors to justify their partnership to donors.  

Linked to this is the issue of finance. In recent years, there has been huge growth in the financing of international aid, which has resulted in donors signing a smaller number of large-scale contracts with ‘trusted’ agencies, making it more difficult for small-scale, local organisations to secure funding. A much cited illustration of this was the allocation of US aid to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake; of $6.43 billion, just 0.6% was given to non-governmental Haitian actors.

Utilising local actors: to the benefit of all

These challenges can be overcome and tackling them should be seen as an opportunity to create a more inclusive humanitarian system. The current system is based upon a model which is at odds with the changing reality of the field; new forms of humanitarian action are emerging, driven by an increasing variety of actors, who could lend their relative strengths to a coordinated approach. A more open and adaptive system is needed to meet the humanitarian challenges of the future; a better balance needs to be struck between the international and local to maximise the strengths of each actor. Encouraging mutual cooperation and respect would be for the benefit of all, but most importantly for the people the humanitarian community are working to help.

With regards to funding, more trust could be placed in local organisations to give them the flexibility they need to meet the needs of the affected population. International donors should be encouraged to move beyond direct emergency funding towards financing in-country income generation projects and supporting local partners to establish national or systematic fundraising methods.

Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART): a case study for localising aid

HART provides an excellent case study to highlight the advantages of delivering humanitarian aid through local actors. The crux of the World Disasters Report is that we should think of local actors ‘on their own terms’; HART has been doing this since it was founded.

The core of HART’s approach surrounds their partnerships with in-country organisations, established through personal relationships maintained through regular visits. In this way, mutual trust is founded from the outset, ensuring that HART support is well placed and allowing partners the flexibility needed to adapt to changing situations and needs. In each context, the solutions and models of action will vary, but facilitating partners to meet the needs they themselves have identified ensures that aid is most effectively delivered. Additionally, HART supports their partners to build the capacity to become self sustaining through external training.

In eight years of working this way, none of the programmes HART supports has become a ‘white elephant’.

HART’s former partner in South Sudan, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC), illustrates the success of this approach in action. HART supported EPC in delivering their own agenda of primary healthcare and agricultural projects in their community and surrounding areas. Through the partnership, HART helped the organisation to build capacity and gain access to internal and international donors, enabling EPC to grow to the point where they no longer needed HART to support them.

Supporting local actors could help us overcome some of the challenges facing the sector and will increase both the short and long-term humanitarian impact. Moving forward, the international aid community should continue their renewed focus on localisation and look to realise the complementarity which could be achieved by a more inclusive humanitarian ‘architecture’. Translating the international rhetoric into local action will be for the benefit of all.


Rowena is currently a Research and Campaigns Intern at HART in London and has just completed her master’s degree in Defence, Development and Diplomacy at Durham University.


4 Ways Unpaid Internships Undermine The UN

The author has requested anonymity

Last month, there was a stir in international development circles when the Tribune de Genève reported that David Hyde, an intern working for UNCTAD, had resorted to living out of a tent due to the high cost of living in Geneva.

Later, in an article Hyde wrote for The Intercept, it transpired that this was an elaborate and deliberate stunt, which aimed to kick-start a debate about the prolific nature of unpaid internships within the UN system.

Generalisations are often made that lump all organisations, agencies and specialised agencies together and fail to disaggregate the various components that make up the UN system[PDF]. Resultantly, each interns’ experience will undoubtedly be different, but, as I draw to the end of my own internship at the UN, there are some problems that I have come to think may be applicable more broadly.

1. Over-reliance on interns

Ever since the 2008 recession and arguably even earlier, internships within the UN have proliferated. To me, this model seems unsustainable.

In my section, temporary staff (interns, trainees and consultants) outnumbered staff with permanent positions by a ratio of 2:1. This meant that there was an extremely high turnover rate and very little institutional memory. What is more, a substantial portion of time was spent training and familiarising newcomers.

2. Bureaucracy

I never fully understood the inefficient nature of UN bureaucracy until I had to deal with it on a day-to-day basis. The time devoted to mundane bureaucratic tasks like drawing up contracts or complying with financial invoicing regulations, rendered it more efficient to work around the system rather than complying with it if you wanted to get anything done. Getting to grips with this as an intern is very time-consuming.

In my first week, I was made to attend a branding meeting. At first I thought this was a joke and couldn’t believe it was someone’s job to deal with something so ridiculous but by the end, having spent enough time in the UN bubble, I began to understand how this could become normalised.

3. Chasing funding and due diligence

The part of the UN I was working for lived a hand-to-mouth existence, which theoretically was meant to make it more innovative in seeking funds and more responsive to new donor priorities.

The reality was quite different and often this translated into a need to regularly fund raise from questionable sources using dubious methods. Consequently, internships and consultancy contracts become bargaining tools.

The manager of my section calculated that by giving an unadvertised, short-term consultancy contract to someone from a Gulf country with questionable qualifications, it would eventually pay off in the long-term when we signed a financial agreement with a University in that country. It just so happened that the father of the newly hired consultant was high up in the University and held considerable sway over decisions taken by the institution.

Having incompetent individuals such as this in my section, meant I found myself in the bizarre situation of re-doing the work of somebody who was being paid.

4. Internal competition

Related to the last point is the problem of internal competition, both between different UN agencies and even within agencies between different programmes. Since everyone is chasing the same funding, other programmes will often poach proposals and simply tweak them to make them relevant to their programmatic priorities. This leads to an environment where ideas are often recycled and very little creative thinking takes place, partly because very few people are around long enough to do so.


So what can be done about it?

Previous attempts by interns in Geneva to organise a protest on May Day or online campaigns rallying around the slogans such as “UNpaid is UNfair” and “Pay Your Interns!” have failed to gain traction or media attention, but Hyde’s stunt brought renewed scrutiny to an issue that most within the UN would prefer to ignore.

In particular, Hyde has prompted a discussion about representation of interns from developing counties within the UN, whilst simultaneously highlighting the inherent hypocrisy that lies at the centre of the UN’s new post-2015 agenda[PDF], which claims to be “inclusive” and to “leave no one behind”.

In some cases, it is not only member states that have to implement the lofty rhetoric of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but also the UN itself. While these problems are by no means unique to the UN, from conversations with people working with other agencies I get the impression these are common problems across the UN.