Institutional diffusion for the Minamata Convention on Mercury

Abstract

A trinity composed of legally binding regulations, an independent financial mechanism, and a compliance mechanism characterizes the institutional design of the Minamata Convention on Mercury. Meanwhile, few existing environmental treaties feature an independent financial mechanism as well as a compliance mechanism. Why did the Minamata Convention acquire two mechanisms? There are two rival hypotheses on uncertainty about institutional consequences and international agreements. The rational design school posits that countries can predict institutional consequences by acquiring all pieces of relevant information and views the trinity as a rational design to enhance developing countries’ regulatory capabilities under strict compliance. In contrast, the institutional diffusion school assumes that countries have limited information-processing abilities and use cognitive heuristics in designing institutions and argues that countries designed the trinity by learning from existing cases. In this paper, I compare the negotiations process of the Minamata Convention with that of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). To test the hypotheses, I examine how countries resolved informational uncertainty in both negotiations by utilizing negotiations records and personal interviews with key officials as data. The analytical results support the institutional diffusion hypothesis by indicating that the trinity within the Minamata Convention is a product of countries’ heuristic and incremental learning from existing treaties.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    In this paper, multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) are conceptualized as “environmental treaties.” Meanwhile, “institutions” indicate specific mechanisms (e.g., financial and compliance mechanisms) created within treaties. “Institutional design” indicates how treaties are structured.

  2. 2.

    The author’s interview with the Principal Coordinator of the Interim Secretariat of the Minamata Convention on Mercury took place on June 29, 2017.

  3. 3.

    See note 2.

  4. 4.

    For detailed institutional analyses of the MC, see Andresen et al. (2013), Selin (2014), Eriksen and Perrez (2014), Stokes et al. (2016) and Sun (2017).

  5. 5.

    In this article, I evaluate the empirical validity of these hypotheses by assuming that negotiators are rational with high information-processing abilities.

  6. 6.

    Since the 1990s, developing countries have sharpened their criticism of the GEF for its bias toward donor nations and cumbersome application procedures (the author’s interview with the UNEP International Environmental Technology Centre [IETC] official, who was a former delegate to the negotiations for the Minamata Convention on October 7, 2016).

  7. 7.

    See note 2.

  8. 8.

    The author’s interview with a former Deputy Director of UNEP’s Law Division, Mr. Nagai (Nairobi, July 17, 2017).

  9. 9.

    See note 2.

  10. 10.

    The Special Program, a temporary financial mechanism of capacity building for least-developing countries, was meant to offset the GEF’s deficiency.

  11. 11.

    The author’s interview with UNEP officials during the COP1 meetings of the Minamata Convention (Geneva, September 2017). See note 2.

  12. 12.

    See note 8.

  13. 13.

    See note 8.

  14. 14.

    See note 6.

  15. 15.

    See note 8.

  16. 16.

    http://www.brsmeas.org, last accessed on July 20, 2017.

  17. 17.

    Representatives for chemicals treaties, including the MC, are different from those for other issues, such as climate change. See notes 11 and 8.

  18. 18.

    See note 8.

  19. 19.

    The MC exceptionally set the stage for the pre-meeting, which gave countries opportunities to request information proactively. See note 8.

  20. 20.

    This point was extracted from the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions website http://www.brsmeas.org/Implementation/ResourceMobilization/ConsultativeProcessonFinancingOptions/tabid/2880/language/es-CO/Default.aspx (last accessed on July 20, 2017).

  21. 21.

    See note 2.

  22. 22.

    See note 11.

  23. 23.

    See note 8.

  24. 24.

    See note 11.

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Acknowledgements

This research was made possible by Grants from the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science (# 17J02193), the Konosuke Matsushita Memorial Foundation (#15-205), and the Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Environmental Foundation. An earlier version of this manuscript was presented at the 58th ISA Annual Convention in Baltimore and the 59th ISA Annual Convention in San Francisco. I am most thankful to Motoshi Suzuki for constructive and critical comments throughout this research. I thank two anonymous reviewers, Ronald Mitchell, Henrik Selin, Oran Young, Pam Chasek, Maria Ivanova, Stacy Vandeveer, Takahiro Yamada, and Satoshi Miura for their invaluable comments. I wish to thank my interviewees for their insights about the negotiations on the Minamata Convention and the organization of the UNEP.

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Correspondence to Azusa Uji.

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Uji, A. Institutional diffusion for the Minamata Convention on Mercury. Int Environ Agreements 19, 169–185 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10784-019-09432-z

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Keywords

  • Environmental treaty
  • Minamata Convention on Mercury
  • Institutional design
  • Negotiations
  • Learning
  • UNEP