Costa Rica: 69 years of disarmed democracy

ON Dec 1, 1948, Costa Rica abolished its army, and effectively enshrined it in the 1949 Constitution, currently in force, and has forged generations of Costa Ricans who have never seen a tank or a jet fighter in its territory. Costa Ricans will never aspire to carry a rifle and will never consider dying in a battle field. Our "army" is composed of tens of thousands of students, teachers and two hundred dedicated diplomats.

Along with the principles of freedom and democracy, the force of reason has prevailed throughout Costa Rican history. The abolition of the army, is one of those exceptional steps that led Costa Rica to become more educated, a society able to meet the most pressing needs of its population, focusing on human development rather than strengthening its military capabilities.

Costa Ricans have reaped the benefits of a decision which marked its development as a nation. The resources that would otherwise have gone to the maintenance and purchase of military weapons are directed to causes that seek greater prosperity for the people.

The abolition of the army in Costa Rica is part of a deep culture rooted in the best traditions of a peaceful and unarmed country, which dates back to 1877, when it abolished the death penalty and continued to push for new developments to ensure the peaceful coexistence among nations.

Costa Rica boasts of 5% of the world's biodiversity, concentrated in a mere 0.03% of the world's territory, and we understand that sustainable development and respect for the environment is a non-negotiable trend in protecting the wildlife and natural resources that our environment has to offer.

We have successfully integrated the environment into our local economy, where the exploration for renewable energies and the protection of our forests, which comprises 30% of our national territory, has undoubtedly rendered its fruits for a greener future for our communities. Today almost 100% of our energy comes from renewable sources. Costa Rica also invests annually by constitutional disposition 8% of the GDP on education.

The Costa Rican experience shows that all mechanisms available under international law, including the procedures before international tribunals, are always a better solution and entail lesser costs for a country than those involved in military conflicts, not to mention the loss of human life. This is particularly important for a country like Costa Rica, which continues to advocate for the reduction of military spending and global disarmament.

As we celebrate the 69th anniversary of the abolishment of the army, we hope our experience provides a candle light; reminding the rest of the world that peace is attainable through rigorous commitments to the tools made available to us through international law.

Costa Rica reaffirms today to the world, its commitment to demilitarisation and respect for the international law system with the conviction of contributing to universal peace and security, principles that will always govern our foreign policy, and towards our road map to the 200 years of independent life to be celebrated in 2021.

Rodolfo Solano QuirĂ³s is Costa Rica's ambassador to South Korea. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com