Media Center

Press Release


  December 5, 2006

Secretary General José Miguel Insulza of the Organization of American States (OAS) said today that the OAS “enthusiastically” supports an international initiative spearheaded by Costa Rican President and Nobel laureate Oscar Arias to create a hemispheric mechanism to provide debt forgiveness and international funding for developing countries that invest more in education, health and housing, and devote less to military spending.

Welcoming Arias to a special Permanent Council session convened in the President’s honor, Insulza said the initiative—known as the Costa Rica Consensus—is consistent with the principles set forth in the OAS Charter, which calls for promoting effective limitation on conventional arms so more resources can be earmarked for economic and social development in member states.

Insulza also commended President Arias’ initiative to negotiate a United Nations international treaty that would prevent countries from transferring weapons to states, groups or individuals when there is reason to believe such weapons would be used to violate human rights or international law. “Your perspective on these issues is being promoted in this Organization, and we will seek to contribute directly to all your efforts,” Insulza told Arias.

In his remarks, the Costa Rican leader explained that a UN working group studying the creation of such a treaty will presents its recommendations within a year. “This is only a small victory. The road ahead for this initiative is long, and the support of OAS member countries is vital for this to become reality,” Arias said.

The President also referred to the grave problem of poverty in the Americas. “Hungry people have no real power,” he said. Arias underscored the importance of a basic truth: “While prosperity and growth alone are not sufficient to uphold democratic regimes, without them maintaining our freedoms becomes a titanic effort.” Temptations to become autocratic, he added, arise more easily where hunger, ignorance and frustration provide fertile ground for messianic voices.

Addressing the 34 countries represented in the Permanent Council meeting—chaired by Ambassador Lisa Shoman of Belize—the Costa Rican leader stressed that “it would be foolish for me to suggest that I or any of us here could figure out this massive human tragedy of poverty.” He cited three specific options he said could help tackle the problem: fair and equitable free trade; investment in education; and cutting military expenditures. “To the old saying that ‘when a school opens a jail closes,’ I would add that ‘when a military barrack closes, one hundred schools open’,” Arias stressed.

Insulza lauded the Central American leader’s character as well as his political acumen and statesmanship. “What a great honor it is to welcome the Costa Rican President not only as a representative of his country but also as a son of the Americas—ever the spokesman for developing countries and a tireless advocate of human development, democracy and demilitarization.” He assured Arias that the people of the region still remember his decisive contribution two decades ago to the Central American peace process. “We remember very well how during those difficult years of despair and division, when brother fought against brother, your voice and your peace initiative paved the way for that mission,” Insulza said.

“Seeing Central America at peace today—united and building a future together—we cannot but remember the effort you made during that time. Your 1987 Nobel Peace Prize was justly earned,” Insulza added.

The Secretary General recalled the significant economic growth and development that Costa Rica registered during President Arias’ first term, which began in 1986, as well as his government’s effort to achieve the lowest unemployment rate in Latin America at that time. Noting that Arias has again taken the helm of his country’s government at a difficult juncture, Insulza said Arias will no doubt “continue taking the country on the road to progress, democracy, freedom and economic growth.”

Reference: E-269/06