Dorina Chihaia 0

Discriminatory security screening for interns

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We are writing to raise our concerns regarding the new changes in access arrangements to the United Nations (UN) Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) premises for interns.

Following a global UN Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS) directive, starting 28 May 2018, interns have been reissued with Affiliate "A" category badges, and are now subjected to physical security screening upon entry to the ESCAP premises and have personal items x-rayed. Furthermore, interns' access to the premises is forthwith restricted to the Main Pedestrian entrance. Staff and consultants are exempt from these security measures.

The rationale given by UNDSS for the immediate implementation of this policy is that UN Interns do not undergo sufficient security vetting. However, vetting processes for consultants based on the UN compound are often a mere reference check, if any. We recognize the need for tight security and do not object to the inconvenience of screening but rather we take issue with the unequal and unfair targeting of interns as a security threat.

This sudden and inconsistent policy is yet another manifestation of the unfavorable conditions in which the UN management treats interns; as free and disposable labor rather than young professionals entitled to and deserving of inclusion, dignity, equality and respect.

It adds to an already long list of measures that exploit, disempower and marginalize interns, including the following:

- Internships are not recognized as 'professional experience’ under the UN recruitment process.

- Non-remuneration of internships:

  • Accommodation, travel, visa, insurance and living expenses are all borne by the intern.
  • This disadvantages and discriminates against those who cannot afford to undertake unpaid work for a period of at least two months, often in a different city or country.

- For the immediate six months following an internship, former interns are not eligible to apply for, or be appointed to, a Professional category position.

These measures contradict the UN values of youth empowerment, labor rights, equality and dignity. They conflict with article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: 'Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment'. It is also inconsistent with the International Labor Organisation (ILO) Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work to eliminate discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.

Call to action: We kindly call on the Heads of Agencies to:

1. Back our call for the new security screening policy to be reconsidered and revised for coherency, ideally by extending reference checks to interns;

2. Attend a meeting with interns, at your convenience, to discuss opportunities for greater protection of intern rights within your respective agencies and beyond;

3. Use your leadership to be an ally and advocate for interns.

We are kindly requesting you to mention your name, position and agency in the comment section after signing the online petition.

Thank you for your kind attention and support.

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