WELLINGTON - A New Zealand man who lived in a tent during his unpaid UN internship in Geneva confessed on Friday it was a publicity stunt, and won praise from his mother for his "moral" stand.
David Hyde, 22, told a Swiss newspaper earlier this week he was living in a tent on the shores of Lake Geneva because he could not afford to rent, drawing swift reaction from sympathetic locals who went looking for him to offer accommodation.
But Hyde, who has now quit his job, says he chose to live in a tent to call attention to the lack of pay at the United Nations' prestigious internship programme.
He said that when he was interviewed for the position he was asked if he could fully fund himself in Geneva for the six-month post and said he could when "my bank account clearly said no".
His mother, who lives in the New Zealand city of Christchurch, has praised her son's "moral leadership" despite the deception.
"I'm still proud that he's willing to put his career opportunities to one side to highlight an issue which seems to have been going on a long time, but no one's been paying attention," Vicki Hyde told Fairfax Media.
"This is an issue which did need to be raised ... and I think having the UN, who encourages equal rights and pay for equal work, should be the moral leaders.
"It shows he's got some moral leadership." Hyde confessed to the publicty stunt on The Intercept website where he said he only expected to spark a small discussion in Geneva on intern rights and was surprised to get international attention.
"On a personal level, I truly enjoyed working at the UN," he said of his short-lived experience at the global body.
"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. And so I made the decision to resign."