Please note that this internship program is only open to students studying in Swiss Universities.
The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) is an independent think tank that delivers the knowledge to act. Our mission is to promote human development and environmental sustainability. Our big-picture view allows us to address the root causes of some of the greatest challenges facing our planet today—ecological destruction, social exclusion, unfair laws and economic rules, a changing climate. With offices in Winnipeg, Geneva, Ottawa, Toronto and New York, our work affects lives in nearly 100 countries.
Overview of the IISD Geneva Internship Program
The IISD Geneva Internship Program offers students studying in Switzerland the exciting opportunity to acquire direct practical experience with IISD’s office in Geneva.
IISD’s Geneva office has teams focused on the following main areas:
Economic Law and Policy: Our team of lawyers, financial analysts, modellers and policy analysts focus on areas of economic policy-making essential to sustainable development, including investment, trade, public procurement and infrastructure finance, and sustainability standards. Our program hosts the International Investment Treaty Forum, the only global platform for government officials exclusively from developing and emerging economies to share experiences and lessons learned from investment negotiations. The program also works on the financial valuation of sustainability for infrastructure projects with the SAVi methodology. This aims to attract public and private finance for sustainable infrastructure. More info.
Energy: Our team of economists, engineers and policy analysts provide practical guidance to help shift public and private financial flows into clean energy and to reduce and phase out fossil fuels, in order to achieve international climate change commitments. From the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to the Sustainable Development Goals, and from the G20 to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, our Global Subsidies Initiative (GSI) is involved in international processes and forums to push for fossil fuel subsidy reform and transparency. The GSI has long-standing programs of work in India and Indonesia and also supports the Friends of Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform, an informal group of non-G20 countries working to build political consensus on the importance of fossil fuel subsidy reform. More info.
Resilience: Our team of climate experts works with governments, civil society, communities and businesses to help them manage climate- and conflict-related risks. IISD also serves as the secretariat for the National Adaptation Plan (NAP) Global Network, which aims to enhance national adaptation planning and action in developing countries through the coordination of bilateral support and in-country actors. More info.
Communications: All of IISD’s teams based in Geneva—Economic Law and Policy, Energy and Resilience—are engaged in ongoing communications activities targeted at policy-makers, international organizations, policy research communities, media and the general public. Core communications activities include the development of outreach products (blogs, newsletters, press releases, op eds, infographics and videos) and the management of social media platforms. Depending on project needs, they may also include event management, webinars, data visualization, website design, the development of communications strategies and the exploration of innovative communications tools.
Timelines and Duration
Applications are accepted on a rolling basis with deadlines as follows:
Fall intake (September–December): June 1
Winter intake (January–April): November 1
Spring/summer intake (May–August): March 15
Internships are for a minimum of 3 months and a maximum of 4 months (or more upon university approval) for 15 hours a week during the term time and a maximum of 40 hours a week during vacations.
If the internship is an official part of your course credit, working hours can be full time, contingent upon a joint agreement with the university.
To be considered for an internship, applicants must meet the following requirements:
Be enrolled in a graduate (MA, MSc etc.) or Ph.D. degree program with a university based in Switzerland during the dates of the prospective internship.
Be fluent in English speaking and writing.
Have excellent academic performance as demonstrated by recent university or institutional records.
Additional consideration will be given to any past professional experience. It will be considered an advantage if applicants can demonstrate: academic or professional experience that is relevant to the focus area of the IISD team to which they are applying (Economic Law and Policy, Energy, Resilience, Communications); professional competence in any languages in addition to English; and a written statement of support from academic supervisors or professional referees.
All applications must include a cover letter and a CV. Your cover letter should specify one IISD Geneva program with which you would like to seek an internship and why (Economic Law and Policy, Energy, Resilience or Communications).
For more details on the IISD Internship Program, please refer to the Q&A section below.
How does the hiring process work?
