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Bicentennial celebration in Costa Rica: the case of a singular democracy

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By Alejandro Rodriguez Zamora

Alejandro Rodriguez Zamora, ambassador of Costa Rica to Korea / Courtesy of Embassy of Costa Rica in Korea
Alejandro Rodriguez Zamora, ambassador of Costa Rica to Korea / Courtesy of Embassy of Costa Rica in Korea
Costa Rica is celebrating the bicentenary of its independence in 2021. After signing the 1821 Act of Independence, Costa Rica has been characterized from the start for its clear institutional vocation.

From its foundation, a guideline for conduct was expressly established in the developing Costa Rican State, a rule that is still current in both internal and international relationships. This standard determines that Costa Rica "recognizes and respects civil liberties, property, and other legitimate national rights of every person and any state or nation."

Today, 200 years later, this small but ambitious Central American country effectively proves to the world that even with scarce economic resources and facing important threats and challenges, it is possible to live in peace, freely and democratically, while respecting the environment.

Throughout its independent existence, Costa Rica has placed singular value on peace and harmony. This vocation for peace was confirmed in 1949 when the national army was constitutionally abolished. Another fundamental Costa Rican characteristic is its commitment to the rule of law. The country always seeks resolution in international law as the only valid mechanism for promoting and defending universal values that should be accepted by the entire international community. We firmly believe in negotiation, arbitration and jurisdictional processes, and we have unrestrainedly supported the cause of disarmament, particularly in the nuclear context.

Respect for human rights was clearly stated in 1821 and characterizes our country's very existence, as is proven by early milestones such as the 1869 declaration of primary education as free and obligatory and the constitutionally recognized abolition of the death penalty in 1882. Costa Rica proposed the creation of the Central American Court of Justice, the first permanent international court of Public International Law and the first international Human Rights Court in history, which was inaugurated in the City of Cartago in 1908. Costa Rica was among the countries unconditionally adopting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and is party to the principal international instruments on this matter. The American Convention on Human Rights was signed in our capital city of San Jose and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has its seat there. Costa Rica has staunchly defended the cause for fundamental rights and liberties and actively promoted the creation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Our Constitutional Court has even ruled that international human rights agreements are hierarchically above our own National Constitution.

In recent decades and as host to great biological diversity, Costa Rica has also undertaken a serious commitment to protect the environment. National parks and protected areas constitute an important part of our national territory and the country places great importance on the fight against climate change and environmental deterioration. The High Ambition Coalition (HAC) for Nature and People was recently officially launched, with the goal of conserving 30 percent of the world's land and marine areas by 2030, stemming massive species loss, and protecting ecosystems that are key to human welfare and that of nature as a whole.

All of the above have provided a solid foundation for Costa Rica's foreign policy as a singular case of a demilitarized democracy, with strong institutions, and respect for the environment, a pioneer in human rights and an internationally active proponent thereof, unique in the world.

During the present year, the country has had a special opportunity to project those values and principles that have served as a basis for its internal conduct and foreign policy. During the first semester of 2021, Costa Rica held the rotational presidency of the Central American Integration System (Spanish acronym, SICA). In addition, Costa Rica currently holds the presidency of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

For the SICA presidency, Costa Rica concentrated its efforts to promote actions related to gender equality and human rights, particularly for the most vulnerable populations; economic and social post-pandemic recovery for the region, health and food security; and the support of science and technology, creativity and innovation, with special emphasis on integrated risk management and the fight against climate change. Furthermore, Costa Rica insisted that a greater and more effective integration among SICA Member States would harness substantial benefits. Additionally, efforts were made to revitalize the steps Costa Rica has taken with SICA observer countries and cooperative partners to promote the creation of a special fund for regional recovery

At the ECLAC, the Costa Rican presidency began in August of 2020. Since then, Costa Rica has focused on the principles of international cooperation, solidarity and promotion of human rights, concentrating its efforts on regional policy coordination and cooperation, including the cooperation with international financial institutions, the support for the United Nations system, and the protection of international law and human rights.

In these and other international organizations in which Costa Rica participates, the country has consistently adhered to the principles that have given a unique identity to its foreign policy. Convinced of the importance of multilateralism for peace and cooperative development to prosper among nations, the country has been very active in the multilateral scenario, proposing implementation of the World Health Organization COVID-19 Technology Access Pool initiative. This consists of a common repository for rights to technologies that countries have developed and that are useful for the detection, control and treatment of the COVID-19 pandemic, in order to ensure equitable access to respond to the crisis.

Costa Rica proposes undertaking its third century of independent life contributing towards new initiatives that reflect these same values and also responding to the changing needs of our world and the importance of resolving those challenges that await us with enthusiasm, responsibility, and a sense of innovation.

Alejandro Rodriguez Zamora is the ambassador of Costa Rica to the Republic of Korea.

Kwon Mee-yoo

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