top of page

Institutional Diffusion for the Minamata Convention on Mercury


The institutional design of the Minamata Convention on Mercury is characterized as a trinity,

composed of legally binding regulations, an independent financial mechanism, and a compliance mechanism, while few other existing environmental treaties feature a set of an independent financial mechanism and a compliance mechanism.

Why did the Minamata Convention acquire two mechanisms?  

There are two rival hypotheses on uncertainty about institutional consequences and international agreement. The rational design school posits that countries can predict institutional consequences by acquiring all relevant information (Koremenos et al. 2001), and may view 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 may argue that countries designed the trinity by learning from existing cases (Ovodenko and Keohane 2012).

In this paper, I comparethe negotiation process of the Minamata Convention with that of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). 

To test the hypotheses, I analyze how countries resolved informational uncertainty in both negotiations, utilizing negotiation records and personal interviews with key officials as data.

The analytical result supports the institutional diffusion hypothesis by indicating that the trinity within the former is a product of countries’ heuristic and incremental learning from existing treaties.

bottom of page