Negotiating the international waste trade : a discourse analysis

Abstract: This study investigates the historic development of the management of the international hazardous waste (HW) trade problem, between 1972 and 2000. The method used in the study is discourse analysis, and it is undertaken through the usage of two different perspectives. The first deals with the research question: 'What kind of discourse is produced?' The second relates to Foucault's question: 'What kind of an actor is produced?' A third question is added: 'What kind of global environmental discourse is created?' These questions are considered during eleven international negotiations. In the first part of the study the discursive development is scrutinised and in the second the actors interaction with the HW-trade discourse is in focus. The empirical material comes from literature, documents, interviews and direct observations. The result of the early development in this area was a discourse that created the OECD-system for HW-trade. This system was expanded to a global level with the Basel Conference in 1989. The resulting convention was based on regulation of the HW-trade. This order of things was challenged and was later 'changed' by an amendment to the convention. This amendment demanded a total ban on the HW-exports from developed to developing states. In the end of the studied period it has been argued that the HW-trade ought to be a part of the World Trade Organization (WTO) dominated free trade discourse. The result of the study's second part show that no state is powerful enough to enforce its will upon the others in this issue area. In 1989, when the Basel Convention was negotiated, it was made possible because various actors operated in a coherent manner and that the most important actors supported the draft convention that the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) had been promoting during two years of prenegotiations. Changes of substance are made possible through this type of discourse coalition. The ban amendment was enforced by a similar but less powerful discourse coalition. The 'real' changes are rare though.

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