ABOUT COSTA RICA
With a territory of 51.100 km2 and 4.6 million inhabitants, the single most obvious trait about Costa Rica is that it is a small country. Strategically located in Central America, with shores both in the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean, with an extraordinarily rich biodiversity, the country has important assets for its development prospects. With its strong democratic institutions and its efforts to achieve sustainable, inclusive growth, the country represents a success story. Costa Rica has consistently played an active and constructive role in the international arena. The principles reflected in its foreign policy are part of the national identity; three of them stand out: the lack of a standing army; the country's long-term commitment to democracy, human rights and human development; and finally its active protection of the environment.
PEACE AND DISARMAMENT Costa Rica abolished its army in 1948, a decision that marked a decisive moment in Costa Rica's history. Henceforth, and to this day, this trait would come to define Costa Rican exceptionalism, not just in Latin America, but indeed in the world as a whole. The lack of armed forces became Costa Rica's single best-known trait to the rest of the world. For Costa Ricans it became a badge of honour and uncontroversial and essentially irreversible policy. Since this moment, the only instruments available to protect national sovereignty have been diplomacy and the active participation in the international system. A second consequence of this decision is it made the promotion of peace, disarmament, and negotiated settlement of conflicts, the pillars of Costa Rica's foreign policy.
DEMOCRACY AND HUMAN RIGHTS The country has been the most stable democracy in the developing world, with no breakdown since 1948. Consequently, Costa Rica tops Latin American charts of support for democracy and satisfaction with it. As well, Costa Rica's commitment to human rights is central to its national identity and is recognised worldwide. It was through a Costa Rican proposal that the United Nations finally approved the creation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR). Costa Rica was also a key player in the adoption of the Inter-American Charter of Human Rights, called "Pact of San Jose". Furthermore, the country's capital city is also the host of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the United Nations University for Peace, amongst other institutions.
Due to Costa Rica's commitment to social inclusion and the enhancement of human development, it is considered one of the countries with the best human development performances. It started making education free and mandatory in 1870, which has allowed it to have one of the best educational systems worldwide and a highly qualified workforce. According to the Global Competitiveness Report 2010-2011, Costa Rica ranks first in net primary education enrolment rate, and its educational system is the highest in Latin America. Large investments in public health since the 1940s have resulted in Costa Rica exhibiting some of the best health indicators in the developing world, on a par with those of industrialized nations. The country remains an example of how policy choices, rather than sheer wealth, may determine a society's human development performance.
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AND CLIMATE CHANGE Costa Rica also has a strong commitment with environmental protection, being in the top 30 in the world in environmental performance, (Environmental Performance Index, 2018). In 51.100 square kilometres (0,03% of the planet's whole surface) Costa Rica has 91.000 animal and plant species, equivalent to 4,5% of the species identified so far in the whole world. In 1970 the country decided to create the National Parks System, currently 25,58% of the territory is under different preservation regimes. The country is often sited as a model for conservation in harmony with community development and economic growth. Thanks to this natural richness and environmental stewardship, the country is one of the top destinations in the World, especially for ecotourism.
The country has also played a key role in international climate change negotiations. In 1996 Costa Rica completed the first carbon trading transaction in the world with the government of Norway. On behalf of the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, the government has prepared a far-reaching climate change strategy and is committed to becoming a carbon-neutral (C-neutral) country. Costa Rica aspires to build a society whose pursuit of well-being does not reduce or risk the well-being of others.
ECONOMY For a country the size of Costa Rica, nurturing intense commercial links to the world is almost a pre-requisite for economic prosperity. This is hardly a new trait, but a feature of the country's relationship with the world since the mid-Nineteenth Century, is the exportation of coffee. One of the pillars of Costa Rica's economic development has been opening up its economy, meaning by this reducing tariffs, promoting exports and attracting foreign direct investment (FDI).
Consequently, Costa Rica has experienced a consistent growth of its export products, which have grown at an average annual rate of 8% since 2001. While the traditional agriculture exports of bananas, coffee, sugar and beef are still important, the country has been very successful in diversifying its production and export trade toward higher value added goods and services and niche sectors (most notably high-tech and eco-tourism). Currently, Costa Rica exports more than 4.000 different products to 153 destination countries, and exports and imports represent more than 90% of GDP.
Moreover, FDI has become a significant complement to domestic savings, driving to the development of several new industries, such as manufacturing of microchips, and a cluster of services for multinational corporations. In the last 10 years, the country has seen a consistent growth in its FDI (an average of 10,2% since 2000); currently, more than 200 multinational companies are operating in Costa Rica. Due to its strategic position as a bridge between North and South America, Costa Rica is a platform to North America and the rest of the world. Companies established in Costa Rica have exceptional access to the world's greatest markets, accounting for 2.3 billion people, and more then 68% of worldwide GDP. Over the past two decades Costa Rica has signed free trade agreements with nearly all of its relevant commercial partners, including Canada.
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