Problematizations and Performances UN policy on peacekeeper sexual violence accepted version.pdf (255.28 kB)
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United Nations Policy on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse: Problematizations and Performances

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journal contribution
posted on 15.10.2021, 03:42 by Carol HarringtonCarol Harrington
The United Nations’(UN) response to reports of UN personnel perpetrating sexual violence proclaims “zero-tolerance for sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA).” Drawing on Carol Bacchi's “what's the problem represented to be (WPR)?” framework, this article unpacks how UN policy solutions represent the problem of SEA. It explores the discursive effects of the UN's problematization of SEA drawing on Sara Ahmed's analysis of audit systems and non-performativity within performance cultures. It scrutinizes the Secretary-General's reports on SEA data and policy documents, including training and risk assessment materials. The analysis shows that UN policy problematizes SEA as transactional sex, inevitable in conditions of poverty and gender inequality. Solutions individualize perpetrators as rule-breakers subject to discipline and generalize victims as among the many impacted by SEA globally. Such solutions situate the UN as the answer to, rather than cause of, SEA and restore a narrative of the UN as defender of the vulnerable.


Preferred citation

Harrington, C. (n.d.). United Nations Policy on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse: Problematizations and Performances. Critical Social Policy, 026101832110479-026101832110479.

Journal title

Critical Social Policy




SAGE Publications

Publication status

Published online

Online publication date