Sarah Kendzior, a controversial publicity-seeking anthropologist often involved in highly-publicized provocations, who left academia recently after failing to get a tenure offer and who now writes for Al Jazeera and Registan, has made a hugely tendentiously, wrongful, and false accusation against a non-governmental organizations working at the UN.
She's taken this notice of a normal fund-raising event from the RFK Center that is publicly posted precisely because there is nothing sinister about it -- involving a nonprofit religious human rights organization at the UN, the Unitarian Universalists UN Office with is part of the NGO Committee on Human Rights, and converted it to some sinister "UN influence-buying operation". The charity auction says this:
Spend six weeks as a United Nations intern with Bruce Knotts and the UN Committee on Human Rights
That link leads here to further elaborate that the UN-NGO Committee on Human Rights -- a nongovernmental body, not a UN body.
It's typical of the malevolence she and her colleagues, who include various former Department of Defense contractors and anonymous supporters of the regimes whom the DOD snuggles up with in the world, direct toward the human rights movement.
So let's get the facts straight?
Kendzior wildly and tendentiously starts tweeting about this claim that an NGO was auctioning off their internship yesterday by tweeting to Tom Friedman that while he was writing nobly of human rights at the UN, in fact, supposedly craven and venal UN officials were auctioning off internships.
She claims bidding for a "UN internship" is up to $22,000 for a six-week unpaid job -- yet she fails to admit that this is not at the UN itself, is with a nonprofit, and is not "payment" for the internship -- but an item in a charity ball whose overall purpose is to raise funds for a nonprofit for their year's work.
Despite Kendzior's repeated insinuations regarding UN bribery, there's nothing of the sort, because the official inter-governmental institution of the United Nations has nothing to do with this story at all. There isn't any internship auctioned off by the UN, that's insane. There is no such system, and she's simply ignorant about how the system of accreditation of *non-governmental organizations* work at the UN. (She's been in a university working on a PhD on Uzbekistan and the Internet for the last few years in St. Louis, MO.)
So her screeches about "the UN' and her retweets by those distrusting the UN are all wrong.
It's also important to understand the context here, too, as well -- she and her colleagues Joshua Foust, for reasons opaque to me, at Registan have long had a jihad against unpaid internships, the system for advancing careers in the US. They do this in a sort of socialist labour organizing fashion, constantly raging about the unpaid toiling masses in...fancy think-tanks and universities and nonprofits where they and their friends work mainly in Washington, DC.
Internships are generally not paid. That's why they are called internships. In today's economy, people value the opportunity so much to get a real workplace on their resume that they will work unpaid -- even when they are adults out of college. We can have a separate debate about this, but the insane obsession Kendzior and Foust have on the intern topic constantly seems like a provocation to me. What is their point? They themselves weren't picked for some intership and are getting revenge? They are fighting the good socialist struggle in America now? The problem is that people looking for internships aren't the ones making a fuss over this; these two overgrown academic/thinktankers who aren't in the market for interships themselves now, although they are now recently unemployed freelancers with only partial employment.
In any event, what this "auction" story is really about is an internship with a man I know well and with whom I have worked for years, a kind and caring soul, Bruce Knotts. That's why I'm furious to see this harridan, who has done so much harm to so many others who fall into her sights, whether me or some innocent mother blogging about her autistic son, now lash out at this unsuspecting victim.
Since Bruce fights for the cause of ending violence against women, the human rights effects of climate change, and other such issues, and works for the "progressive" Unitarian Universalist Church, I hardly see how the "progressive" Kendzior could ever be against him -- and might not be if she weren't pursuing her various hign-profile jihads.
She snorts at the prestigious RFK Center for Human Rights and Justice, a colleague of a number of UN-affiliated NGOs, although this organization, obviously founded by the Kennedy family, has a good reputation for helping human rights defenders in particular -- the kind of human rights defenders which Kendzior is very selective about defending when it comes to Uzbekistan, for example.
Nonprofit organizations have to find funding. It is increasingly scarce since 9/11 and the recession and floods on the East Coast -- it's very hard, even for those with connections, the competition is great.
Charity auctions are a time-honoured tradition. Everything from weekends for two, to fruit baskets to jewelry to art works to time with a prestigious person are auctioned off. In this culture, it is not perceived as some kind of craven "selling of access" but rather merely a way of providing some token of recognition to people who give money to the organization anyway. Instead of just making them fill out a check at the annual dinner, they add the "auction" aspect simply to make it a little more interesting and sometimes showcase their work.
The reality is neither the UU UN Office, nor RFK Center, have any need whatsoever to "auction off internships" because they get deluged with resumes anyway of people glad to work for these groups that do important work.
Trust me, the organizations that get interns to pay them a fee to provide a space -- and I have heard of at least one that used to follow this practice -- don't make an advertisement of it on websites with names of organizations and individuals. That's why this claim of Kendzior's is so outrageous.
And that's all that the RFK people have done here, is provided a chance for a donor to essentially pay for their organizational costs -- entirely legitimate! -- by funding this internship -- which costs money to manage! Those griping about paying interns don't realize what a drain they are for the paid staff and how difficult it is to try to get the right mixture of skills to make someone be productive for a summer.
Naturally, in this culture you have the phenomenon of rich parents trying to find meaningful resume-builders for their rich kids. While the collectivists at Registan may sneer at this, it's how the reality of the nonprofit sector works. Hey, if you don't want to be dependent on the state for grants or jobs, like DOD contractors are, you have to tap the wealthy independent individuals in society to meet your costs.
Better that little Jennifer who is going to Harvard have six weeks in the summer with a real organization struggling with some of the world's most profound rape epidemics like the DRC -- as Bruce's group is -- and get some exposure to problems outside her world and the need for others to become involved in documenting, reporting and bringing them to the appropriate agencies and bodies in the UN (which can be a difficult task, as I know from having done it for some 15 years or so now.
This auction is support for the nonprofits; it is not related to somehow buying influence at the UN. NGOs have some access to the UN, but it is a very formalized process -- they can merely observe some sessions of some bodies, and only in some cases can provide written reports about human rights violations, for example, in an effort to inform the ambassadors drafting resolutions and making fact-finding trips and spending development funds. Countries are hugely sensitive about NGOs and what little access they have -- this kind of misguided harangue actually sets the cause of human rights groups back at the UN -- merely to up the "street cred" of Sarah Kendzior on whatever street is that she needs cred for...
Kendzior may not know this -- or may realize it all too well, depending on where her animus against human rights groups comes from -- but right now Russia and other "like-minded" like Cuba, Venezuela, Pakistan, Iran, etc. are now engaged in an onslaught against NGOs and the treaty bodies that use their reports, under the guise of "reform".
Let's hope that this vain provocateur, who has lashed out and harmed people before, will be forced to apologize this time and withdraw her incorrect rant. But of course, the damage is already done...