Which elite, liberal institutions have to live up to Left's values: UN edition

Welcome to yet another installment in this series. Which elite, liberal institution actually has to live up to the Left’s values?

Today, we have the UN—global governing force for good and the preferred epicenter of the Left for cutting-edge public policy and human rights thought from the likes of Syria, N. Korea, and Russia. This juggernaut of global justice does not pay its interns.


This summer, one young man brought light to this plight by sleeping in a tent on the mean streets of Geneva while completing his internship at the United Nations, saying he couldn’t afford any other arrangements in this posh European city on his pay of zero euros. Other interns staged a walk-out to support his cause, and the UN was found amusingly in violation of its own Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as the Economist noted.

“Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity.”

It turns out, the UN deals with the same constraints as other organizations that decide not to pay interns. Paying interns takes money — the Economist estimates $14 million a year for 4,000 interns— which would be uncomfortable while the organization is cutting paid, professional positions and funneling money for from its various humanitarian efforts. There are also the turf wars of bureaucracy and the entrenched interest of the already powerful UN union workers who would resist such a change. Everyone’s for workers’ justice until it’s their work that’s threatened, I guess.

Internal resistance from clerical UN staff and their unions is another problem. They fear that paid internships may become a back door for recruitment and increase competition for coveted low-level “professional” positions. Others worry that a system of paid internships would be susceptible to nepotism: interns go through a much less rigorous—and less transparent—hiring process than that for official staff, which is governed by the UN Charter. Another barrier to paying interns is a larger matter regarding the geographical make-up of UN staff. The states that belong to the UN want to increase their influence by maximising their own citizens’ presence among staff and vetoing measures that reduce it. Many developing countries see paying interns who are disproportionately from the wealthiest countries as perpetuating injustice rather than correcting it (developed countries accounted for 61% of UN interns in 2007, despite having just 15% of the world’s population). To fix that they may propose a geographical quota system for interns, which developed countries would oppose.


Entrenched labor bureaucrats worried about more talented young people eating their lunch, rampant nepotism and back-scratching, and a blatant inability to live up to the standards it’s constantly haranguing the developed world about? That doesn’t sound like the UN I know.

The best way to solve this problem and keep it nice and UN-compliant is to let these kids skim off some program designed to help the world’s poor, like the rest of the UN does.

Meanwhile, in Carly Fiorina’s campaign, despite having views on women and their employment and health akin to “terrorist groups,” according to Hillary Clinton, Fiorina leaves Clinton in the dust when it comes to paying her women staffers:

“As women working for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign struggle with a gender pay gap, women working for the businesswoman and Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina are coming out on top.

The median female annual salary on Fiorina’s campaign is $69,724, about $15,000 higher than the median male annual salary of $54,829, according to data made available to the Washington Free Beacon by the campaign.

The highest paid members of Fiorina’s staff are her campaign managers Frank Sadler and Sarah Isgur Flores, who both make $150,000 a year.

The next six highest salaries on the campaign are all for female employees. The lowest salary is for a male.

The campaign provided annual salary figures for staff on payroll as of the last Federal Election Committee filing deadline in July.

A previous Free Beacon analysis of salary data included in FEC filings for the Clinton campaign found that women working for Clinton are not faring as well as those working for Fiorina.

The analysis of payroll disbursements made by the Clinton campaign in June found that the projected annual salary paid to women to be about $7,000 less than what is paid to men.”


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