Doctoral Dissertation

"Institutional Trinity for the Minamata Convention on Mercury"

     The Minamata Convention on Mercury acquired an institutional trinity (including legally binding, independent fund, compliance mechanism) to ensure parties’ compliance with the treaty obligations as its institutional design. Given a set of institutions rarely established for other existing treaties, the thesis explores how the Minamata Convention has established the three institutions. Existing studies view the issue structure of the problem determines institutional design, where consideration of an influence of negotiations process was largely ignored (Koremenos et al. 2001). As opposed to their view, I analyzed the processes of the treaty negotiations as a main determinant of institutional design.

     In Chapter 1, I argue that a combination of the enforcement and managerial theories sheds light on  the institutional trinity as a set of effective institutions to enhance parties’ compliance.

     In Chapter 2, assuming that the negotiation as a determinant of institutional design, as an analytical framework to explain it, I propose informational problem (uncertainty about institutional consequences) and distributional problem (how to share benefits and burdens). I made an inference that two problems hinder treaty negotiations and countries are able to agree on the institutional trinity only when both problems are dealt with. In evaluating the proposition, I adopted the method of process tracing, case comparison, and interviews with a wide range of officials of government and international organizations including UNEP.

     In Chapter 3, I analyzed the negotiation process of the Minamata Convention and found out that both problems were effectively dealt with for the Convention. On the one hand, the UNEP helped countries to solve the informational problem by providing rich information about consequences of institutional choices based on performance of existing environmental treaties. On the other hand, the distributional problem was dealt with by developed countries’ acceptance of costly institutional choices. Although developed countries had opposed institutional choices that demanded their huge amount of financial provision, they finally accepted them.

     In Chapter 4, I analyzed the negotiation process of the Stockholm Convention, one of the chemicals treaties. Although the Convention shares many characteristics with the Minamata Convention, it did not acquire the institutional trinity. In the negotiation of the Stockholm Convention, informational problem was not effectively dealt with because of the lack of informational provision by the UNEP. Developed countries’ acceptance of costly option was never made in the Stockholm Convention, and countries were not able to deal with the distributional problem.Chapter 5 and Chapter 6 respectively detected causes of UNEP’s informational provision and developed countries’ acceptance in the Minamata Convention.

     In Chapter 5, I analyzed the organizational history of the UNEP in the context of environmental treaties. I found that UNEP’s improved informational role is attributed to its organizational reform in the 2000s, aimed at enhancing the efficiency of environmental treaties.

     In Chapter 6, I analyzed existing mercury policies of the US, EU, and Japan. The analysis showed that developed countries had already possessed matured domestic policies on mercury regulation before the negotiation for the Minamata Convention started. Their domestic policy capabilities led to their flexible positions in the negotiation of the Minamata Convention.


     In summary, the dissertation detected that countries were able to agree on an institutional trinity in the Minamata Convention because both informational and distributional problems were effectively dealt with in the negotiation process. Such measure for each problem was made possible by the respective exogenous factor (1) the UNEP organizational reform and (2) domestic capacities of developed countries. The empirical findings of my dissertation would help understand variations of institutional design across environmental treaties with the focus on negotiation process.