We take great care in reviewing candidates, so the process can take a few weeks following the intake deadline. The good news is that, once we extend an offer, you can be sure it’s a solid, well-considered one. We receive many applications for internships and our availability to host interns will depend upon the needs and capacity of different work programs at any given time. If we wish to proceed with an application, we will contact the candidate to confirm their interest and next steps.
Can I still send my application when the deadline is over?
Only applications sent during the rolling basis deadlines will be considered. If you send your application after a deadline has passed then you will be considered for the following intake period.
Will I receive feedback on my application if I am not selected?
Due to the high number of applications received, it is difficult to provide individual feedback to all candidates. All applicants will be informed whether their application is successful or unsuccessful, but we are not able to provide detailed individual feedback on unsuccessful applications.
When do I start at IISD if I am selected?
Depending on your application, this will be winter, fall or spring/summer semester.
What is the purpose of this internship?
The purpose of this internship is to facilitate learning opportunities outside the classroom and to invest in the next generation of leaders on sustainable development policy research and policy-making. These experiences provide the opportunity to apply the substantive knowledge gained through in-class learnings to real world insights and exposure to actual working life, to develop new skills and strengthen existing ones, and the chance to build valuable professional networks.
Are the internships paid?
IISD cannot provide funding for interns under this program. IISD will provide an allowance for successful candidates, equal to the value of a monthly travel pass for public transport in Geneva and a per diem to cover lunchtime meal expenses.
Is there any financial support for accommodation?
IISD cannot provide financial or organizational support for accommodation or housing searches. We can provide information on common websites that advertise accommodation.
What am I expected to do during this internship?
You are expected to be present at IISD’s Geneva office during the agreed hours of your internship. Activities will vary according the needs of the project you will be working on but may include research and editing, event management and communications. You will be assigned to an IISD program staff member who will be responsible for agreeing to the objectives of the internship, managing your work, responding to queries and providing feedback.
How flexible are the working hours of the internship?
Internships should be arranged so that interns will be present and working in IISD’s Geneva office following a regular schedule of hours. IISD can be fully flexible to agree to a schedule that best fits your other academic commitments.
I am not studying at a Swiss university. Does IISD’s Geneva office have other internship opportunities I can explore?
IISD’s Geneva office does consider applications from people who are not enrolled in a Swiss university, but this takes place outside of this internship program. Such applications can be made on an ad hoc basis—that is, there is no fixed intake process or application system. Interested candidates should write directly to staff working in the programs that interest them. Candidates from outside of Switzerland will be required to submit an application to the Swiss government for a residency permit for their internship. This process typically takes two to three months and should be taken into account for applicants’ timelines. Swiss law requires candidates from outside Switzerland to show they can support themselves with resources of CHF 2,600 per month during their internship. In certain circumstances, IISD may be able to make a contribution to this sum, but candidates are expected to be able to cover the majority of these funds from independent sources.
Does IISD’s internship position link to further professional opportunities with IISD?
The internship program is not related to employment. However, excellent candidates may be invited to continue to work on a consultancy basis after the position concludes.
Employment opportunities are advertised on the IISD career page and hiring decisions are made on a competitive basis.
Experiences of Previous Interns
“My experience in IISD has provided me with several and diverse abilities which have been extremely useful, not only to my Master’s studies, but also to my professional development. Working with a highly dedicated and motivated team, my tasks led me to participate in a variety of projects - all equally interesting and dynamic. My work in the Energy team, more specifically in the Global Subsidies Initiative, provided me valuable expertise in understanding how fossil fuel subsidies negatively interfere in the economy, environment and society, and the importance of reform in order to achieve climate goals. Supervised by an attentive and resourceful mentor, I was able to greatly develop my research and writing skills, organizational and communications abilities as well as creative thinking. My role in IISD has added to my professionalism in a valuable way and has made me a diverse skilled professional.”
Masters' student from the Geneva-Tsinghua Initiative, University of Geneva