The Carter Center has worked with Costa Rican officials to build a stronger, healthier, and more transparent government.
Costa Rica was one of the three countries, including Jamaica and Ecuador, where The Carter Center in 1998 launched efforts to reduce corruption and promote transparency in the Americas. A seminar in April 2000 brought together for the first time Costa Rica's government, private sector, and civil society to agree on civil society's participation in monitoring government activities and processes.
Building on these activities, Costa Rica President Miguel Ángel Rodríguez instituted several reforms:
• Establishing the Concertación Nacional, a forum through which the government shaped a reform agenda;
• Creating and filling the post of a transparency adviser;
• Recommending creation of a special prosecutor's office and jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute ethics cases;
• Issuing a decree against displaying the president's portrait in public offices;
• Issuing a decree prohibiting the use or display of public officials' names in public works built with public funds.
The Concertación Nacional made several recommendations:
• Reform the penal code;
• Establish a code of conduct for public servants;
• Institute a financial administration and public budget law;
• Abolish the executive pardon;
• Eliminate public officials' immunity from prosecution.
Although Latin America spends relatively less on defense than most other regions, expenditures on expensive weapons systems divert scarce foreign exchange from more effective investments, including education. They also compel neighbors to spend more on defense and, by doing so, generate international tensions. Concerned about an arms race in Latin America, the Carter Center's Council of Presidents and Prime Ministers of the Americas urged governments in the region to pause before embarking on major arms purchases. Between April 1997 and March 1998, 28 current and 14 former heads of government signed a written to accept a moratorium of two years on purchasing sophisticated weapons. Among the signatories were Costa Rica President José María Figueres Olsen and former Presidents Rodrigo Carazo and Oscar Arias Sánchez.
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Size: 51,100 square kilometers
Population below poverty line: 25 percent
Life expectancy: 78 years
Ethnic groups: white (including mestizo), black, Amerindian, Chinese, other
Religions: Roman Catholic, Evangelical, Jehovah's Witnesses, other Protestant, other, none
Languages: Spanish (official), English
Source: U.S. Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook 2015