Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2019

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


International Affairs

First Advisor

Michaele Ferguson

Second Advisor

Douglas Snyder

Third Advisor

Robert Wyrod


In this paper, I examine how the United Nations (UN) discourse regarding sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) by UN personnel constructs the problem of SEA and distances the UN from institutional liability and responsibility. The documents analyzed are from 2002 to 2018.

I make the argument that the UN discourse depicts SEA as being a problem of military personnel as opposed to civilian personnel. This attribution of the problem to military personnel is done through the deployment of racialized, gendered tropes regarding Global South masculinities. The use of tropes is made possible because military personnel are overwhelmingly men from the Global South. By attributing the problem to military personnel, the UN is able to distance itself from its responsibility for the structural injustice underlying SEA. Therefore, my thesis makes the broader argument that the UN discourse should be read in part as an attempt to erase the UN of institutional responsibility for SEA.

This paper is significant because it illustrates the flaws of the UN’s current approach to addressing SEA. The exposure of problems in the discourse allows me to provide insight into potential and necessary areas for change in the global effort to address SEA on UN peacekeeping missions.