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Former UN intern admits to publicity stunt

Friday 14th August 2015

David Hyde outside his tent.

Photo: Geneva Tribune

The New Zealander who resigned from his unpaid internship at the United Nations has confessed that it was a publicity stunt.

David Hyde had been camping on ground overlooking Lake Geneva not far from the UN Beach Club, where more affluent staff sunbathed and sipped cocktails.

Geneva's Tribune newspaper described the 22-year-old’s efforts to cope with a torrential rainstorm, climbing out of his sodden tent dressed in a suit and heading off to his unpaid job.

Today Hyde admitted that there was more to the story.

In a post on US website The Intercept, Hyde said that he strongly believes that unpaid internships are unjust and that the UN’s policy on internships contradicted their stance on inequality.

Hyde’s girlfriend was also applying for internships at the time and they both discussed what they could do to try and change things.

“The idea we came up with was simple,” he said. “I would take an unpaid internship and do the job. But at the same time we would work to raise awareness on the issue and make a documentary about the subject.”

Hyde said that when he was asked if he could afford to live in Geneva for the six-months he had said yes, “but my bank account clearly said no.”

“I looked up some studios and room shares to see the sorts of prices I would be paying in Geneva and it was clear that it would be too expensive for me. I needed a solution. The answer was fairly simple. I would live in a tent.

“It seemed that in doing so I could hit two birds with one stone: It was an affordable way to live in Geneva with my limited funds — and the fact that a U.N. intern was living in a tent could help to raise awareness on the issue.”


He said that he had leaked his situation to the media himself and that he had received more attention than he had expected. His decision to resign came about because he felt conflicted, he said.

“Because of the scale the story has reached, I became increasingly worried that my actions would have repercussions for those I worked alongside who had been nothing but supportive,” he said.

He added that he understands why he may be criticised for his actions, but said “there is nothing extreme about what I hoped to achieve: a recognition of the rights interns deserve.”

“Was what I did justifiable? Perhaps it is too soon to tell.” 

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